Hypopigmentation is a skin condition that occurs when melanocyte skin cells do not produce melanin, which is the substance that provides skin with pigment. The condition is sometimes referred to as skin depigmentation. Although hypopigmentation can be difficult to treat, medications and cosmetic procedures are available to improve the appearance of your skin.

What Causes Hypopigmentation?

Burns, infections, improperly performed skin treatments, and other injuries can damage or scar the skin to such an extent that it causes hypopigmentation. Individuals with a rare condition known as albinism lack an enzyme necessary for the production of melanin. As a result, the hair, skin, and eyes are colorless. An autoimmune condition called vitiligo is characterized by a patchy loss of skin color that occurs when the melanin-producing skin cells quit producing pigment or die. Seborrheic dermatitis and certain fungal infections can cause the skin to become itchy, scaly, and lighter in color. A disorder called pityriasis alba, which is most often seen in children, can cause round or oval patches of hypopigmented skin. 

Dermatological Treatment for Hypopigmentation

Hypopigmentation resulting from skin damage may resolve as the skin cells slowly regenerate and resume producing melanin. Depending on the location and size of the depigmented area, cosmetics may be an easy and inexpensive way to disguise the area as it heals. If the hypopigmentation is caused by post-injury inflammation, a dermatologist may recommend topical steroids, creams, laser treatments, or skin grafting to improve the appearance of the skin.

Widespread hypopigmentation caused by chronic conditions, such as vitiligo or albinism, cannot be cured. In these cases, topical medications, such as hydroquinone or TriLuma, may be used to bleach the healthy skin so that it will blend in with the lighter skin. Some patients use permanent makeup or tattooing to camouflage the depigmented areas of skin.