Skin can be the centre of pigmentation disorders. They take the form of either pigmentation spots, often on areas of the body exposed to the sun, or depigmented spots. In each case, appropriate protection from the sun is required to prevent them from getting worse. A dermatologist's point of view.
What kind of pigmentation disorders do you observe in your patients?
Patients often suffer from pigmentation spots as a result of sun exposure.
On the shoulders, they are caused by sun burn. During pregnancy, or with contraception, the face can develop areas of pigmentation, this is melasma. In certain patients, the skin can tan unevenly, forming lighter-coloured spots, often on the arms. Others suffer from vitiligo, a depigmentation disorder where very white spots form on the skin.
How do you explain these problems to your patients?
I tell them that sun exposure worsens these disorders and actually creates them.
Vitiligo is a genetic disorder, but it is greatly intensified by sun exposure. Melasma is hormonal, but it is also triggered by sun exposure. I also explain that actinic lentigo is a warning signal telling them that their “sun capital” (maximum sun exposure limit) has been used up. Any additional exposure will make them more visible.
What sun protection do you recommend?
For white spots from vitiligo, which are no longer protected by pigment, sunburn must be avoided altogether.
On exposed parts of the skin, a high factor sunscreen is essential. For melasma, I recommend daily sun protection from the first sunny days in spring, to prevent the spots from getting any darker. For actinic lentigo, all available sun protection resources need to be used, including clothing, a hat and sunscreen.