Derm Topics

Tips for Diagnosing & Treating Pigmentary Disorders

Next Steps in Derm, in partnership with Pigmentary Disorders Exchange Symposium interviewed Dr. Nada Elbuluk, founder and director of the USC Skin of Color Center and Pigmentary Disorders Clinic. Diagnosing and treating pigmentary disorders can be challenging. Watch as Dr. Elbuluk outlines what to think about in the diagnostic process,  including the importance of full body exams and good room lighting. Also hear what tools are helpful in making an accurate diagnosis. Plus learn why setting appropriate prognostic expectations is key.

Further Reading

If you want to read more about pigmentary disorders, check out the following articles published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology:

Advances in Pigmentation Management: A Multipronged Approach


Background: Key cellular players regulating human skin pigmentation include melanocytes in the epidermis that synthesize melanin, neighboring keratinocytes that receive and distribute melanin in the upper layers, and fibroblasts in the dermis that affect overlying melanocytes and keratinocytes. In addition, endocrine factors from the blood supply (endothelial cells) and inflammation-related factors play a role. Thus, new strategies for affecting pigmentation need to consider these multiple cell lines to adequately cover various causes and disease processes associated with hyperpigmentation.
Methods: Pathophysiologic mechanisms and cellular pathways involved in melanogenesis were thoroughly reviewed with particular emphasis on the cellular interplay involved in the process. A complex system of interlinking and independent pathways was defined and described demonstrating differing pathways for altered pigmentary disorders – melasma associated with endothelial cell interactions; post inflammatory hyperpigmentation associated with keratinocyte inflammatory mediators (PGE2 in particular); and photodamage involving all 4 cell types. In vitro validation studies were then undertaken to define differing cell group gene expression profiles with selected peptides and other active agents. Melanocytic production of pigment was then tested with these agents to identify key potential players capable of limiting pigmentation.
Results: Hexapeptide-12 and lactoferrin (melanocytes), Hexapeptide-11 (in keratinocytes), and phosphatidylserine (endothelial cells) were identified as major inhibitors of melanogenesis based on their gene expression profiles. This was confirmed by secondary melanin production tests performed on melanocytic lines. Additional active agents were also identified as inhibitors of melanocytic production of melanin, and together, these constituents formed the basis for a novel formulation for use in pigmentary disorders.
Conclusion: A comprehensive scientific narrative of the various facets relating to pigmentation has been presented including differing pathways affecting varied cell lines that effect pigment production. Based on this concept, actives were tested using gene expression studies as well as in vitro melanogenic model testing in different cell lines. Using this novel multi-faceted approach, we have selected and validated a series of active agents to be used in a formulation targeting the complex problem of hyperpigmentation.

Getting to the Core of Contemporary Therapies for Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation


Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a typical complication of inflammatory dermatoses that more frequently and severely affects people with darker skin. External insults to the skin, such as burn injuries, dermatologic treatments, and intrinsic skin disorders (eg, eczema and acne), are common causes of PIH. Individuals with darker skin are prone to develop PIH, which can cause substantial psychological suffering. PIH can be prevented or alleviated. When this happens, it is essential to point out what is causing it and treat it as soon as possible to prevent inflammation and PIH from progressing. If the inflammatory symptoms go away or there is no evidence of inflammation at the time of diagnosis, PIH treatments should be evaluated. To hasten the resolution of PIH, treatment should begin as soon as possible. Treatment begins with the care of the initial inflammatory condition. Topical medications, chemical peels, laser and light-based treatment, phototherapy, and other therapeutic modalities are offered to treat PIH. Understanding the therapy options available helps the physician in choosing the best treatment for each patient. With these backgrounds, the current review aimed to discuss the epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical presentation, and available treatment options for the PIH.

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