marie claire fixes
MANY SOUTH AFRICANS SUFFER FROM SKIN HYPERPIGMENTATION, A CONDITION THAT AFFECTS ALL SKIN TYPES BUT IS MOST PREVALENT IN BLACK PATIENTS. WE CHATTED TO DERMATOLOGIST DR NCOZA DLOVA TO LEARN MORE ABOUT RESPONSIBLE WAYS TO TREAT SKIN PIGMENTATION
According to Dr Ncoza Dlova, there are several causes of skin hyperpigmentation. Melasma, a common, patchy discoloration of the skin usually seen in pregnant women, is one of the bigger culprits. Acne, eczema, drug reactions and contact dermatitis are other known factors. Lifestyle choices also play a role: exposure to UV rays between 11am and 3pm, sun tanning and incorrect use of cosmetic products, which can irritate the skin. ‘In a recent study we conducted, looking at 900 African and Indian women in Durban, we found that 67 per cent of patients who used skin lighteners had genuine problems with pigmentation. More than 30 per cent had skin damage purely as a result of using skin lighteners.’
‘If you are white, pale skin means healthy skin [so] using tanning booths and sun tanning is extremely dangerous for your skin. If you are black,you have the best skin to protect you against dangerous UV rays, so do not try and change your skin colour,’ says Dr Dlova. ‘Do not use products that are recommended by your friends, family or even a pharmacist, as these may not be the correct products for your skin problem.’ She recommends visiting a qualified dermatologist in order to get the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Besides melasma, which can be genetic, other conditions that can lead to this include post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), the most common skin condition before acne, eczema, contact dermatitis, drug reactions and lichen planus (a skin condition that causes itchiness and pigmentation on sun-exposed areas). Black women and men are more prone to melasma and PIH because they have more active melanocytes than those with light skin and so produce more melanin.This is a pigment produced by cells called melanocytes found on the lower layers of the skin that protects us against the dangers of UV rays.
There has been much debate on whether topical products alone can make any difference in treating skin pigmentation. Dr Dlova explains: ‘Treatment would depend on the extent and depth of the pigmentation. Sometimes dermatologists are able to reduce the pigmentation but are unable to clear it completely. Sometimes, if the pigmentation is due to inflammation of the skin, it is just a matter of time before it clears on its own.’
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