A few months back, Bolden co-founder Ndidi spotted light marks on her left cheek, right beneath her eye area. Brushing them off as minor irritation, she didn't think much of it. But as the spots grew and spread, concern set in. Fearing an immune system issue, she consulted a dermatologist. The diagnosis? Hypopigmentation. Research revealed it's a natural skin lightening process that affects everyone, regardless of skin color. It just stands out more on darker tones like Ndidi’s.
What is Hypopigmentation?
In simple terms, hypopigmentation is a reduction in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives our skin, hair, and eyes their color, that results in lighter patches or areas on the skin compared to your natural tone. It's important to note that hypopigmentation is not the same as depigmentation, which is a complete absence of melanin.
What Causes Hypopigmentation?
Hypopigmentation can have many different causes:
- Genetics: Our genes are like blueprints for our skin's color, and some blueprints have instructions for less melanin, leading to lighter skin or patches of hypopigmentation. Think of it like a dimmer switch for melanin production - some genes turn it down, making skin less pigmented.
- Autoimmune diseases: Vitiligo, where the immune system attacks melanocytes, is a prime example.
- Inflammation: Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis can trigger pigment loss.
- Infection: Fungal infections like tinea versicolor can disrupt melanin production.
- Trauma: Injuries or burns can damage melanocytes, leading to hypopigmentation.
- Medication: Some medications can have side effects that include hypopigmentation. [This is what caused Ndidi’s hypopigmentation–a side effect from the asthma biologic therapy she’s on].
What to do About Hypopigmentation
The good news is, there are ways to manage and even improve hypopigmentation. The approach depends on the underlying cause, but here are some general tips:
- Sun protection: Sun exposure can worsen hypopigmentation, so wearing sunscreen daily is crucial. Look for a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher.
- Topical treatments: Depending on the cause, your dermatologist might recommend creams or ointments containing corticosteroids, or other ingredients to stimulate melanin production.
- Light therapy: Phototherapy using ultraviolet light can be helpful for some cases of hypopigmentation, particularly vitiligo.
- Camouflage: While not a treatment, makeup can effectively camouflage hypopigmentation. Choose products that match your skin tone and offer good coverage.
Although hypopigmentation can be a source of concern, it's important to remember that it doesn't define your beauty. With the right knowledge and care, you can manage hypopigmentation and radiate confidence from within.
Have you or someone you know experienced hypopigmentation? Share your stories and tips in the comments below. Together, we can create a space where everyone feels beautiful and empowered in their own skin.