Jude Bellingham fans discuss hyperpigmentation over footballer's appearance

BLANKENHAIN, GERMANY - JUNE 11: (EDITOR’S NOTE: Image has been digitally enhanced.) Jude Bellingham of England poses for a portrait during the England Portrait session ahead of the UEFA EURO 2024 Germany on June 11, 2024 in Blankenhain, Germany. (Photo by Boris Streubel - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)
Jude Bellingham was seen with darker areas of skin on his face, prompting concern from fans. (Getty Images)

The UEFA European Football Championship 2024 is underway, and England won its first game in the tournament on Sunday 16 June, after it beat Serbia 1-0. But - scores aside - fans were focused on the appearance of star player, Jude Bellingham.

Bellingham, 20, is considered one of the best players in the world, having become the first European player to appear in three major international tournaments before the age of 21.

During Sunday’s game, he scored the only goal of the game that went on to clinch the victory for England. However, fans noticed that the young footballer was sporting darker patches of skin on his face, concentrated around his cheeks and part of his forehead.

While Bellingham has not commented on his appearance, many viewers are wondering why his skin looked different, particularly compared to previous images of the player when his skin looked clear and even.

On X, formerly known as Twitter, one person wondered if Bellingham was experiencing "burnout" that affected his skin, while another speculated that he may have used skin care products that left "burn patches on his face".

Others suggested that the condition may have been triggered by allergies, sunburn or eczema.

However, the most likely explanation is a common skin condition called hyperpigmentation, which can make some areas of the skin darker than others.

It is much more common in people of colour, but can affect any person no matter what their skin type, colour, age or gender is. The condition can sometimes be caused by melasma, a form of hyperpigmentation that is characterised by brown or greyish patches of pigmentation that develop.

Some fans believe Bellingham has melasma, and several shared their own experiences. On TikTok, one person said they experienced melasma while they were on vacation, while another added that the condition may have been caused by sun exposure and encouraged Bellingham to wear sunscreen.

Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, explains that pigmentation refers to the discolouration of the skin. Areas of darker skin are called hyperpigmentation, and areas of lighter skin are called hypopigmentation or depigmentation.

"Disorders of increased skin pigmentation such as melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation are common in skin of colour and one of the most common reasons for presentation to a dermatology clinic in darker skin tones," she tells Yahoo UK.

"While hyperpigmentation is not dangerous, its appearance can cause significant aesthetic or cosmetic concern. It occurs due to the deposition of the pigment, melanin in the skin."

People of colour are more prone to hyperpigmentation due to the greater presence of melanin in the skin. It can be caused by a number of factors, including sun exposure, hormonal influences, injury and inflammation.

Watch: Mindy Kaling Got Real About Her Struggle With Hyperpigmentation And Finding Products That Don't Change Her Skin Tone

Dr Mahto says that, while it is known that ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun can worsen pigmentation, the effect of visible light is talked about less frequently.

"Visible light accounts for approximately half of the radiation we receive from the sun (in comparison to UVR which is about 2-5%)," she explains.

"Blue light is a component of visible light and is sometimes known as high energy visible light (HEVL); it has a short wavelength (380-500nm) and high energy. Data shows that blue light induces a potent and long-lasting hyperpigmentation in darker skin types (Fitzpatrick 3 and above); you do not see this effect in very fair skin.

"This means that blue light can contribute to relapses of pigmentary disorders such as melasma as well as causing hyperpigmentation in skin of colour."

Blue light triggers pigmentation by reacting with the receptors in the pigment-producing cells of the skin. This causes a chain of reactions in the cell, which ultimately lead to an increase of enzymes involved in the production of pigment.

"The enzymes themselves kickstart pigment or melanin production but also result in the formation of a protein complex which further activates more tyrosinase to produce even more melanin," Dr Mahto says.

"This causes long-lasting hyperpigmentation in the skin - more than what one would see with simply just UVA or UVB."

Close up of friend applying sunscreen on arm, two Black women protecting skin in sun. High quality photo
Sunscreen with iron oxide can help protect the skin against blue light, which prevents hyperpigmentation, expert says. (Getty Images)

It is vital for everyone to wear sunscreen on a daily basis, no matter what colour your skin is. But, while most sunscreens protect against UVA and UVB, this isn’t enough to reduce or prevent pigmentation changes in skin of colour, Dr Mahto says.

She advises wearing a sunscreen that contains iron oxide to protect the skin against blue light. "Studies show that sunscreen containing iron oxide is significantly more effective in the treatment and preventions of relapses of melasma, for example, compared to classical sunscreens.

"If you have skin of colour and are concerned about pigmentation, it is important to think about a sunscreen with iron oxide as an ingredient."

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