Truly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many people love their freckles and others cringe at the sight of any discoloration on their skin, referring to them as age spots. The question is often asked of skin care professionals, “Where do these dark spots on my face come from? Are they genetic?” Honestly, it is not always a simple answer. There are many contributing factors that must be studied before answering this loaded question. Let’s delve into hyperpigmentation and take a scientific look at where these diverse types of dyspigmentation derive from.
In a quick synopsis, melanin is the pigment that produces skin, eye, and hair color, which is meant as a protection, due to its ability to absorb the ultraviolet light from the sun. Basically, it could be considered the body’s own form of internal sunscreen. How much each person has, simply put, determines how long they may be able to be out in the sun without a burn. The Fitzpatrick scale is a simple skin typing test used to determine each person’s natural sun exposure protective ability. However, the sun is not the only reason the body’s melanin may surface. One could add to the list of causes hormonal fluctuations, drug reactions, inflammation in the body, congenial factors, and other unclear etiological foundations.
Here are just a few of the skin disorders that may display some sort of hyperpigmentation in individuals throughout their life.
Dermal melanocytosis is a congenital disorder occurring by trapped melanocytes in the dermis during their migration into the epidermis, often referred to as birth marks. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation skin discolorations are often caused by drug-induced post-inflammatory alterations, photosensitizing medications, traumas to the skin, and other contributing external factors. Melasma is a skin disorder that presents with large areas of hyperpigmentation that can come from many causes, such as genetics, sun exposure, hormonal changes, and more. Many people refer to this disorder as the mask of pregnancy because it often presents itself when women are experiencing the hormonal changes that accompany motherhood.
In short, the answer to the mystery question asked by so many facial aesthetic clients as to if their hyperpigmentation is genetic or not is well, sometimes. As skin care professionals around the world are asked this question, there are some very important steps to go through during the consultation before offering an answer: a detailed intake form, in-depth skin analysis, and a physical sunscreen recommendation. Education is a crucial component of any skin care treatment plan when it comes to important matters like hyperpigmentation because, yes, genetics might play a role, but ultimately sun protection is the key, no matter the origin. Even if the client got hyperpigmentation from their genes, they need a high-quality, physical sunscreen as a preventative measure.