Irregular areas in which there are changes to skin colour are much more common than you might think. Often, you may have changes in the pigmentation of a certain area of your skin due to a difference in the level of melanin it contains. Melanin is the substance that provides colour to the skin and protects it from the sun. However, there are a wide range of reasons and causes of pigmentation – some of which we’ve listed and detailed below…
Your skin is much more delicate than you think, and burns – either from the sun or otherwise (hello, hot oven!) – may cause scar tissue of a different colour to form. Some medications can make the skin more susceptible to the suns rays, and radiation therapy can also cause a kind of burn that changes the colour of your skin.
Infections are a common reason for localised changes in skin colour. Cuts and scrapes regularly develop infections that turn the surrounding skin red or white and change the texture too. Erythrasma, Tinea versicolour and ringworm are all infections that can cause patches of skin to turn white, pink, tan, or brown and scaly. The patches can occur all over the body, depending on the exact type of fungus.
Autoimmune Diseases and Allergies
Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus erythematosus and dermatomyositis, can be responsible for changes in skin colour, whilst Eczema is a type of hypersensitivity reaction (allergy) that can cause red, scaly patches that ooze. Related to eczema, pityriasis alba can cause dry, white patches on the skin in children.
A wide variety of rashes, such as dermatitis herpetiformis, contact dermatitis, poison ivy rashes, and others can be caused by an allergic reaction. Scleroderma can create thick, shiny patches of skin. Vitiligo is a condition in which cells that produce melanin are attacked by the immune system, leaving behind patches of skin with no colour at all.
Hormonal changes, especially during pregnancy, can cause skin colour changes. Melasma, or chloasma, can cause dark patches on the face, often called the “mask of pregnancy.”
Birthmarks are also a cause of skin colour changes.
Café-au-lait spots are light-coloured spots on the skin. A few café-au-lait spots are perfectly normal, but more than six may be an indicator of neurofibromatosis—a genetic disorder that negatively affects the growth and formation of nerve cells.
Moles are brown spots that can appear on the skin at birth. Changes in the size or shape of these spots can signal trouble, and should be checked by your doctor.
Mongolian blue spots are bluish patches that can appear on the backs of babies and young children, usually of Asian descent. They are harmless and often fade over time.
Port-wine stains are a type of birthmark caused by swollen blood vessels. They are usually flat and appear pink or red in colour.
Cancer can change skin colour or texture. Your doctor should examine moles or other rapidly changing skin lesions.
So, Is it possible to treat, diminish or remove pigmentation and skin blemishes?
Firstly, don’t panic! There are a number of ways to treat your pigmentation changes, from great make up, to microdermabrasion or topical bleaching creams. Diagnosis of the reason behind your pigmentation changes is key though, as not all ‘dark spots’ are created equal. If you’re unsure or worried, then make an appointment to see your doctor before attempting any drastic treatments.