Melanin is a pigment present inside our skin. Its concentration determines the colour of our skin and our skin's ability to defend itself against damage caused by the sun. It's produced by cells called melanocytes located at the bottom of our epidermis. Under certain conditions (exposure to sunlight, hormones, acne) melanin is produced in excess quantity. This causes localised hyperpigmentation or liver spots.
Also known as 'age spots' or 'sun spots' these are the most common. Over 90% of people of 70+ have this type of liver spot! Whether it's the face, neck or hands, they appear on the parts of the body that are the most exposed to the sun. When we are exposed to too much sun and don't protect our skin as we should, melanin synthesis goes haywire in an attempt to protect itself. Pigment clusters group together and migrate to the surface of the skin, forming these brown blemishes. In other words the cells of these areas are pumped full of melanin. Brown spots are a sign that the skin has had more than enough sun.
A reminder of our youth : acne scars. Inflammation associated with acne stimulates the production of melanin, causing the appearance of these blemishes. Their colour can range from black to pink, depending on the degree of inflammation and our skin type. Whilst some scars will disappear as our skin renews itself, others decide to stick around. They require special treatment to restore the skin's natural pigment.
Freckles and fair skin go hand in hand. They're genetic in origin and provoked by the sun. They are the skin's protective response to UV rays, as it produces melanin in certain areas.
When pregnant, our bodies are bombarded with hormones. Upon contact with our melanocytes, they cause our skin to become hypersensitive. Add UV rays and they go into overdrive, producing melanin in large quantities. Pigmented patches appear on the forehead, around the eyes, above the lips and they can quickly cover the entire face. If you're pregnant, it's imperative you protect your skin with an SPF 50 sunscreen, and better strictly avoid sun if possible.
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