Discover the Secrets of Skin Pigmentation for Beautiful Skin
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Demystifying Skin Pigmentation: Causes, Impact, & Treatment

Mar 7, 2024


Have you ever wondered why some people have spots, patches, or uneven tones on their skin? Well, you’re not alone! Skin pigmentation has long been a mysterious and intriguing topic for many.

Worried about your skin condition? Get in touch with best of our skin specialists in Pune. For a skin treatment, book an appointment with our dermatologists near you +919584584111

In this article, we will peel back the layers and demystify the world of skin pigmentation. From understanding the different types and reasons behind skin pigmentation to the impact it has on dermatology and overall well-being, we have it all covered.

Whether you’re curious about what causes skin pigmentation or want to explore the various treatment options available, this informative guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your skin health.

And remember, while we strive to provide valuable insights, it’s always essential to consult a dermatologist for accurate diagnosis and professional guidance. So, sit back, relax, and let us take you on a journey to unravel the secrets of skin pigmentation.

What Is Skin Pigmentation? Let’s Understand It Thoroughly.

Skin pigmentation is the colour of a person’s skin. It is the consequence of the pigment melanin, a complex polymer generated from the amino acid tyrosine. Melanin is generated by melanocytes (melanin producing cells), which are present in both the skin and hair. The amount and type of melanin formed and distributed by these cells determine the variance in skin colour between people.

Simply simply, the more melanin is created, the darker the skin tone. Melanin also performs an important function in addition to giving skin its colour; it protects the cells from the sun’s harmful UV light . As a result, melanin is essential for both appearance and health of our skin.

Types of Melanin

All humans have two major types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin.

Eumelanin, which is brown or black, is responsible for darker skin tones. It absorbs ultraviolet (UV) light, thereby protecting against skin damage from the sun.

On the other hand, pheomelanin, which is yellow or red, is found in greater concentrations in people with lighter skin tones. Pheomelanin does not absorb UV light as effectively as eumelanin, making individuals with lighter skin more susceptible to sun damage.

Besides the skin, both types of melanin are also present in hair and eyes, influencing their colours.

When do you say ‘skin has pigmentation’?

We often use the term ‘skin pigmentation’ to describe a change in an individual’s skin colour, which is commonly caused by changes in melanin synthesis. This can take the form of hyperpigmentation, in which particular areas of the skin generate more melanin and darken, or hypopigmentation, in which melanin production is reduced, resulting in lighter or white skin patches.

Pigmentation disorders include both conditions that have hypopigmentation like vitiligo, and hyperpigmentation like melasma. If you notice any changes in the colour or texture of your skin, you should see a dermatologist right once since these might be symptoms of an underlying skin problem.

Key reasons behind skin hyper or hypo pigmentation

Factors influencing skin pigmentation can be split into internal and external determinants:

Internal Determinants:

  • Genetics: Ethnicity and familial traits predominantly determine the baseline level of melanin production and distribution.

  • Hormonal Changes: Variations in hormonal levels, as seen during pregnancy or due to conditions like Addison’s disease, can trigger pigmentary changes.

External Determinants:

  • Sun Exposure: The most influential external factor is sun exposure. Intense or prolonged exposure to UV light stimulates melanocytes to produce more melanin as a protective response, resulting in tanning.

  • Environmental Factors: Elements such as temperature and humidity can have minor impacts on melanin production.

  • Medication: Certain medications, including hormonal treatments, antibiotics, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can lead to hyperpigmentation. This hyperpigmentation often occurs due to a photosensitive reaction where the drug increases the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.

  • Skin Injuries or Inflammation: Increased or decreased melanin production can occur in areas affected by skin injuries or inflammation (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation). This is common after acne, eczema, or other skin conditions have healed. Hypopigmentation is mainly developed in cases melanocytes are damaged during the healing process.

  • Chemical Exposure: Certain chemicals, like those found in hair dyes or household cleaners, can cause a skin reaction leading to pigmentation changes.

While these are common reasons for hyper and hypopigmentation, it is essential to consult a dermatologist for proper diagnosis. This way, you can ensure appropriate treatment and care, preventing further skin damage.

Types Of Skin Pigmentation

Understanding the various types of skin pigmentation is crucial to determining the right treatment approach and managing these conditions effectively. In this section, we will delve deeper into the different types of skin pigmentation, shedding light on their distinct characteristics, causes, and potential treatments.

Skin Hyperpigmentation

Skin hyperpigmentation refers to a condition where certain patches of skin become darker than the normal surrounding skin. This darkening occurs due to an excess production of melanin, the brown pigment responsible for skin colour. Various factors can trigger overproduction of melanin, such as sun exposure, hormonal influences, age, and skin injuries or inflammation.

These are some common types of hyperpigmentation:

  • Melasma: Often appearing as brown or grey-brown symmetrical patches on the face, melasma is a common hyperpigmentation disorder. It’s typically caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy or from sun exposure. Women are far more likely than men to develop this condition.

  • Sunspots (Solar Lentigines): These small, darkened round spots are induced by direct, prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. They usually appear on areas of the skin frequently exposed to sunlight, such as the hands and face.

  • Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH): This type of hyperpigmentation is a result of injury or inflammation to the skin. A common cause of PIH is acne, but it can also arise from other skin disorders, burns, or certain skin-care treatments.

  • Lichen Planus: An inflammatory skin condition that can result in flat, itchy, purple bumps on the skin. Over time, these areas can become hyperpigmented.

Treatment for hyperpigmentation often involves topical prescriptions to lighten the skin, procedures such as chemical peels, laser therapy, microdermabrasion, or IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) therapy. However, the effectiveness of any treatment depends on the cause and depth of the pigmentation and the individual’s skin type. As always, it’s critical to consult a dermatologist or skincare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Skin Hypopigmentation

Skin hypopigmentation, in contrast to hyperpigmentation, is a condition characterised by the loss of skin colour. It’s due to a decrease in melanin, the pigment that gives the skin its colour. Hypopigmentation can occur in patches or may affect large areas of the skin or even the entire body.

These are some common disorders with hypopigmentation:

  • Vitiligo: This is a long-term skin condition where patches of skin lose their pigmentation, resulting in irregular white patches. The exact cause is unknown, but it’s speculated to be an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the melanin-producing cells.

  • Albinism: A congenitally inherited condition caused by the body’s inability to produce melanin. Individuals with albinism have very pale skin, hair, and eyes.

  • Pityriasis Alba: Common in children, this condition is characterised by pale pink or red patches that lighten over time, often becoming slightly scaly.

  • Tinea Versicolor: A fungal infection that disrupts normal skin pigmentation, leading to small, discoloured patches.

Treatment for hypopigmentation largely depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, like Albinism, there is no known cure, and management involves protecting the skin and eyes from sun damage. Other conditions, such as Pityriasis Alba, often resolve over time without treatment.

Medical or cosmetic treatments like topical steroids or cosmetic camouflage may be appropriate for some. As with any skin condition, a dermatologist or skincare professional is best to guide you for diagnosis and treatment advice.


Depigmentation is a medical condition characterised by the loss of pigment, resulting in patches of lighter or completely white skin. This condition can affect any part of the body, leading to a stark contrast between the depigmented skin and the normal, pigmented skin.

Depigmentation is commonly associated with conditions such as vitiligo or albinism in which the immune system destroys the melanocytes—the cells responsible for producing the skin pigment melanin, leading to complete loss of pigment.

There are several possible causes for this. Genetics many times play a major role but other times, it may be also triggered by environmental factors, such as stress, injury, or even certain medications.

Treatment options for depigmentation or vitiligo vary and are based on its underlying cause. More or less, vitiligo, treatments aim to restore the colour in the white patches of skin. Topical creams containing corticosteroids and calcineurin inhibitors are often the first line of treatment. While more advanced cases may utilise treatments like Narrow band ultraviolet B light (NBUVB), Psoralens plus ultraviolet A radiation (PUVA) therapy and Excimer laser. In stable cases surgical treatment (vitiligo surgery) or tattooing is done to restore pigment.

It’s important to note that depigmentation can significantly affect a person’s psychological and emotional well-being due to its visible nature, making psychological support a critical aspect of treatment. Remember only dermatologists or skin care professionals with good experience are the right person to discuss the appropriate course of action.

How do you diagnose and detect skin pigmentation?

Diagnosing skin pigmentation disorders typically involves a thorough examination by a dermatologist, utilising a combination of physical assessment and specialised techniques.

The initial examination often comprises a detailed analysis of the patient’s medical history, current symptoms, and family history of similar skin conditions.

Dermatologists may use a Wood’s Lamp for detailed examination. This tool uses ultraviolet light to illuminate skin areas with differing pigmentation, revealing contrasts that may not be visible under normal light conditions.

In certain cases, a skin biopsy may be undertaken, where a small sample of the affected skin is extracted and examined under a microscope. This can be particularly beneficial in confirming or ruling out specific conditions.

Another diagnostic method is the use of a dermatoscope, a device that provides enhanced illumination and magnification, allowing dermatologists to identify subtle variations in skin colour and structure.

Regardless of any type of pigmentation issue at hand, it’s highly recommended to seek a dermatologist’s advice. Self-diagnosis or treatment based on internet information may lead to misdiagnosis, ineffective treatment, and potentially exacerbate the condition. Clinical diagnosis ensures accurate identification of the condition and helps in determining an appropriate and effective treatment plan.

Are Skin Pigmentation Problems Curable?

The nature and origin of skin pigmentation issues have a significant impact on their cureability. Treatments mostly aim at reducing the appearance of the pigmentation with building of healthy skin.

Some diseases like post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) or solar lentigens (sun spots) can be effectively cured with topical medicines and lasers while the similar counterpart melasma usually shows variable responses. The management of melasma therefore is more about good control with reducing the appearance of melasma. This is done with combination of topical creams, laser therapies and lifestyle modifications.

Similarly the hypopigmentation condition vitiligo has long treatment which aims are controlling the spread and bringing back colour in all patches using combination therapies like light , topical creams and surgeries.

It is important to note treatments for skin pigmentation problems can greatly enhance skin look, but they may not entirely resolve the problem. Furthermore, response to therapy varies greatly between individuals due to factors such as skin type, severity of the illness, and adherence to the treatment regimen.

Topical Creams, Their Effectiveness & Safety

Topical creams are one of the most often used therapies for skin pigmentation issues. These creams include active substances that can aid in the reduction of dark spots, uneven skin tone, and other pigmentation disorders.

Topical creams contain some of the most effective chemicals, including hydroquinone, kojic acid, azelaic acid, glycolic acid and retinoids. These act by limiting the formation of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin colour, and increasing cell turnover. However, it is important to remember that these substances may cause skin irritation and sensitivity in some people.

Before taking any topical creams, consult a dermatologist since they may mix with other drugs or worsen pre-existing illnesses such as eczema or psoriasis. Long-term usage of hydroquinone can also induce ochronosis, a disorder characterised by blue-black skin discolouration.

When using topical creams, make sure to follow the recommendations advised by your dermatologist or on the product label. Overuse or inappropriate application can lead to redness, burns, and skin thinning.

Home Remedies: Are they really effective in treating pigmentation problems?

While home remedies are frequently promoted as miraculous treatments for pigmentation problems, it is critical to approach them with a thorough awareness of their possible usefulness and limits. Natural herbs such as turmeric, lemon juice, and aloe vera have been used for generations to lighten the skin and lessen the appearance of black spots. They can provide good benefits over time, particularly in cases of minor pigmentation disorders.

However, keep in mind that individual outcomes may vary substantially. The success of home treatments is determined by a number of elements, including the skin’s receptivity, uniformity of application, and the degree of the pigmentation. Allergic reactions and other side effects are possible, thus a patch test on a small area of skin is required before full-scale administration.

While home treatments may assist to some extent with moderate pigmentation concerns, their effectiveness in severe situations is still being investigated. As a result, chronic pigmentation issues should always be addressed by a skin specialist.

Clinical & Professional Treatments: What are the options available?

Clinically tried and tested treatments provide a more focused and effective solution for people suffering from severe pigmentation concerns. These treatments are usually conducted under the guidance of a dermatologist or qualified skincare specialist and may include:

Chemical Peels:

  • This includes applying a chemical solution to the skin’s surface, resulting in exfoliation and peeling. The new skin that develops is usually smoother, brighter, and has less pigmentation.

Laser Therapy:

  • Lasers use focused light energy to target and break down the pigment inside the skin. The broken pigment is then removed by the body causing a more even complexion.


  • A non-invasive process in which tiny crystals or a diamond-tipped wand gently exfoliate the top layer of skin, revealing a brighter and more even complexion.

Topical Prescription Medications:

In most circumstances, a dermatologist may recommend topical creams or serums containing hydroquinone, retinoids, or other depigmenting agents along with professional treatments to help diminish pigmentation. These drugs operate by reducing melanin formation and increasing skin cell turnover.

While these therapies may be more expensive than home cures, they frequently yield more substantial and long-term outcomes. They should always be conducted by a trained therapist under the supervision of an expert dermatologist to guarantee safety and efficacy. It is important to note that these treatments can be complex and may require numerous sessions for optimal outcomes.

Preventing Pigmentation: How can pigmentation be avoided in the first place?

While certain types of pigmentation are passed down through generations or unavoidable, most types of accquired facial pigmentations can be prevented or reduced by taking the following care.

  • Wearing sunscreen: UV radiation from the sun is a major cause of pigmentation. Even if it’s overcast outside, you should use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day.

  • Avoiding Direct Sun Exposure: In addition to applying sunscreen, restrict your direct sun exposure as much as possible. Seek shade during high solar hours and dress in protective gear such caps and long sleeves.

  • Using Gentle Skincare Products: Harsh chemicals and exfoliants can irritate the skin, resulting in enhanced pigmentation. Use mild products that are appropriate for your skin type.

  • Managing Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes can induce some types of pigmentation, such as melasma which is commonly triggered post partum or during menopause. If you are prone to hormonal imbalances, speak to your doctor for management and treatment for the same.

  • Maintaining a Healthy Diet: Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet will help maintain your skin and prevent the chance of pigmentation. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, berries etc which are high in antioxidants in your daily diet

  • Practicing Stress Management: Excessive stress can cause hormonal imbalances and inflammation in the body, leading to pigmentation. Find strategies to reduce stress through exercise, meditation, or other relaxation techniques.

By following these preventative measures, you can help keep pigmentation at bay and maintain a healthy and even skin tone.

With the right preventative measures, and a proactive treatment, pigmentation is absolutely manageable. Key takeaways include the importance of using sunscreen, managing hormonal changes, and maintaining a balanced diet. But above all, be patient with your skin and give it the time and care it needs. After all, it’s the only skin you’ve got; nurture it, protect it, and it will serve you well. Every small step towards a healthier lifestyle counts in the long run.

If you are worried about pigmentation disorders affecting your confidence, schedule an appointment with ClearSkin’s experts today.

For treating your skin condition, feel free to get in touch with one of our best dermatologists in Pune. You can also call on +919584584111 to book an appointment at one of our skin clinics near you.


Dr Dhanraj Chavan

About the Author: Dr Dhanraj Chavan

Dr. Dhanraj Chavan is a globally trained, young, and dynamic dermatologist. He is a Consultant Dermatologist and Varicose Vein Specialist at Clear Skin, VeinMD, and HairMD.

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