Pigmentation is the uneven colouring of the skin caused by an increase of Melanin, the pigment responsible for the skin’s colour. This disorder can cause discoloration of the skin and cause dark spots, also called hyperpigmentation. It can affect all skin types. Although, generally facial pigmentation is just a skin disorder, it could occur sometimes due to some other underlying medical condition.
A type of pigmentation called age spots can affect skin that is exposed to the sun like the face, arms and neck. They are small, dark patches of skin. Another pigmentation melasma (also called chloasma) causes larger patches of discoloration. It is triggered due to changes in hormone levels and is mostly seen in pregnant women. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation can also occur when after a skin injury heals leaving behind a discoloration.
As mentioned, the main cause of hyperpigmentation is an increase of melanin that could be triggered by exposure to sun, hormonal imbalance, any skin injury or age. Pigmentation could also occur as a symptom of diseases like autoimmune, gastrointestinal disease or metabolic disorders.
A dermatologist can identify the cause and type of the pigmentation by examination or by taking a small sample of the skin (biopsy). Based on the observations a treatment plan is devised.
Pigmentation can be prevented by avoiding direct exposure to the sun or by using sun protection creams. To prevent its occurrence after an injury, one must avoid picking at the damaged skin.
Topical application of creams like azelaic acid, corticosteroids and so on can lighten the pigmentation spots. Alternatively, cosmetic procedures like laser treatments, chemical peels or microdermabrasion can help improve the condition.