What is skin discolouration? The science behind who it affects, how it occurs, and more

What is skin discolouration? The science behind who it affects, how it occurs, and more

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Text: Azrin Tan

Starting to notice dark spots on your visage? You're probably not alone, especially since most of us reside in sunny SG. Skin discolouration — aka hyperpigmentation — tends to manifest itself in a multitude of forms, of which the most prominent being dark patches. This, undeniably, comes as an annoyance: it's tough enough to achieve a flawless complexion no matter the layers of concealer, but with an uneven skin tone? The #goodfacegame just became nearly impossible. There's a couple of reasons the skin condition stops to say hello every once in a while, but we're stressing over it doubly hard over here because one of the most common causes is actually amplified by surprise, surprise — the sun. Is your interest piqued quite yet? Read on to find out everything there is to know about hyperpigmentation: from why it comes about, to who actually suffers from it more.

What is hyperpigmentation?

The term covers anything from skin discolouration such as the formation of dark spots or even freckles. This is usually attributed to extensive exposure to the sun, acne scars, or hormonal fluctuations. These factors actually lead to its most direct cause: an excess in the production of melanin or pigment in our skin. Why do we produce more melanin, you ask? It's our body or skin's most direct reaction to external damage such as UV rays; it is merely trying to protect itself. Melanin helps to absorb UV radiation, free radicals and other foreign material in the system. Other causes of increased production of melanin includes severe changes in hormonal levels, the ingestion of certain medications including chemotherapy drugs or contraceptive pills, and more rarer cases of certain diseases such as Addison's disease.


Who is more prone to hyperpigmentation?

For certain types of pigmentation — specifically melasma — there is a higher chance of it occurring in medium to darker skin toned folks. Melasma spots is a skin condition where one will notice irregular patches of brown pigment commonly found on the T-zone area and the cheeks of one's visage. This is due to a more active count of melanocytes for darker skinned tone people compared to those with lighter skin. For melasma, experts believe it is caused by increased levels of our hormones – namely oestrogen and progesterone — which stimulate melanocytes that in turn increases the melanin in our system. Since hormones have a big part to play in the pumping of melanocytes into the system, women who are going through pregnancy or are on birth control may also need to take extra precaution to counter the effects.

How do I counter hyperpigmentation?

Sunscreen! Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. We can't stress this enough, and if it wasn't obvious enough that it's even more pertinent for us living on our tropical little island, then we'll make it really clear this time: for the most of us here, our Asian skin is more prone to hyperpigmentation due to the constant exposure to the sun alone. Go for SPF30 at least, nothing less.

When it comes to the topical medications that can be applied, the experts on it all do suggest more specific ingredients such as azelaic acid, retinoids derived from vitamin A, vitamin C, and other chemical peels like glycolic or salicylic acid peels. Most of these ingredients will help to either lighten the darker marks, or attempt to resurface the upper layers of the skin to heal itself and return to its glory days of radiant, glowing skin. And as always, we wouldn't be doing our job if we didn't recommend some products that the beauty world finds merit in, specifically with regards to our battle against the pigment. See them all, below.