Pigmentation is the coloring of the skin, hair, mucous membranes and retina of the eyes (medicinenet.com). This coloring is a result of the melanin pigment produced in the body. In hypopigmentation, there is little or no melanin pigment produced.
Melanin is responsible for the pigmentation (coloring) of the skin and therefore, the increased production of melanin causes a darker skin tone and a decreased production of melanin causes a lighter skin tone. However due to certain factors, the skin may produce way more or less melanin leading to abnormal pigmentation in certain areas.
When this happens, the skin may become darker (hyperpigmentation) or lighter (hypopigmentation/skin depigmentation) than your overall skin tone. In people with hypopigmentation, there is either a decrease in melanocytes or melanin itself. This form of pigmentation occurs mostly in people with darker skin tones. It can also be seen in light skin toned people.
Causes of Hypopigmentation
It can be caused by any one of the following:
- Disease and skin infections
- injury – Skin injury or trauma can result in loss of color on areas of skin where the injury occurred.
- trauma to the skin.
- family history of pigmentation issues,
- excessive exposure radiation
- excessive sun exposure
- Skin treatments such as chemical peels that are not well done.
Hypopigmentation may occur in many forms including
- Albinism: Albinism is a genetic disorder without a cure where the albino has colourless hair, skin and eyes due to skin cells that produce very little or no melanin.
- Vitiligo: Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder without a permanent cure. It causes white patches on the skin (lips, hands and sometimes all over the body) because the melanocytes die or stop functioning.
- Pityriasis Alba: Common among children and young adults, it is characterized by pink scaly patches which later leave pale areas on the skin
- Tinea versicolor: A non-contagious condition caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the skin. It most often affects teens and young adults. (yeast infections with scaly, itchy patches of skin that is light or pink in color)
Treatment of Hypopigmentation
There are a variety of treatments for hypopigmentation. However, always consult a dermatologist first to find the best treatment for you. In truth, hypopigmentation may be difficult to rid of if the cause of it is genetic. Treatment is also dependent on factors that include the skin type of the client, skin tone as well as the severity of the pigmentation.
According to DermNet New Zealand, the hypopigmentation due to inflammatory skin disorders and infections usually resolves by itself over weeks to months once the underlying disorder has been cleared.
Topical corticosteroids are the most common hypopigmentation treatment used today. They usually include hydroquinone to lighten the skin and blend the tone.
Permanent makeup is a go-to when client has not been responsive to other treatments.
Other treatments used include Laser therapy, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion and dermabrasion.
Precautions and preventative measures
It is important to have these treatments done with an experienced skin specialist who will assess your skin and determine the best treatment for you.
Consistent use of Sunscreen with SPF50 can help prevent more occurrences especially if the pigmentation occurs in exposed areas of the skin.
It’s also important to stop using any products that contain benzoyl peroxide or cortisone if you have skin de-pigmentation and seek medical advice from a dermatologist first.
Always take good care of your skin – follow your wash, exfoliate, and moisturize routine on a regular basis.