The Science of Skin Discoloration

Skin Discoloration

Located at the bottom of the epidermis are cells called melanocytes, and they produce a pigment called melanin. Melanin is found in humans and all kinds of animals. It gives the hair, eyes, and skin their natural color and serves as protection from cancer-causing ultraviolet rays. A person of African descent is not as easily sunburned as someone from Europe and they use Skin Lightening Creams 2019 Reviews to protect them from sun. This is because, while all humans generally have the same concentration of melanocytes, some ethnicities produce more melanin than others, resulting in darker skin and higher resistance to UV rays.

Skin discoloration occurs when the skin becomes lighter or darker than its natural color as a result of too much or too little melanin production, and it comes in many forms. Here are a few:


A birthmark is a skin discoloration that is either present at birth or appears shortly after and can pop up anywhere on the skin. The ones that are caused by excessive melanin production are called pigmented birthmarks. While the vast majority are harmless and will simply fade away over time, some types such as large moles can potentially develop into skin cancer.

Skin Pigmentation Disorders

As mentioned above, skin color is dictated by the amount of melanin produced by cells called melanocytes. When you have skin pigmentation disorders, your melanocytes are unhealthy or damaged, and this affects melanin production.

Albinism – This disorder is marked by an absence of color in the skin, hair, and eyes. Albinos produce an abnormally low amount of melanin, making their eyes light sensitive and their skin very vulnerable to sun damage and skin cancer. As such, they have to use sunscreen and wear sunglasses in order to be comfortable outdoors during the day.

Melasma – Also known as chloasma, people with this skin disorder have gray-brown patches, usually located on the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead, chin, and above the upper lip. While men can get melasma, it is most common in women. It is thought that increased levels of the hormone progesterone in pregnant women can cause this disorder, earning it the nickname “the mask of pregnancy.”

Vitiligo – This disorder occurs when melanocytes stop producing melanin. It is not yet certain why this happens, but doctors think it may be due to an error in the immune system that causes it to attack melanocytes. Most cases of vitiligo show discolored patches forming symmetrically on the body, but others show the discoloration affecting only one side (segmental vitiligo) or only a few areas (focal vitiligo).

Skin Whitening

Birthmarks show up at birth and are often harmless, and skin pigmentation disorders are a result of damaged melanocytes. One thing these types of discoloration have in common is that the person often has no control over them. However, in some cases, people decide to change the natural color of their skin. Skin lightening cream can be purchased over the counter or by prescription. The products are designed to disrupt melanin production and are used to treat unwanted markings like age spots or acne scars. However, skin lightening cream also comes with risks. Since mercury is an ingredient in some of these products, using them may result in mercury poisoning.  Other creams may also contain steroids that make you prone to skin infections and skin thinning.

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