5 Things You Should Know About Pigmentation
Not all pigment is the same
Melanocyte cells live in the lower layers of our epidermis and produce melanin (pigment). There are two types of melanin that can exist in our skin – eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin is the most common for and is either brown or black) Melanocytes are extremely sensitive to sunlight and when exposed to the sun (in most of us) they produce this dark melanin (a tan) which protects us from the sun. Pheomelanin is sometimes called “fake” melanin because it is not dark and does not protect us from harmful UV sunrays. It is red in colour and responsible for red or ginger hair. Hence, people with this skin type do not tan and burn easily in the sun.
No natural tan is a safe one
OK, this might be a little over the top (a single cigarette is never a safe cigarette but it doesn’t mean that it’ll cause you significant harm) but there is some truth in this…. Melanin is fantastic at dissipating UV radiation and is our own biological sun protection. And so we produce melanin in response to UV exposure which we know is harmful to the skin, both in terms of burning and cancers but ageing also. We can see this when looking at how black skins age (with their inbuilt 24/7 sun protection) in comparison to very fair skins.
You won’t make a nice even tan forever
When we’re young, those of us lucky enough to tan will do so with a beautiful even golden tan. As the years go by, your melanocytes will become damaged and not behave as they once did…. Your tan will become uneven and start to leave behind patches of pigmentation, spoiling what was once a desired effect. Unfortunately, when you get to this stage, you will never tan evenly in those damaged areas again. Practitioners can help with the patches of pigmentation but future decent sun exposure will more than likely make them return.
Those freckles aren’t the ones you’ve always had!
I see sun damaged skin on a daily basis and, on occasion, when I point it out I’m told that the freckles I’m looking at have always been there. Some of us have freckles as children which we carry through with us to adulthood. However, with the repeated damage from the sun over the years, new freckles are added and slowly grow changing a once clear youthful skin with a smattering of well defined freckles to a sea of sun spots (otherwise known as solar lentigines) which can give the face a dirty look.
There are solutions
In most cases, pigmentation as a result of the sun (whether straight forward or more complicated such as melasma) can be treated. Medical creams, Intense Pulsed Light and or peels can help. I like to start with creams because they are safe, extremely effective, have no down time and are in your control. However, your melanocytes are so sensitive to the sun that any good sun exposure will be more than the treatments can combat. This means daily good quality SPF (whether you’re having treatment or not) such as ZO Skin Health’s new Oclipse® Daily Sheer SPF 50.
You can book a free 30 mins pigmentation consultation with an ASKINOLOGY therapist or a paid appointment with Dr Rimi or Nurse Amy by clicking here or by calling 02070432233.
A £25 fully refundable booking deposit is required for all appointments. This is only retained in the event of a no show or cancellation within 24hrs.
Author: Dr Askari Townshend is a GMC registered doctor, qualified in 2002, and Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England. He is founder and Medical Director of ASKINOLOGY in the City of London and has been practicing aesthetic medicine full time since 2008.