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Preventing Pigmentation Problems
When exposed to the sun for long periods of time, your skin tans. This is its way of naturally protecting itself. Pigment-producing cells called melanocytes excrete extra melanin to absorb UV radiation.
The more protective melanin produced, the darker the skin’s hue. The quicker you tan, the less likely you are to develop skin cancer. However, with more melanin in your skin you’re more prone to hyper-pigmentation, or a darkening skin tone.
Excess pigmentation is caused when melanocytes get over-stimulated by sun exposure. It might not seem like much, but this over-stimulation actually damages the cells, impairing their ability to function properly. This can lead to a permanent over-production of melanin, making your tan basically permanent.
Some might think a permanent tan would be fantastic, but there’s a problem. The cells don’t uniformly react to this altered state. While some cells begin producing more melanin to protect, others stay on their original path, which leads to uneven pigmentation patches.
While some cells might be producing excess melanin, other cells might stop producing it altogether, leaving a white patch of skin that never tans again. These white patches, a condition known as hypo-pigmentation, increase your risk of skin cancer.
The sun may be a wonderful thing, but it’s the greatest enemy your skin has. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D we have, but it comes bundled with damaging UV radiation. The best defense we have when in direct sunlight is sunscreen and clothing.
Apply sunscreen on exposed areas every time you go outdoors and cover as much skin as comfortably possible to avoid pigmentation issues, and other sun-related problems like skin cancer and premature wrinkles.
A dermatologist is likely to be able to prescribe a treatment if you’re already suffering from discoloration. Sometimes a chemical peel is used to remove the discolored layer of skin, providing space for healthy melanocytes to grow.
These are usually only for those with severe pigmentation problems. Some home remedies include drinking plenty of water, daily application of lime to pigmented areas, bleaching once a month or various available creams designed to reduce pigmentation.