It’s one thing to buy expensive beauty products for skin perfection, but by clueing up on the mechanisms comprising your skin, you can prevent lines, plump your cheeks and ward off pigmentation naturally.

What is skin pigmentation?

Visible signs: Dark spots and discolouration

The trouble with pigmentation is that it sneaks up behind you, and the first you know about it is brown or white patches on your forehead or at the sides of your mouth. “Uneven skin tone caused by pigmentation gives skin an immediately aged appearance,” says Privee Cosmetic Clinic cosmetic nurse Natalie Abouchar ( It gives skin a dull and worn-out tone, which is visually ageing.

How it happens

Christine Clais, skin expert at The French Facialist ( says pigmentation is caused by excessive production of a pigment that gives skin its brown hue, melanin.

1. Extreme sun exposure, inflammation/trauma to the skin or hormonal changes trigger melanocytes (the skin cells responsible for producing melanin in the lower part of the epidermis) to start producing an excessive amount of melanin.

The cells create small, organised groupings of pigment known as melanosomes. These melanosomes are sent from the dermis to the top layer of skin where the pigmentation becomes embedded.

3. As we age, melanocyte distribution becomes less regular and organised, resulting in excessive pigmentation known as hyperpigmentation.

Rewrite the script

Lifestyle: UV exposure is the major cause of hyperpigmentation and skin discolouration. Clais advises, “Avoid sun exposure as much as possible and use a high SPF broad spectrum sunscreen.”

Products: Products can inhibit pigmentation to stop it becoming darker and more widespread, but as with wine in the carpet, the longer it’s there, the harder it is to fight. “Hydroquinone, retinoids, vitamin C, kojic acid, licorice extract, alpha hydroxy acids, azelaic acid or epidermal growth factor are all used to treat hyperpigmentation,” says Clais.

Treatments: Chemical peels for intensive exfoliation and pigment-reducing IPL lasers are intensive measures to clear and brighten skin.