Pigment is the natural color of one’s skin. Healthy skin appears generally even in tone and texture, but skin problems and disorders may arise due to genetics or environmental factors. Some types of pigmentation problems include hyperpigmentation, where skin darkens, and hypopigmentation, where skin lightens.
Hyperpigmentation is caused by increased melanin, the substance in the body responsible for skin tone. Pregnant women and those suffering from Addison’s disease are more likely to experience hyperpigmentation. Melasma is a common form of hyperpigmentation, and it is characterized by tan or brown patches, usually on the face. Sun exposure can worsen the condition, and prescription creams are usually used for treatment.
Hypopigmentation is the result of reduced melanin production. Types of hypopigmentation include:
- Albinism is a rare genetic disorder. It is defined as complete lack of pigmentation in skin, eyes and hair. There is no cure for albinism, but those with the disorder must use sunscreen at all times to avoid sun damage and skin cancer.
- Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that causes white patches on the skin, sometimes all over the body. It occurs because a person’s pigment-producing cells are damaged. There is no cure for vitiligo; treatments include corticosteroid creams, ultraviolet light treatment and cosmetic cover-ups.