Sometimes there is confusion between hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation. Hypopigmentation is when the skin is lightened and hyperpigmentation is when the skin is darkened. It seems easy to differentiate but there are a number of factors that cause the skin to discolor. Medication, pregnancy, injury, illness and daily activities can all affect your skin’s pigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is caused by an increase in melanin. One of our most common causes of increased melanin is exposure to sunlight but melanin can increase for a number of other reasons including taking antibiotics and antimalarial drugs. Melasma, also referred to as “the pregnancy mask” is temporary darkening of the skin and typical goes away after pregnancy. Skin lightening creams or any other product that lightens the skin should be avoided while pregnant.
Hypopigmentation is the depigmentation of the skin; basically, melanin deficiency. Hypopigmentation is more difficult to treat. Laser treatments are believed to be an effective treatment over time. Two skin conditions where melanin is deficient are vitiligo and albinism. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that affect the pigment-producing cells. This causes smooth white patches on the skin. There is no cure for vitiligo but there are treatments where ultraviolet lights are used to even out the color of the skin. Some people use corticosteroid creams and makeup to cover the light spots.
Albinism is caused by the absence of enzymes that produce melanin. This results in a pigment deficiency in the skin, hair and eyes. Folks who have significantly decreased melanin due to albinism must be vigilant about protecting the skin from the sun. Use of sunscreen is super important because of the increased skin cancer risk. Trauma to the skin can also cause hypopigmentation. This type of pigment loss is not permanent and can be left alone to heal and regenerate on its own.
Check out our blog "Using Lemons for Hyperpigmentation"!
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