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  • Writer's pictureTori McDonald

Pigmentation 101

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

Skin gets its color from the melanin produced. Melanin forms when Tyrosine, an amino acid, and an enzyme called Tyrosinase join. When skin is exposed to damaging UV rays or trauma repeatedly, our melanocyte becomes damaged causing hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation. Other factors such as hormones, genetics, stress, and/or medications contribute to pigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation is an excess production of melanin and can be broken into two categories: passive and inflammatory. Passive hyperpigmentation is caused from an internal imbalance such as fluctuations within the endocrine system and other hormones. Inflammatory hyperpigmentation is caused from sun damage, chemicals, or injury/trauma to the skin. A person can experience both passive and inflammatory hyperpigmentation at the same time.

Hypopigmentation occurs when the skin lacks pigment from a decrease in melanocyte activity. An example of this is Vitiligo, a skin condition where the body destroys its own melanocyte. It is to be believed that this is an autoimmune disorder that systemically occurs in our body. Similarly, repeatedly picking at the skin and sun damage can also cause damage to the melanocyte resulting in lighter skin patches.

Pigmentation can be difficult to treat so it is important to wear sunscreen to prevent further damage from occurring.

Pigmentation: Hyperpigmentation vs. Hypopigmentation
Pigmentation: Hyperpigmentation vs. Hypopigmentation

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