Pigmentation Problems: Types and Treatments

It’s a sad fact that we do not get to keep the supple, youthful, and even-toned skin that we have been born with. With our bodies being subjected to wear and tear as we get old, skin flaws start to emerge and become more noticeable especially when we have reached past the age of 30. A common problem that many Singaporeans seek to banish from their skin is pigmentation (https://onefaceclinic.com/pigmentation-removal-treatments-guide-dr-david-ng-c-h/). This skin flaw alters the appearance of the skin’s surface, making its color look uneven. 

Pigmentation has three types:

  • Depigmentation
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Hypopigmentation

Depigmentation happens when the skin becomes white due to the loss of pigment. A sample of this type of pigmentation problem is vitiligo.

Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin changes into a different or darker color. This transformation is caused by an extreme increase in the amount of melanin in the skin. Examples of hyperpigmentation are:

  • Age spots
  • Birthmarks
  • Melasma
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
  • Seborrhic keratosis

Hypopigmentation develops when the skin becomes lighter than its usual shade due to lack of melanin. Some causes are:

  • Albinism – a rare genetic condition where an individual lacks enzymes that produce melanin.
  • Inflammations in the skin due to a certain condition (e.g. eczema, psoriasis)
  • Injuries or damage to the skin (e.g. blisters, burns)

In this article, we will delve deeply into hyperpigmentation problems. 

How do you know the type of hyperpigmentation that you have?

Hyperpigmentation, as mentioned earlier, has various examples. They may seem similar at first glance, but if you look closely, each kind has its own unique characteristics. The table below shows how you can identify a certain type of hyperpigmentation.

TypeCharacteristicAffected areas
Age spotsMaybe dark brown or tan in colorMaybe clumped togetherUsually oval and flatAny area of the faceBack of handsShouldersUpper back
BirthmarksPigmented birthmark   – Brown, black, blue, grey, or tan in color
Vascular birthmark   – Pink, purplish, or red in color
Maybe flat or raised in the skin
Any area of the body
MelasmaMaybe bluish, dark or light brown in colorMay appear as freckles and patches that affect a large area of the skinAbove the upper lipCheeksChinForeheadNose
Post-inflammatory HyperpigmentationMaybe black, brown, or grey in colorAppears as flat spots in the skinCan appear in any part of the body that has been damaged or injured
Seborrhic KeratosisMaybe black, brown, or light tan in colorUsually slightly raised and may appear scaly or waxy in textureFaceBackChestNeck

How are skin pigmentation problems diagnosed?

To accurately know which type of pigmentation problem is present on your skin, make an appointment with a licensed dermatologist. A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing, managing, and treating conditions that primarily affect the skin, nails, and hair. 

During your consultation, your dermatologist will ask you questions relating to your medical history, medications that you are taking, your daily activities, and when you have started to notice the changes in your skin. You may also be subjected to a physical exam or, in some cases, a skin biopsy to zero in on the actual cause of your skin problem. Melasma patients, particularly, are asked to undergo a special examination called Wood’s lamp test.

What are treatments available for pigmentation?

There are a myriad of pigmentation treatments available today, thanks to the continuous advancements in the field of aesthetics and dermatology as well as in the technology used for procedures. However, a specific treatment will depend on the type of pigmentation that you have. Your doctor may recommend any or a combination of the following:

  • Chemical peels
  • Cryotherapy
  • Laser therapy
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Over-the-counter topical medications

OTC topical medications come in the form of cream, lotion, or ointment that is applied to the surface of the skin. These medications are packed with ingredients that are effective in skin lightening. Below are some examples:

  • Alpha-hydroxy acid
  • Azelaic acid
  • Hydroquinone
  • Kojic acid
  • Niacinamide or Vitamin B3
  • Salicylic acid
  • Tretinoin
  • Vitamin C

While a number of OTC products for skin whitening are easily procured, it is not advisable to use these without the guidance of a medical practitioner. Using topical medications on your own places your skin at risk of becoming irritated and damaged, which can make your pigmentation issues worse.

Is hyperpigmentation preventable?

The possibility of preventing hyperpigmentation is little, but you can always take initiatives in protecting your skin from the harsh sun rays, which are the usual culprit for causing pigmentation. Follow these tips:

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF 30 at least every two to three hours daily. This should be done whether you go out directly in the sun or not. 
  • Skip tanning beds. 
  • Stay away from the sun, especially during the hours when it is strongest.
  • Use umbrellas, caps, hats, and clothing that protect your skin from sun damage. Look for clothing that block UV rays from the sun.
  • Use skincare products that have no fragrance and gentle ingredients to lessen the risk of skin irritation.

What are the benefits of having pigmentation flaws removed?

Pigmentation flaws are harmless, although they can cause distress and affect a person’s outlook in life as these pesky blemishes change a person’s appearance. Having them removed can improve a person’s quality of life. If it does not bother you at all, then you can leave it as is and apply measures to prevent it from becoming worse.

When should you call a doctor?

Pigmentation should not cause you any harm as they are not linked to any kind of medical condition or disease that can make the body ill. However, one must still be vigilant when it comes to discolorations that pop up in the skin. Reach out to your doctor and report any abnormality observed in the skin, particularly when there are changes to the color, shape, or texture of a mole or patch of skin. 

Final word

Pigmentation, although not preventable, is a treatable problem. A dermatologist can help plan your treatment using different methods depending on the type of pigmentation problem that you have. If you want your skin to look flawless and more youthful, find a reputable doctor in Singapore to manage and treat your pigmentation concerns.

Visit One Face Clinic in Singapore to know more about pigmentation treatments.

One Face Clinic — Dr David Ng Cheow Hua

1 Tras Link #02-01 Orchid Hotel, Singapore 078867

Phone: +65 6222 2262

WhatsApp/WeChat: +65 9822 2989

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