Author: Ingrid Katz (Pure Aesthetics)
Worldwide, we see human beings in a splendour of different colours: dark, freckly or light skins with grey, auburn, blond or brunette hair. And then there are the multitude of eye colours too. It is incredible when we realise that most of these colours are thanks to an ability our body has, to produce pigment. We call this pigment melanin and we call the cell that produces melanin, a melanocyte.
As human beings – regardless of colour, we are all born with a very similar amount of melanocytes. However, it is the amount of melanin that is produced that determines our skin colour. A person who is unable to produce pigment is called an albino.
Melanin is very important as it acts as a defence to UV rays. The UV rays are absorbed by the melanin and dispersed within the skin. The more melanin present the higher the absorption and dispersion rate, meaning that darker skins will have a higher natural defence to the sun than fairer skins. An albino skin will have zero defence and hence, there is an exceptionally high rate of skin cancer among those with albino skins.
Interestingly, the skin on the face and hands has approximately double the amount of melanin when compared with the rest of the body. This is due to excessive and continuous exposure to the sun and this is why the face and hands normally appear darker (and possibly more aged) when compared to other areas.
While some light skinned people tan (not advisable) or use cosmetic means to darken their skin, some dark skinned people may use cosmetic means to lighten their skin. This is a more controversial process as the desire for lighter skin is linked with health issues, self-image, racial divides and social acceptances. The term skin "whitening" is often heard and something that we, at Pure Aesthetics, do not like to use or practice. We prefer the term “skin brightening”.
We are all born with a genetic make-up that cannot be permanently changed to suit our desires for darker or lighter skin. However, temporary results (that require continual maintenance) can be achieved. We have topical methods such as skin peels or laser treatments; and internal treatments such as oral or intravenous supplementation that are safe to use when prescribed by skin or medical professionals.
I have, on too many occasions, been presented with skins that have become addicted to (and thus damaged) due to unsavoury methods of mixing and selling skin whitening solutions. These solutions are more than often sold with no warning of the damage they can do and long term harm they cause.
There is no safe quick or permanent fix to this skin concern and clients should take caution when embarking on a journey to lighten their skin. The treatment of pigmentation and skin brightening must be seen as an on-going programme rather than a short term fix. Speak to a therapist at Pure Aesthetics for a safe solution to these issues.