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Skin Pigmentation Disorders and How to Treat Them

In a perfect world, your skin would be flawlessly pigmented with no uneven tones or discolorations. However, due to a range of factors, including genetics, inflammation and sun exposure, there’s a very good chance that at some point in your life, you have noticed an area of discoloration on the surface of your skin.

Whether lighter or darker than the surrounding skin cells, pigmentation disorders often involve too much melanin (hyperpigmentation) or too little melanin (hypopigmentation). Discover a few of the most common types of skin pigmentation disorders and learn more about the treatment options available to you.


Also known as chloasma, melasma is a pigmentation disorder identifiable by tan or brown patches that appear on the face, predominantly in areas like the forehead, cheek, upper lip, nose and chin.

Though it can occur during pregnancy or among those taking birth control pills or postmenopausal estrogen, melasma can affect both men and women. The condition worsens with sun exposure, so it is imperative for those experiencing the disorder to always wear sunscreen.

Melasma is treated in a few different ways, from applying prescription creams to chemical peels and also undergoing laser therapy. Always consult with a dermatologist to see which skin pigmentation treatment type is best for addressing your specific experience with melasma.


Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease and depigmentation disorder that presents when one’s own immune system attacks pigment cells. It occurs due to the loss of melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment in your skin.

Characteristics of this condition include the appearance of smooth, white or light-colored patches on the skin. These patches are extremely sensitive to sun exposure.

While there is no cure for Vitiligo, it can be treated in various ways. Your dermatologist may recommend topical steroids, immunomodulators, vitamin d analogs, as well as a combination of laser and/or light therapies. Treatment for Vitiligo often takes six months or longer to be effective. We offer a holistic approach combined with food sensitivity testing, supplements and nutritional recommendations.

Solar Lentigines

Also known as liver spots, solar lentigines are small hyperpigmented patches that occur on the surface of sun-exposed skin. These lesions vary in color, ranging from pale yellow to dark brown and are commonly found on the face, hands, forearms, chest, back and shins among those who have experienced skin damage due to chronic ultraviolet exposure.

Solar lentigines can be treated with topical and ablative therapies. Topical treatments including prescription retinoids and lightening creams may help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Ablative therapies that treat solar lentigines include chemical peels, cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen, and laser therapy. The best way to limit the onset of solar lentigines is by limiting sun exposure and wearing sunscreen regularly.

Café Au Lait Macules

These flat, epidermal patches are often present at birth or become noticeable during early childhood, most commonly appearing on the trunk. Café au lait macules are caused by an increase in melanin concentration in the skin’s melanocytes and basal keratinocytes.

These pigmented birthmarks can range in size from 1 cm to 20 cm, are asymptomatic and do not require treatment. However, if you want to address and diminish your Café au lait spots, skin pigmentation treatments can include laser therapy.


Albinism is an inherited disorder that is characterized by the absence of melanin, resulting in a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and/or eyes. Those experiencing albinism are unable to produce melanin due to an abnormal gene that restricts melanin production.

There is no cure for this hypopigmentation disorder, and people with this condition are at higher risk of sun damage. To prevent long-term damage and skin cancer, those experiencing albinism should wear sunscreen at all times.

Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs after the epidermis or dermis are damaged. Epidermal inflammation can stimulate melanocytes, leading to an increase in melanin production and pigment transfer to nearby keratinocytes. These skin discolorations occur at the site of the original injury or disease and can range in color from light brown to black.

To prevent further darkening of these lesions, avoid harmful sun exposure and apply sunscreen regularly. Topical treatments for this condition include a variety of serums and creams that help to lighten and brighten the areas affected. These include prescription lightening creams, corticosteroid creams, vitamin C creams, and glycolic acid peels. Laser therapies can also help to even out epidermal pigmentation.

Post-inflammatory Hypopigmentation

Though this pigmentation disorder also occurs as a result of inflammation or trauma to the skin, unlike post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory hypopigmentation occurs when there is a temporary lightening of the skin due to a reduction of pigmentation and melanin.

Post-inflammatory hypopigmentation can occur due to inflammatory conditions like eczema or seborrheic dermatitis, or due to skin trauma from cryotherapy. This pigmentation disorder is harmless and typically resolves on its own within weeks or months but in some cases may be permanent.

Though you may not always be able to avoid the onset of pigmentation disorders, it is essential that you seek guidance from your dermatologist when any of these conditions arise. If you have skin discolorations or are experiencing an uneven skin tone, you may be able to reverse the condition with the appropriate topical and physical therapies. Call our office at (203) 323-5660 to schedule your consultation and make a plan for addressing any skin pigmentation disorders you are experiencing.


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