Everybody wishes for skin that's belmish free and one that has an even tone. A sharp mind is a must have, but what sets up the so-called “first impression” is a bright confident face.
As you age you might experience skin dullness or an uneven skin tone. We all start out as spotless, pale little human beings - it is time and sun exposure that quite literally leaves its mark on our skin. The factors that affect your skin tone are:
- Melanin: In dark skinned people, skin colour is predominantly determined by the concentration and colouration of the pigment melanin. It is produced by cells called melanocytes in the epidermis to prevent DNA damage to other cells.
- Dermis Tissue: In light skinned people with a reduced amount of melanin, the skin colour is determined by the bluish-white connective tissues that lies beneath the dermis. The amount of blood circulation also plays a part as the redness is easily visible in people with lighter skin tones.
- Tanning Response: The process of tanning is the production of melanin or darkening of it in response to increased sun exposure - different people react differently to tanning. Tanning is important if the current melanin levels can’t keep sufficient UV rays away from the nuclei of cells in the skin.
- Genes: The skin colour of a child depends on both parents - it is a result of incomplete dominance in genes that determine skin colour. This means that instead of being the colour of either one of the parents, the child will be a mix of both.
Dullness of skin, on the other hand, is related to the appearance of the skin. It is a blanket term used to describe conditions that cause the yellowing or darkening of the skin tone. The main reason behind dullness of skin is a lack of nutrients and oxygen to the skin. After the age of 30, the skin needs more upkeep as the renewal process of the skin slows down. Hence, dullness is also a result of skin aging. If your skin dullness is due to either of these two reasons, then the following simple tips will help you:
- Hydrate: Skin cells require water as much as any other cells do. Without water, skin cells shrivel up and can get easily damaged. Drinking enough water daily can then mean the difference between dull skin and skin that no one can resist pinching (lightly, we hope). You can read more about cell hydration in our earlier blog post
- Exfoliate: A build-up of dead skin cells, dirt and pollutants on the skin is a major cause of dullness. Using products meant for your skin type will maintain the skin and there won’t be any need for exfoliation.
- What you take, and what you don’t: Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking are known to accelerate skin ageing, and hence cause dullness of the skin. A poor diet means that your skin doesn’t get enough nutrients to function optimally. This means a loss of efficiency of natural skin renewal.
- Anti-aging skin regime: After you pass your 30th birthday, it’s time to start thinking seriously about ageing. Following a skin routine that is specifically crafted to battle skin ageing will help you look younger for longer!
- Important things to eat: Well, anything that is rich in anti-oxidants such as green tea and blueberries is good for you. Antioxidants get rid of the free radicals in the skin that are known to break down the skin’s structure. Vitamin C is a very important vitamin if healthy skin is what you require. Hey!, another good reason to enjoy strawberries as often as you can.
If, on the other hand, you suffer from dullness of skin or an uneven skin tone which is not a direct cause of either of these reasons, it might be time to consult a dermatologist. Most of these cases can be diagnosed visibly but the extent of the problem can be judged only through some basic tests. An expert can then help you plan a treatment regime as well. In the following section we talk about some of the different types and reasons of uneven skin tone:
Hyper-pigmentation: Melanocytes are cells which produce melanin granules and transfer them to nearby cells. The granules converge on the nucleus of the receiving cell reducing the amount of UVR absorbed by the skin. Hyper-pigmentation occurs when some parts of the skin get darker due to increased melanin production. Some phenomenon that are classified as hyper-pigmentation are:
(a) Melasma: A discoloration in which parts of the skin get darker.
(b) Chloasma: Cases where skin discoloration takes place due to hormonal changes. These hormonal changes are often a result of oral and patch contraceptives or Estrogen Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Both Melasma and Chloasma have similar symptoms which are the appearance of dark patches of skin with well defined borders. These symptoms develop over time and are not dangerous, it is just a cosmetic discoloration. When present in pregnancy, it is known as “Mask of Pregnancy”. The patches commonly appear on the neck, cheeks, forehead and lips. These symptoms may disappear spontaneously within a few months of child birth or when contraceptive or HRT medication is stopped. These effects however come back with sun exposure and treatment may be used to accelerate the fading of the symptoms.
(c) Solar lentigo: Also known as “liver spots”, these are the darkened spots on the skin caused by aging and sun exposure. These are often found in people who work in the sun for long durations and old people.
These spots vary in colour and are sometimes deemed as “ugly”. You can get them surgically removed through a variety of procedures. From a young age sun exposure should be limited and you should take care to apply sun screen regularly. In a majority of cases they pose no threat. The old name is a misnomer as these spots are physiologically unrelated to the liver.
In teenagers and children entering puberty, hyper-pigmentation may surface as patches of freckles on the face, chest and arms (the parts of the body that get most sun exposure).
Tanning Response: There are two types of tanning, immediate and delayed. Immediate tanning takes place due to the darkening of already present melanin in the skin. Delayed tanning is due to the overproduction of melanin and often has longer lasting visible effects than immediate tanning. The tanning response of people varies however based on their natural skin pigmentation:
(a) Light Skinned people tend to tan badly or not at all. The chance of getting sun burnt from even small durations of sun exposure is higher for people who are light skinned. Visible effects of tanning hence don’t show up on such people.
(b) Dark Skinned people tend to tan very well. But due to the already dark colour of their skin, the cosmetic effects of tanning are not very visible.
(c) Brown Skinned people have the most significantly visible effects of tanning. Tan lines can form between parts of the skin that get different amounts of sunlight. For example, sleeve and collar lines are very common.
Cosmetic changes aren’t the only ill effects of tanning. In light skinned people, tanning can cause eye, hair and skin damage. It can even lead to cancer in severe cases of DNA damage like repeated sunburns. Wear a high SPF sun screen and reapply it every two hours regardless of your skin colour or the amount of outdoor activity you do.
The first step in countering the effects of dullness and treatment of uneven skin tone is to find the root of the problem. Always make sure you consult a dermatologist. They will provide you with a professional diagnosis and a customised treatment plan for your skin - how intriguing is glowing skin to you?
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