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Taking care of the skin is a daily affair, requiring an awareness of its needs and a little knowledge about the kind of treatment it deserves. The skin has wonderful protective responses. In the deeper layers of the epidermis are cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives the skin its colour.
Melanin actually protects the skin from the sun’s radiation. Its levels increase upon exposure to the sun, leading to tanning. Sometimes, the transfer of melanin to the skin surface occurs due to hormonal or other internal reasons, resulting in uneven deposits of melanin. This leads to pigmented skin, dark patches and spots.
Therefore, the first aspect of treatment is sun protection. The skin needs protection with a broad-spectrum sunscreen that provides protection from both UV-A and UV-B rays. Select a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 20 or 25. This would suit most skin types.
SPF is Sun Protective Factor and is denoted by a number. It should be mentioned on the label of the sunscreen. It is related to the duration of sun exposure and also to individual skin sensitivity. If the skin is more sensitive to the sun and tends to burn easily, or has dark patches, use sunscreen with a higher SPF of 30 or 40.
Remember to apply sunscreen while swimming, holidaying by the sea or even in the hills. Reflective surfaces, like water and snow, actually increase the effects of UV rays.
The sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure, to allow it time to be absorbed by the skin. It should be reapplied if you are in the sun for more than an hour. For sun-sensitive skin, try to avoid the sun as far as possible.
The use of scrubs and masks help to reduce pigmentation by removing dead skin cells and their contained pigment. The dark patches gradually become lighter. Even when the pigmented patches disappear, one should continue to use sunscreen.
To make a cleanser to reduce pigmentation, add 5 drops of olive oil or sunflower oil to one tablespoon of cold milk. Mix it well. Wipe the skin with this mixture using a cotton ball. You will find that milk soothes the skin and also lends a natural glow over a period of time if used daily.
Scrub: Mix 3 tablespoons almond meal (ground almonds) with half a cup yoghurt (curd) and a pinch of turmeric. Apply this on the face and neck. Rub gently, especially on the dark patches and wash off with plenty of water. Keep in mind, however, that scrubs should not be applied on sensitive skin, pimples, acne or rash.
For dark patches: Mix together a big pinch of coarse salt with a cream. Apply only on the areas with the dark patches or spots and rub gently. Wash it off. Then, apply cold milk and wash it off after 15 minutes. Do this twice a week.
For dark spots: Add a pinch of turmeric (haldi) to curd and apply daily on the entire face. Wash it off after 20 to 30 minutes.
Mask: Mix 3 teaspoons oatmeal with ripe papaya pulp and 1 teaspoon curd to make a thick paste. Apply it on your face and wash it off after 20 minutes. This mask suits both dry and oily skins.
For hands: Take 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and 3 tablespoons of coarse sugar. Mix these ingredients together till it becomes a paste. Apply and rub it on the hands. Rinse it off after 15 minutes.
Natural remedies can be extremely effective for pigmentation if used regularly.