What is pigmentation?
Coloring or pigmentation is a disorder of the skin which affects your skin color. The skin cells produce a substance called melanin which gives color your skin. When melanin production is affected due to unhealthy or damaged skin cells, it causes pigmentation. A pigmentation disorder may either affect the entire body or just a few skin patches.
Pigmentation is a problem afflicting a large number of people of all ages. It occurs mainly due to some external factors and the malfunctioning of endocrine glands and the liver.
Pigmentation shows up on the skin as excessive coloration on the form of darkening of the skin, either in patches, whole or just spots. To understand the problem of pigmentation, we need to understand the association with it internally.
What happens in pigmentation?
If iron is consumed in excess, a bronze pigmentation occurs all over the body. A brownish pigmentation is also observed when the skin absorbs colours of compound chemicals. Regular use of nasal drops gives a grayish silver color to the skin due to the absorption of excess quantities of silver present in them.
The skin becomes yellow during jaundice because of the excess bile present in the blood and body tissue. This occurs due to the incapacitation of the liver or due to the appearance of an obstruction in the bile- tract.
Even due to normal changes in the body like pregnancy or menopause, dark brown spots appear predominantly on the face.
Deficiency of certain nutrients in the body like deficiency of iron, calcium, vitamin A + E and B complex also causes pigmentation. A severe lack of vitamin A can result in the thickening and darkening of the skin.
Main causes of pigmentation
There are 3 external factors that cause pigmentation of the skin.
1. Overexposure to sun-rays: The UV-A and UV-B rays of sunlight can harm the skin’s cellular mechanism, making it thick, dry and coarse.
2. Use of spurious cosmetics: Many low quality, colored make-up products contain certain pigments which cause patchy pigmentation. Cosmetics containing mercury compounds also react adversely with melanin of the skin, resulting in pigmentation.
3. Oral medication: Many birth control pills have an adverse effect on the skin, since they play havoc with the body’s hormonal system and can cause spot pigmentation on the skin.
Methods of preventing and treating pigmentation
The following recipes have been tried and tested with efficacy in preventing and treating problems of pigmentation:
1. An equal mixture of fresh potato juice, lemon juice and cucumber juice made into a batter with oatmeal and applied on pigmentation area every morning before bath and left to dry is a good but slow remedy for bleaching pigmentation marks.
2. Take 2 tablespoonfuls of skimmed milk powder and add to it 5 ml of hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of honey. Make a paste and apply on pigmentation spots. Leave till dry and then rinse off. This is a home bleach and is safe for the skin.
3. Zinc oxide and calamine are effective in lightening blemishes and highly pigmented spots. They are also used in certain make-up to cover the skin externally. Zinc oxide is an effective sunblock and is incorporated in many sunscreen and sunblock preparations for protection. Use of a zinc, calamine-based cream lightens the spots considerably.
4. Vitamin E is another wonderful aid in helping to clear pigmentation. Vitamin E is a powerful skin protector and anti-oxidant. Vitamin E-based food products like wheat germ, barley, evening primrose, almond meal can be used as a constituent in any face- pack.
A concentrated Vitamin E treatment can be made by splitting open a vitamin E 2001U capsule and mixing it in 1 teaspoonful of sesame oil and applying the contents on pigmented skin. Caress, a cream available, contains high concentration of vitamin E, which also helps prevent pigmentation. Home treatment for pigmentation also involves vegetable peeling of outer corneal layer of cells which slough off, giving rise to new un-pigmented skin.
The following gentle vegetable peeling treatments are effective and tested:
1. Take a quarter of papaya pulp and mix 1 teaspoonful of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of honey. Rub this granular paste on pigmented skin for 20 minutes.
2. Take 1 tablespoon of crushed barley and mix ½ teaspoonful of lemon juice and 1 teaspoonful of honey. Rub this granular paste on pigmented skin for 20 minutes. Note that barley should be soft on the skin and not abrasive.
3. Make some pineapple pulp, carrot pulp and add a little kaolin (white mud) to make a thick paste. Apply this mixture on face, massage and keep for 15 minutes, then rinse off. You can use this mask at least once a week.
After the above-mentioned treatment, make sure that the skin does not become too dry. If it does, you can apply any of the home-made lotions given below:
1. Equal mixture of white vinegar and rose water.
2. Thin buttermilk and cucumber juice which are good bleaches.
3. Coconut water and pineapple pulp.
Tips to erase pigmentation marks
There are certain precautions and suggestions to be followed for erasing pigmentation marks.
If your complexion is dull and pale, and has lost the glow, supplement Vitamin A or include plenty of carrots and green leafy vegetables in your diet.
- Do not use any pigmented or coloured cosmetics, since they aggravate pigmentation. Wear a sunblock containing a suitable blocking agent before going out in the sun. Avoid tension and anxiety as much as possible.
- Practise meditation.
- Do not self-medicate. Use only the prescribed dose and avoid oral birth control pills as much as you can.
- If pigmentation is very severe for a long period of time, consult a doctor.
In leukoderma, where there is a loss of pigment due to imperfection of the skin tone, nutritional deficiencies or use of photosensitizing cosmetics, a home-made recipe using a mixture of olive oil, mint and basil (tulsi) juice can be of help.
Oil of Berganot, available at perfume raw material stores, when applied on the white patches before going out in the sun, can help darken the skin.