Do you know what hyperpigmentation is and how it affects your skin?


Hyperpigmentation is caused by exposure to UV light, which brings about two quite separate effects – the immediate pigment darkening that you get after even a few minutes in the sun and real tanning, which is called melanogenesis. The first effect is only the result of photo-oxidation and changes the colour of the melanin or tanning pigments that are already synthesised in the skin. But real tanning takes place only when new melanin is synthesised.


So, what is hyperpigmentation? This involves two kinds of cells. Melanocytes, at the skin’s reproductive layer, produce the melanin pigments, which are based on an amino acid, tyrosine. Under the action of an enzyme called tyrosinase, tyrosine is converted into a pigment in specialised organelles within these melanocytes. Then the social kind of cells, the keratinocytes, comes into play. While the melanocytes are stationery cells, they only manufacture the tanning pigment, it is the job of the keratinocytes to carry these pigments to the skin’s surface, where they form a coloured screen.


Provided no degenerative damage is done in the process, this gives your skin a natural protection from further UV damage, as well as creating a beautiful tan. Most of the highly sophisticated new approved sun tanning products are aimed at optimising this natural process, while also guarding against damage within the skin.


They incorporate highly selective UVA and UVB filters, which only transmit a controlled amount of UV radiation – just enough to stimulate the formation of melanin. Many are also formulated to increase melanin synthesis in the melanocytes. Providing the skin with melanocyte-stimulating substances accelerates the activity of tyrosinase. Other factors, such as beta-carotene, glycoproteins and glycopeptides, can also influence the activities of melanocytes.


Many of the new products are also formulated to influence the formation of keratinocytes, which carry pigments to the skin’s surface, so that they have a good capacity for renewal, perfect integrity, perfect elasticity, and so that your skin is in the best possible state of hydration, elasticity, smoothness and firmness. Some of the new ranges also incorporate anti-wrinkle and hydrating agents, which both can be shown by objective laboratory measurements to leave skin in a better condition, firmer, smoother, and more hydrated with less lines. Do not throw caution to the wind as the sun’s rays are powerful forces for ageing.


DermaFix’s ActiveCellCeuticals ACC Vitamin C Gel protects the skin when used in combination with the additional protection of DermaShield SPF50 UVA and UVB Sunscreen (SANS: 1557 approved) to prevent and/or minimise hyperpigmentation .


The colour that your skin becomes depends on your genetic inheritance and your ability to produce melanin naturally, when you are exposed to sunlight. Disturbances in melanin production can stem from imbalances in the body’s systems. The contraceptive pill, the use of insulin in drug therapy or a disease, like Addison’s, can cause hyperpigmentation. As the body ages, many essential hormones are in increasingly short supply, while at the same times imbalances between various hormones and the glands that secrete them tend to develop.


The entire endocrine system is a carefully balanced interwoven complex of chemical messengers – the hormones. An Endocrinologist or specialist may be required to bring balance to this delicate orchestra.