Skin camouflage is designed to reduce the visible effects of any pigmentation to the skin – what this means is that it can conceal any differences in the colour of your skin. So it is interesting to understand what pigmentation of the skin really is, why the colour of our skin varies from person to person, and also what can trigger such localised differences in pigmentation.
Why do we have different skin colours?
The main factor determining the colour of our skin is the amount of pigment called Melanin it contains. Melanin is made in special cells called melanocytes which are found in the epidermis of the skin, and the main reason that certain people have lighter skin is that they are producing less melanin, either because they have fewer melantocites, or because the melantocites they do have are producing less melanin.
The reason we produce melanin in the first place is to protect our skin from the harmful effects of the sun; it acts as a kind of barrier or filter. A side-effect of this is that it is also harder for the body to process the beneficial effects of the sun’s rays – for example converting UV light into vitamin D. So one theory put forward by scientists is that the reason that lighter skin evolved is because less melanin = less of a barrier to the sun = less time in the sun needed to process vitamin D. An excellent result for those living in colder, darker climates with less sun exposure! And the opposite is of course true of darker skin tones typically found in hotter, lighter climates who do not need the skin’s Vitamin D absorption to be that efficient.
Why does our skin’s pigmentation change?
The skin’s pigmentation can change in broadly three different ways:
– Depigmentation – is a total loss of pigment of the skin, so the skin is white. The two main instances of depipigmentation are Vitiligo and Albinism, where either certain areas or the entire surface of the skin lack any melanin at all.
– Hypopigmentation – this is where there is a lot less melanin than normal and the skin appears a lot lighter in colour. This can also be as a result of scarring , disease skin infection, blisters, burns, or other trauma to your skin, for example, and will usually reverse over time.
– Hyperpigmentation – this is the opposite, i.e. where there is an abnormally high amount of melanin in the skin and it looks darker than the rest of the skin. Our skin can darken for many different reasons. Most widespread is of course the common tan. As explained above, the greater exposure to the sun, the more melanin will be produced and the darker the skin goes. Interestingly, Skincare industry legend Dr Nick Lowe explains that dark patches resulting from sun exposure can take 10-20 years to develop, so any current discolouration could actually be the result of sun exposure in childhood.
However, this same over production of melanin can also lead to hyperpigmentation presenting differently. Here are some examples:
– Lentigo/Lentigenes – the latin word for the common freckle
– Solar Lentigenes – widely known as ‘sun spots,’ ‘age spots’ and ‘liver spots,’ solar lentigenes are generally larger freckle-like patches caused by sun exposure.
– Melasma – Often known as the ‘pregnancy mask,’ melasma is caused by hormonal changes due to pregnancy and is characterized by splotchy, pigmented areas usually on the face (often around the eye or mouth area).
None of the conditions above are harmful or contagious in, although people often understandably struggle with coming to terms with a change in their appearance. There are some permanent solutions which offer some improvement to certain conditions, such as UV and laser treatments, but they are not in any way guaranteed.
So here at Skin Confident I want to do whatever possible, using many years of experience applying makeup to cover pigmentation so as to minimise the negative effect that somebody’s skin is having on their life!