Thursday, June 30, 2011

How to Get Rid of Pigmentation

Pigmentation refers to the amount of color within a substance. In the case of human skin, that color, that pigment, is called melanin. Varying concentrations of melanin give us the different shades of skin peculiar to our various geographical races. Melanin is also responsible for the darkening of skin in response to ultraviolet radiation. This darkening, called tanning, is important because without it we would be open to a lot of potential damage from radiation. Consider the fate of people without any pigmentation, albinos, who have to wear protective glasses and sun blocks to walk outside in daylight. Pigmentation serves a purpose, but it can also be responsible for dark spots on our skin that we don't want. Getting rid of that pigmentation is what this article is all about, but just so you know, some of it isn't going away easily.

Getting Rid of Pigmentation

image 1Sunlight exposure causes melanin in our skin to create areas of pigmentation. We all know that our bodies react to sunlight exposure by adding melanin to our skin causing it to tan. Those same cells that create a tan, called melanocytes, when grouped closely together can form moles. If normally spaced cells for some reason freak out and start producing a lot more melanin in one area, we get spots like freckles and also lentigo, which are some times called age spots or liver spots. This type of pigmentation isn't really anything to worry about, but if you want to avoid them, the solution is simple: stay out of the sun! Overexposure to sunlight can be dangerous anyway, so use some common sense: put on sunblock, wear a brimmed hat, use a parasol, and limit your time outside on sunny days.
image 2Acne can cause pigmentation, along with pitting and scarring. Acne is a horrible curse upon all who experience it. In my day job I work amongst some of the zittiest, greasy teenagers imaginable. Their faces are plagued with layers of pimples which seem to sprout forth even as I am talking to them. As they grow older I notice those pimples turn into dark spots and scars. Some of them will be scarred for life. It's those areas of scarring which seem to be darker that are some times called pigmentation. The best way to avoid spots like that is to prevent acne in the first place with proper hygiene and various peels, creams, and medications. Laser resurfacing, chemical peels, and dermabrasion therapy are a few of your options to get rid of existing [link:acne marks] and pigmentation.
image 3Pigmentation caused by friction in the folds of our skin is called acanthosis nigricans. Not everyone experiences this kind of pigmentation, though I would wager it is becoming more and more common in the United States as we are continually getting more and more obese as a people. It is caused by friction between folds of skin, think armpits, crotch, taint, or if you're really fat, the panniculus rolls hanging over your belt line. This friction can become quite uncomfortable in the form of chafing, especially in the warmer months. The best way to treat it would be to lose the weight, but in the mean time wearing loose fitting clothing and using a body powder will help. There is a way to bleach dark areas like this with hydroquinone, though that seems kind of silly to me.
image 4Fungal infections of the skin, such as tinea and candida, can cause pigmentation. Ringworm, crotch rot, jock itch, call it what you want, just don't call it a fun thing to have growing on your body. None of the infections actually involve a worm or decomposition; they are caused by various types of dermatophytes or skin fungi. Tinea cruris is an infection of your naughty bits, and Tinea pedis an infection of your feet. They can all cause a darkened area or pigmentation of your skin. Getting rid of fungal infections and the pigmentation they cause is a matter of proper treatment with an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream or spray containing tolnaftate or clotrimazole. Improving your hygiene will also help. Oh and stay out of public gym locker rooms where people share bathing facilities. That's why they call it athlete's foot.
image 5A melasma is an area of pigmentation caused by hormonal changes in women. Women are so affected by monthly changes in body chemistry and hormone levels. Of course we know it has an effect upon their mood and general outlook on life. But I had no idea it could cause pigmentation changes in some women's skin. Girls have it rough, man. These darkened areas of skin, called a melasma, could be related to pregnancy, birth control pills, menstruation, or even menopause. Melasmas generally go away on their own as hormone levels balance out. There are some skin lightening products such as tretinoin or hydroquinone that will make a melasma lighter. A chemical peel can hasten the process of getting rid of pigmentation as well.

Pigmentation could be a symptom of cancer.

Skin cancer is no joke and a lot of times certain kinds of skin cancer can present with spots of pigmentation in the skin which are unusual. They usually grow more quickly than ordinary liver spots or moles. They will sometimes have more than one shade of brown, whereas a mole will usually be all one shade. They also tend to appear more jagged than normal skin growths. If you notice anything like that growing on your body you should definitely have it checked out by a doctor. It's always better to get it checked than to risk it. Remember to have a friend help or look in a mirror at areas of your body that you don't normally see or you might miss an obvious sign of skin cancer.

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