Skin Pigment Disorders

Also known as: skin pigmentation disorders, hyperpigmentation, pigmentation disorders.

What are skin pigment disorders?

Skin color is determined by the amount and type of melanin, or pigment, found in skin cells. Melanin is what gives color not only to skin but also hair and the color of one's eyes. How much melanin one has, depends on one's race, the amount of sunlight that the body is exposed to and the effects of some hormones. Melanin increases with exposure to sunlight to protect the skin against sunlight damage.

Skin pigment disorders include Albinism, Melasma, loss of skin color from skin damage, and Vitiligo.

What causes skin pigment disorders?

  • Albinism is a rare inherited disorder.
  • Melasma occurs during pregnancy and results from hormonal changes or following the use of birth control pills with sun exposure. Less color from skin damage usually results from deep burns, ulcers or skin infections where the skin cannot replace all of the pigment in the skin area.
  • Vitiligo is thought to result from one's own immune system attacking the pigment containing cells of the skin-melanocytes.

What are the symptoms of skin pigment disorders?

  • Albinism results in children having white hair, pale skin, blue eyes, and vision problems.
  • Melasma is an example of an over-pigmentation which results in dark tan/brown symmetrical patches found usually on the face known as the “mask of pregnancy”, though can occur in men.
  • Skin pigment loss from ulcers, burns, etc. presents as the affected area having a lighter color than its surrounding tissue.
  • Vitiligo are smooth white patches of skin scattered throughout the body.

What are treatments for skin pigment disorders?

There are no cures for these skin disorders. Treatments can range widely from using sunscreen and other forms of sun protection to laser therapy, UV light therapy, oral medications, topical creams and ointments and other treatments based on the underlying condition.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: August 19, 2021 02:20 PM

Children's Dermatology

The Division of Dermatology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital focuses on the latest medications and technology available for the specialized treatment of all skin diseases and disorders affecting children of all ages.

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