Skin Problems & Treatments Health Home

Cosmetic Procedures, Birthmarks, and Other Abnormal Skin Pigmentation


Skin Pigmentation Disorders


Albinism, an inherited disorder, is caused by the absence of the pigment melanin and results in no pigmentation in skin, hair, or eyes. In albino patients, the body has an abnormal gene, which restricts the body from producing melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. There is no cure for albinism, and individuals should use sunscreen at all times, because they are much more likely to get sun damage and skin cancer. This disorder can occur in any race.


Melasma (also known as chloasma) is characterized by tan or brown patches on the cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin. Melasma most commonly develops during pregnancy or while a patient is taking birth control pills or other hormones. Although this condition is typically termed the "pregnancy mask," men can also develop this condition. Melasma may go away after pregnancy but, if it persists, can be treated with certain prescription creams and some over the counter skin care products. Remember to consult your doctor or dermatologist for a proper diagnosis of this condition before you choose to treat it yourself. If you have melasma, use a sunscreen at all times because sunlight will worsen your condition.

Pigmentation Loss From Skin Damage

If you've had a skin infection, blisters, burns, or other trauma to your skin, you may have a loss of pigmentation in the affected area. The good news is that with this type of pigment loss, cosmetics can be used to cover the area.


Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) are destroyed. As a result, white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body. Vitiligo may appear after physical injury to the skin or can be associated with autoimmune diseases such as diabetes or thyroid problems. There is no cure for vitiligo, but prescription corticosteroid creams or ointments and/or ultraviolet light treatments done in your dermatologist’s office can be helpful in repigmenting the affected areas.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on January 24, 2015




Johns Hopkins Medicine web site: "Skin Pigment Disorders" and "Birthmarks."

© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.