Pigmentation, Skin Concern

Melanin and Pigmentation Explained

What is Melanin?

Melanin is the brown pigment that produces the various shades and colours of human skin. Colouration (pigmentation) is determined by the amount of melanin in the skin. Without melanin, the skin would be pale white with shades of pink caused by blood flow through the skin.

Fair-skinned people produce very little melanin, darker-skinned people produce moderate amounts, and very dark-skinned people produce the most. People with albinism have little or no melanin and thus their skin appears white or pale pink. Usually, melanin is fairly evenly distributed in the skin, but sometimes people have spots or patches of skin with more (or less) melanin. Examples of such spots include freckles, age spots (lentigines), and melasma.

Melanin is produced by specialised cells, called melanocytes, that are scattered among the other cells in the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. After melanin is produced, it spreads into other nearby skin cells.

Watch our short Video on Melanin:

Pigment disorders

Pigment disorders can be widespread and affect many areas of skin, or they can be localized and affect only certain areas of the skin. The changes they cause are called:

Depigmentation is a loss of pigment; the skin will appear white.

Hypopigmentation is an abnormally low amount of melanin. The skin will be lighter than the surrounding skin.
Widespread hypopigmentation or depigmentation is most often caused by albinism and vitiligo. Hypopigmentation also can be caused by previous injury to the skin, such as a blister, ulcer, burn, exposure to a chemical, or skin infection; inflammatory conditions of the skin (such as atopic dermatitis or psoriasis) or sometimes rare hereditary conditions.

Hyperpigmentation is usually caused by an abnormally high amount of melanin, but sometimes it is caused by other pigmented substances that are not normally present in the skin. The skin is darker and is sometimes a different colour than it should be. Hyperpigmentation can be caused by disorders that cause Inflammation, certain medications and drugs, exposure to sunlight, or pregnancy and other hormonal changes: Melasma or Chloasma.

How to treat pigment disorders

  1. Chemical peels and laser therapy can be carried out by a professional.
  2. Topical products that are suggested:


Most important is a good sunblock, preferably with a SPF 50 or higher that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These block and reflect the UV rays that lead to damage, pigmentation, and oxidative stress in the skin.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A has been shown to help increase collagen production, reduce the appearance of fine lines, improve the texture of the skin, and most importantly for pigmentation sufferers, reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Take a look at Neoretin’s amazing ingredient properties (contains Vitamin A, at: Pigment Lightening and Reducing Topical Products.

In addition, there are a number of ingredients to look out for that help to reduce pigmentation:
Alphahydroxy acids (glycolic, kojic acid)

Vitamin C

Liquorice extract
Mulberry extract
Salicylic acid, Hydroxyphenoxy Propionic acid, Ellagic Acid

There are a number of skin pigment topical treatments out there and we have brought you products that are backed by science. Take a look at what we have to solve pigmentation issues at: Shop by Skin Concern -> Pigmentation

About Dr Alek Nikolic

Dr Alek Nikolic was born in South Africa and received his MBBCh (Wits) in 1992 and in 2000 he received his MBA (UCT). He has been in private practice for 24 years and is the owner of Aesthetic Facial Enhancement, which has offices in Cape Town. Dr Nikolic specialises in aesthetic medicine and is at the forefront of the latest developments in his field. He is very driven and has lectured extensively and has performed live demonstrations throughout South Africa and Internationally including Bangkok, Rome, Paris, Monte Carlo, Prague, and Warsaw. Dr Nikolic’s focus is on skin care, skin ingredients and cosmetic dermatology treatments such as lasers, chemical peels, Botox, and Dermal Fillers. He has performed over 20 000 procedures to date and as such is responsible for training numerous medical practitioners both in South Africa and internationally. Dr Nikolic is one of the founding members of the South African Allergan Medical Aesthetic Academy and chaired its inaugural launch in 2012. The Allergan Academy provides essential training to keep up with the latest technology in aesthetics. Dr Nikolic holds the advisory position of Allergan Local Country Mentor in Facial Aesthetics and is the Allergan Advanced Botox and Dermal Filler Trainer. He is Vice President of the Aesthetic and Anti-Aging Medicine Society of South Africa (AAMSSA) and is an Associate Member of the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS).

4 thoughts on “Melanin and Pigmentation Explained

  1. Tamsyn says:

    thanks for the great info, really love the video

  2. Caroline says:

    very informative, really explains it well, thank you

  3. nadine says:

    i would like to echo sharon’s comment – well done dr alek

  4. Karen says:

    What an informative article, thank you for the info and advice

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