Dermatology Services

Vitiligo, Pigmentary Disorders

cute young girlSkin color is determined by a pigment (melanin) made by specialized cells in the skin (melanocytes). The amount and type of melanin determines a person's skin color.

What is the function of melanin?

Melanin gives color to the skin, hair, and iris of the eyes. Levels of melanin depend on race and amount of sunlight exposure. Sun exposure increases melanin production - to protect the skin against harmful ultraviolet rays. In addition, hormonal changes can affect melanin production.

Whenever there are abnormalities in the melanocytes or in the amount of pigment they make, it can cause a pigment disorder. For example, in vitiligo, the skin turns white (becomes depigmented) because there are no melanocytes in the skin in that area. In the case of melasma, the melanocytes have been stimulated, often by hormones, to produce more pigment in specific areas of the skin.

The treatment of pigmentary disorders usually involves reversal or minimization of the melanocyte abnormalities that are the source of the problem. Stimulating re-growth of melanocytes in the case of vitiligo or decreasing pigment production in melasma, for instance. Diverse therapies from light or laser therapies to bleaching creams are available to treat pigment disorders.


University Hospital: Clinic 28

50 North Medical Drive
Salt Lake City, UT

(801) 581-2955

Dermatology Murray Clinics

6095 S. Fashion Blvd. (300 East)
Suite 160, 250 & 270
Murray, UT
(801) 581-2955

Redstone Health Center

1743 W. Redstone
Center Drive #115
Park City, UT 84098
(801) 581-2955