The Doctor-approved guide to treating pigmentation

As Winter draws in, do those dark patches on your skin that definitely aren’t moles or freckles, seem to become far more prominent now your Summer tan has faded? Well, you might have skin pigmentation, a common skin complaint that results from an increased production of pigment in areas of the skin.

However, just because we are barely spending any time outside doesn’t mean you can’t catch the sun through your window and on your balcony/in your garden (if you’re lucky enough to have one!). Also known as dark spots, age spots or sun spots, we’ve called upon Dr Rekha Tailor to explain exactly what pigmentation is, how to treat it, how to prevent it and what products to use.

What is pigmentation?

Pigmentation, or hyperpigmentation, is the overproduction of melanin (the natural pigments produced in our cells responsible for skin and hair colour) within specific areas on the skin, creating darker spots compared to the overall skin tone. This can result in an uneven complexion.

The most common causes of hyperpigmentation — which can affect people of all skin tones in varying degrees — are:

Sun Exposure: The sun’s UV rays hitting your skin triggers extra melanin production to defend your skin from damage. That extra melanin is what gives you a tan. However, when sun exposure is frequent or excessive it can make dark “sun” spots appear.

Melasma: Often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy,” melasma is characterized by brown patches that can commonly form in women during pregnancy. This type of hyperpigmentation most often occurs in women, but can also occur in men. It is thought to be triggered by a combination of sun exposure, genetics, and hormonal changes.

Inflammation: Skin trauma — such as acne, eczema, bug bites, cuts, scrapes, even scratching or friction — can set off inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, can send pigment-producing cells into high gear, leaving behind a dark spot after the injury has healed.

Medical Conditions or Medication: Hyperpigmentation can also be due to Addison’s disease, an adrenal gland disorder that can increase melanin production. Certain drugs, including antibiotics and some chemotherapy drugs, can cause hyperpigmentation.