Pigmentation is a word that we often bandy about in reference to skin colour or browny deposits of colour in the skin. Pigment itself is not a concern, however from a cosmetic perspective it can detract from the skin, reducing the appearance of clarity and evenness. In fact pigmentation is protective and without it our skin is much much more susceptible to UV damage.
Branched cells in the skin called melanocytes, produce little packets of pigment which they leech into the skin. Black, brown and red in colour, the pigments (called eumelanin, pheomelanin and neuromelanin) contain different compounds that can absorb varying wavelengths of UV light. When UV light hits a pigment molecule, it fires off a proton that disarms the UV light and reduces the potency of the ray. Thus as we continue to become exposed to sun our skin starts to bronze, becoming covered by a melanin ‘coat’. Although are skin is actually more protected in this state, it is a sign that the skin is in stress and aiming to protect itself from harm. A tan should not be thought of as replacement sunscreen, providing an SPF factor equivalent to only 3.
There are a number of conditions related to pigment, most of which are harmless and can be improved in-clinic. The most concerning of course is melanoma which is cancer of the melanocytes, and something we are always on the look out for.
(Please see our previous post on a simple guide to skin checking – the ABCDEs of melanoma or consult your GP if your are concerned.)
If you have pigment you are trying to get rid of see our pigmentation treatments or book an appointment by clicking below