Pigmentation means coloring. Skin pigmentation disorders affect the color of your skin. Your skin gets its color from a pigment called melanin. Special cells in the skin make melanin. When these cells become damaged or unhealthy, it affects melanin production. Some pigmentation disorders affect just patches of skin. Others affect your entire body.
If your body makes too much melanin, your skin gets darker. Pregnancy, Addison’s disease, and sun exposure all can make your skin darker. If your body makes too little melanin, your skin gets lighter. Vitiligo is a condition that causes patches of light skin. Albinism is a genetic condition affecting a person’s skin. A person with albinism may have no color, lighter than normal skin color, or patchy missing skin color. Infections, blisters, and burns can also cause lighter skin.
Melasma is patches of dark skin that appear on areas of the face that are exposed to the sun.
Melasma is a common skin disorder. It most often appears in young women with brownish skin tone, but it can affect anyone.
Melasma is often associated with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. It is common in:
• Pregnant women
• Women taking birth control pills (oral contraceptives)
• Women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause.
Being in the sun makes melasma more likely to develop. The problem is more common in tropical climates.
Abnormally dark or light skin is skin that has turned darker or lighter than normal.
Normal skin contains cells called melanocytes. These cells produce melanin, the substance that gives skin its color.
Skin with too much melanin is called hyperpigmented skin.
Skin with too little melanin is called hypopigmented. Skin with no melanin at all is called depigmented.
Pale skin areas are due to too little melanin or underactive melanocytes. Darker areas of skin (or an area that tans more easily) occurs when you have more melanin or overactive melanocytes.
Bronzing of the skin may sometimes be mistaken for a suntan. This skin discoloration often develops slowly, starting at the elbows, knuckles, and knees and spreading from there. Bronzing may also be seen on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. The bronze color can range from light to dark (in fair-skinned people) with the degree of darkness due to the underlying cause.