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Skin Pigment Disorders

Your skin color is determined by a pigment called melanin. Special cells in your skin called melanocytes create melanin, which gives your skin its color. How much melanin you have, as well as the type of melanin you have, will determine your skin’s pigment, or color.

Skin pigment disorders happen when a person produces melanin that’s different from normal melanin.

What Causes Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a skin condition that creates white patches of skin throughout your body. Skin turns white because it doesn’t have any melanocytes in that area. Melanocytes are cells in your skin that make color (pigment).

Dermatologists don’t know exactly what causes vitiligo. Some dermatologists think it may be caused by an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack melanocyte cells in your skin. Other researchers have different theories.

What Causes Melasma?

Melasma creates brown patches on the face. If you have melasma, it’s because hormones have stimulated your melanocytes to produce more pigment in certain areas of your skin.

Types of Pigment Disorders

  • Albinism
  • Melasma
  • Pigment loss after skin damage
  • Vitiligo

Treating Skin Pigment Disorders

To treat pigment disorders, your dermatologist will reverse or minimize differences in your melanoma that are causing your skin discoloration. To treat vitiligo—for example—your dermatologist may stimulate your melanocytes cells to regrow. Melanocyte cells help your skin produce a substance called melanin, which gives your skin its color.

After your skin cells regrow, your skin should have a more normal color.

If you have melasma, your dermatologist will use a treatment that causes your melanocyte cells to produce less pigment. This treatment should make brown patches on your face less noticeable.

Many different therapies can treat pigment disorders. These include light or laser therapies or bleaching creams. Our dermatologists can help you decide what treatment will work best for your condition and needs.

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