Pigmentation – Everything you need to know

We all have a predisposed skin colour from the genes of our parents. The basic colour of the skin is determined by the concentration of the melanocytes cell.

Through a complex process you produce melanin of which there are two colour types; brown eumelanin and red phaeomelanin. However, the concentration of about 1000 to 2000 melanocytes per cubic millimetre is the same for all race groups. So it does not matter if you are a black skinned person from the tropics or a pale northern European, you will still have the same number of melanocytes. The darker skin you are means you just have larger melanocytes.

Your melanocytes have long dentrict legs that deposit melanosmes (these are tiny colourless granules that will eventually produce melanin). These legs are long and reach in to your keratincyte cell. The main function of them is to aid as a protector of our keratinocyte DNA, the colour or tan is a warning to us, not to make us look better!

If you are a redhead you will of course have a more phaeomelanin. This type of melanin does not like UV light as it can cause free radical damage (hence red heads have to be a lot more careful in the sun) where as if you are darker the eumelanin can absorb the energy of all visual and UV light without becoming a free radical.

UV light causes a complex chemical chain reaction, which is the production of melanin Melanogenesis. Your pituarty gland gets stimulated by the sun and this produces POMC Propiomelanocortin which is a precursor to the Melanin Stimulating Hormone, MSH. This adheres to specific receptor proteins in cells such as the keratinocyte and melanocyte.

Along comes an Emzyme Tyrosinase, which produces an amino acid Tyrosine. These start the reaction of melanosomes within your melanocyte. Tyrosine converts A metabolite Dopa Quinone to make EUMELANIN. Tyrosine converts dopa-quinone with cysteine makes PHEOMELANIN. This is the start MELANIN.

The dentrict legs start depositing these melanosomes in to our keratinocyte cells and it is now melanin. The tan is going to show within a day or two and as the keratinocyte cells grows up the epidermis your melanin sheds with the skin or fades once you are not subject to prolonged UV light.

Please note that a sun tan is nothing more than the skin protecting itself from UV damage. Once you have changed colour this is to tell you that you have been exposed to UV LIGHT for too long.


All you need to make pigmentation is:

  • A good dose of The Sun
  • Any Hormonal influence ( going on the pill/ coming of the pill / pregnancy any other hormonal change) a dose of sun will exasperate it
  • Slight Trauma to the skin
  • A sprinkling of some Chemical /skin products or skin treatments that can make you photo sensitive

Any of the above will set start to create pigmentation on the skin, as with anything to do with skin it is never one thing alone to be the recipe for a skin problem. They are all a chain of events for the melanosmes to deposit unwanted melanin into the wrong cells of the skin.

If you have had a lot of sun then the chances are you will have some DNA damage to the melenocyte cell.This will cause: Shortening of the dentrict legs and a melanocyte gone rouge.

So you can get meleasomes being deposited in to the stem cell of the keratinosite or even back in to the meloanocyte itself. Once that happens the colour will be unable to grow up in to the keratinocyte cell and shed, it will stay deep within the epidermal junction.

Pigmentation is not a skin condition that can go as quickly as it appears. You have to address: the cause, the Rouge Melanocyte and the Pigment that has got stuck in a cell. Targeting only one of these causes will not solve the long term problem and could make the situation worse.



you have to be ultra careful. Please do not think a high SPF is enough protection. This is the wrong approach. A SPF just lets you go out in the sun for longer, Use an SPF of 15/20 and make sure your SPF has some antioxidants in it. Then put a hat on or cover up. SPF DOES NOT PROTECT YOU FROM THE DAMAGING RAYS PENATRATING INTO THE SKIN, they just stop the skin from burning.


During pregnancy be extra careful in the sun or if you are going on the pill or coming off the pill be aware in the summer months it may cause skin pigmentation.


Be aware that some skin products and chemicals can make your skin sun sensitive.


Can cause the skin to be photo sensitive so always ask if the treatment you are having should make you careful of the sun.


The best solution to this is to try and stop the chemical chain of events and the best way is to use skin care products that can block the synthesis or processing of tyrosinase.

Some Tyrosinase inhibitors are: Vitamin C and Sepiwhite.

Other ingredients to look for in skin care are:

  • Retinyl Acetate
  • Retinyl Palmitate – will help with repairing of the DNA within the Melanocyte and Keratinocyte Cell.
  • Niacinamide B3 helps in control of uneven skin tone.

Continual use of pharmaceutical skin care is something I would advise with professional pigmentation treatmentsas they all aid in the process to re-educate these cells. In the last ten years we have successfully removed and prevented pigmentation on our clients but it is a lot of work for you to be sun aware (not sun phobic as we need sun and careful sun exposure is necessary.


This amazing light treatment will not only mop up old pigment in the cells it will also cause the skin to have a fantastic glow. If you only IPL the pigment may return as you have not re-educated the cells.