Skin Pigmentation – An Overview

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Specialized skin cells called as melanocytes produce the pigment known as melanin. Melanin is what causes the pigmentation of the skin. Variation in the production of melanin might result in pigment disorders like, Hypopigmentation, Depigmentation and Hyperpigmentation. There may be many causes for the changes in melanin production like cuts, blisters, sun exposure, genetic factors, autoimmune conditions and acne. 

Types and Treatment of Skin Pigmentation 

There are three types of pigmentation:

  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Hypopigmentation
  • Depigmentation


A person can be affected with Hyperpigmentation due to pregnancy, sun exposure, health conditions and certain medications. Hyperpigmentation means skin that appears darker. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a condition. It might affect the entire body, cover large areas or even occur in small patches. There are many types of hyperpigmentations, some of the common ones are, Sunspots, Melasma, and Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation.


A low amount of melanin results in Hypopigmentation. Patches of the skin appear lighter than the surrounding skin. Melanin is a chemical from which the hair, eye and skin get their colour, and when this chemical isn’t produced enough, certain areas of the skin become lighter. The most common causes of Hypopigmentation are injuries like blisters, burns, chemical exposure and infections. Other rare genetic conditions are albinism, pityriasis alba and vitiligo.


Depigmentation is seen when there is a loss of colour from the retina of the eye, hair, skin and mucous membranes. Melanocytes are specialized cells that make melanin, a colouring matter that gives the retina, hair, skin and mucous membrane their colour. 

Depigmentation can be caused by a number of conditions, including local or systemic conditions. Pigment loss may be partial in the case of skin lesions and complete in the case of vitiligo. It might also be temporary in the case of tinea versicolor and permanent in the case of albinism. Symptoms of Depigmentation include dry skin, scaly skin and skin discolouration. 

Causes of Skin Pigmentation

The variation of the colour of an individual’s skin depends on the organelles known as melanosomes. Melanosomes are present inside melanocytes which produce the melanin. The difference in the skin colour depends on the size, functioning, and number of these tiny organelles. 

There are two different types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin. 

Eumelanin protects the skin by reducing the amount of UV rays that penetrate through the skin and take out reactive oxygen radicals. They are black and brown in colour. When there is no intervention by eumelanin, these rays could damage the cells and DNA and might even lead to cancer. 

The production of reactive oxygen radicals is supported by pheomelanin. These do not provide protection against UV rays like eumelanin. They are red and yellow in colour.

The pigmentation of the skin depends on these melanins in the skin. These can alter depending on the impact of genes, hormones and interactions with other cells. More than 125 genes affect skin pigmentation. Genes have the power to adjust the amount of eumelanin and pheomelanin that the skin can produce and survive. 


Treatment options change depending on the skin pigmentation type that one has. The following are a few treatment options

  • Treatment for Hypopigmentation depends on the cause of it. If the Hypopigmentation is due to injuries or skin treatment, it’ll get better on its own. If it is due to certain skin conditions, one might need medication. And there are no treatments yet for albinism. 
  • Treatment options for Hyperpigmentation also depend on the cause of it, but a few common treatments are retinoids, chemical peels, laser peel, face acids, dermabrasion, intense pulse light therapy (IPL), microdermabrasion and lightening creams. 


Many factors can determine the colour of one’s skin. It may be due to natural causes like genetics and hormones, as well as external causes like sun exposure and skin damage. These can cause the skin to lighten or darken, depending on the cause. Treatment options also vary depending on them. 


1. What is the main cause of skin pigmentation?

Melanin is a substance that gives skin its colour. When there is damage to these skin cells, the skin may appear lighter or darker than normal. 


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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