Your Guide to Uneven Skintone
Pigmentation and uneven skin tone on our face and body are normal. Some of us are light-skinned, some darker. But pigmentation can be problematic if you start to get more freckles, moles, age spots or skin discolouration.
What’s going on?
Melanin is the substance in our skin that forms the colour or pigment. It’s produced by the melanocyte cells in the skin’s (deep) basal layer. The level of activity of the melanocyte cells is critical to how much melanin is produced and is governed by our hormones. The cells’ purpose is to protect the dermis from UV radiation. If you go out in the sun without hat and sunblock, the cells spring into defensive action. They produce more melanin, which (being black) can absorb the UV rays. If you do this often, your skin will begin to show darker cells on the surface, which later in life will manifest as sun, age and liver spots.
What else triggers melanin production?
Unsurprisingly, given that hormones govern the cell activity, pregnancy can be a time of increased melanin production. You are more UV-sensitive while pregnant, so the cells jump to defend the dermis even more readily. A complete pigment serum is a useful product to use while pregnant.
Hormone-related diseases can also trigger more melanin. Cancers, some medications (such as The Pill), and poor gut health are all culprits.
Skin injury is another: it might be the result of surgery, acne, allergic reactions, or incorrect use of microdermabrasion, laser and chemical peels.
And menopause. Whoa, that’s not fair, is it? Women in menopause have less hormonal activity, but as our skin thins, so pigmentation shows up more. And actually, having less oestrogen (which regulates melanin production) in your body allows melanin production to rise.
The areas where sun spots and skin darkening occur are, of course, the face, neck, hands and décolletage – all the places that have had max UV exposure over the years.
What to do?
I hardly need to say it, do I? Wear sunblock every day, to prepare for later life when melanin production rises. I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but I can’t emphasise it enough.
If you wait for pigmentation to appear when you’re older and then hope to treat it, you’ve really left it too late. There are good cover-up products to help, but I urge you to avoid skin-lightening cosmetics that contain hydroquinone. Side effects of this include thinning of the skin, acne and permanent skin bleaching, and many countries including Australia have banned hydroquinone for use in over-the-counter cosmetics.
So in short, wear a physical block sunscreen every day, invest in good advice and skin products, and look after your gut health.