Your skin has brown pigment in it, no matter how fair-skinned you are, unless you carry the rare genetic trait for albinism, according to MedlinePlus. The pigment is melanin, made by cells called melanocytes, which provide built-in sun-shade against ultraviolet radiation. Over many years, some melanocytes, often clustered in age-spots or fields of freckles, stay dark even in winter's shade and indoor light. Anti-pigmentation treatments are available ranging from traditional home remedies to surgery. Herbal supplements don't undergo Food and Drug Administration review so you should always talk with your doctor before beginning any at-home treatment.
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Melanin is a family of related compounds, according to biochemists reporting for ChemistryDaily.com. Different proportions and variations of each type account for a range of skin colors. Eumelanin is the most common, imparting shades of brown color to skin and hair. It exists in clusters and chains of molecules that can change shape, size and color intensity. Pheomelanin, though less common than eumelanin, is also found in skin and hair. Pheomelanin imparts the reddish hues to red hair. Various ratios of the melanins account for shades attributed to genetic groups traditionally called red, yellow, black and white. The variability might make some anti-pigmentation treatments produce incomplete or unpredictable results.
Skin peels remove pigmented skin layers by the corrosive action of chemicals or by the abrasive action of high-speed brushes, called dermabrasion. In both cases, surgeons mechanically remove the pigmented skin layers from dark spots on your face, neck and hands. Cleveland Clinic specialists describe the healing process after the peel as the key to this type of anti-pigmentation therapy. A thicker, healthier outer skin layer forms and new, elastic collagen grows in the deeper layers. Your skin develops younger characteristics, which includes smoothing of irregular pigmentation.
Dermatologists at MayoClinic.com advise laser therapy as an anti-pigmentation treatment. They say dark pigment spots, called age spots, liver spots and solar lentigines, can be lightened by many types of laser light. The high-energy density of laser light can deposit a short burst of intense radiation directly to melanin molecules and disrupt them so they lose their color. Side effects may include infections, herpes flare-ups and temporary darkening that can last for a few months.
You can apply commercial anti-pigment therapy, also called fade creams, and home remedies based on traditional recipes, to bleach overly pigmented skin, Cleveland Clinic specialists say. Commercial fade creams contain antioxidents, including vitamin C and kojic acid and bleaching agents such as hydroquinone. Many home remedies are said to work, though the traditional recipes handed down over generations vary widely and lack scientific testing. Many use vegetable products, including cider vinegar, onion or garlic juice and Castor oil. Topically applied anti-pigmentation therapies, whether lab-made or biological, work gradually, often requiring months for the desired lightening. The best therapy might be prevention. Use sunscreen outdoors, and avoid sunburns and tanning salons.
Pigmented skin spots can be forms of skin cancer. Never apply any anti-pigmentation treatment without your doctor's advice. All treatments have some side effects, but self-diagnosis may lead to the most risky therapy.