Pigmentation in common parlance, is the increase of pigment or darkness in the skin. Dermatologists classify pigmentary disorders into hyperpigmentation (increased pigmentation) and hypopigmentation (decreased pigmentation or pale areas).
Darkness of the face may be overall or patchy. And not only does it look shoddy but onlookers often mistake those with facial pigmentation to be sick. So apart from the ignominy of a dark face, one has to assure well-meaning relatives that one is in perfectly good health.
Melasma is a condition that results in dark patches on the cheeks and the bridge of the nose. It occurs more commonly in females, often starting shortly after pregnancy and progressively becoming darker. Women on oral contraceptive pills are more prone to it.
Freckles and other sun spots may also mar a beautiful face.
Apply high SPF sunscreens on the face every day irrespective of exposure to sun. Re-apply every three-four hours. Remember that the ability of the sun to darken is much greater than the ability of any product to decrease pigmentation.
Avoid abrading facial skin with assorted scrubs. These irritate the skin and add to the darkness.
Wiping the face vigorously with coarse towels produces friction which worsens pigmentation. Pat dry with a soft cloth or tissue.
Certain scents and perfumes can sensitise the skin to the sun and produce darkness over the whole face. To stem further damage, use unscented soaps, cleansers, moisturisers, sunscreens and make up.
Some procedures performed on the face like bleaching, chemical peels and laser treatments can precipitate pigmentation in those with sensitive skin.
Avoid applying fiery balms on the forehead for headaches. These irritate the skin and produce darkening of the forehead.
Depigmenting creams which your dermatologist will prescribe can be very helpful. A word of caution: Overusing those with a high concentration of hydroquinone can be harmful.
In severe cases, judicious use of make up and camouflaging creams can hide the blemishes and improve the appearance.