The colour of our skin is determined by the amount of brown melanin pigment that it contains. The skin colour can also be influenced by the levels of oxygenated or de-oxygenated blood in the surface vessels. This colour may range from blue to red. Yellow pigment can come from certain compounds, known as carotenoids, in the diet.
We each begin life with our inherited, or constitutional colour. This ranges from white through to black. It is then a matter of how and what the body does with the melanin that determines our skin colour. Our skin may appear to originate from a brown category of skin type because we spend a great deal of time in the sun. This does not mean that our constitutional colour is brown. Instead, skin exposure to ultraviolet rays stimulates the development of a protective barrier of melanin in the upper layers of the skin, altering its colour. This is known as a tan.
Pigmentation disorders occur when too much or too little melanin is produced in the skin. The most commonly recognised variants of pigmentation disorders are:
- Vitiligo – An autoimmune disease that leads to irregular white patches on the skin
- Melasma – Brown pigmentation on the face due to the patchy overproduction of melanin
- Pityriasis Versicolor – Flaky, discoloured skin that usually appears on the chest and back
- Pityriasis Alba – Scaly, pale patches of skin that tend to appear in children and teens
Dealing with Pigmentation Problems
Most skin conditions related directly to pigmentation abnormalities are not life threatening. If severe though, they can significantly affect a person’s self-esteem. Regardless of the severity of the skin condition, it can be useful to investigate possible treatment options and to rule out any underlying health conditions related to the issue. There are now a number of treatments available to treat pigmentation problems, whether it is a matter of too much or too little melanin. These include topical treatments, oral medications, phototherapy and surgical remedies.
If you have any questions or concerns about pigmentation, contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a dermatologist. Contact us today.