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Understanding Skin Discoloration : Types, Causes, and Treatment

What is Skin Discoloration?

Any type of skin can be affected by discoloration. Discoloration can be more apparent depending on the skin color, for example, a few discolorations may show up more in the skin with a darker complexion.(1)

Understanding Skin Discoloration | Types, Causes, and Treatment

Different types of conditions can cause skin discoloration such as acne, eczema, sunburn and dermatitis.

There are different types of treatments for treating different types of skin discoloration, the treatment may also vary according to the skin type. It is important to consult a dermatologist before trying hand on self-treatments. Inappropriate treatment may aggravate skin conditions.

Different Types of Skin Discoloration

Skin discoloration can be of several types, including:

Hyperpigmentation: This type includes excessive darkening of the area of the skin due to excess melanin production. It occurs mostly with hormonal changes. The conditions causing it may include acne, eczema, pregnancy, birth control pills, and inflammation.

Hypopigmentation: There can be a loss of skin color due to the loss of melanin. It may occur after wound healing and is more noticeable on black skin.(1) Hypopigmentation caused after inflammation or injury resolves on its own.

Age Spots: There can be flat brown spots on the skin that occur mostly after exposure to the sun. These spots are small or large and cover a specific area of the skin or a larger area.

Causes of Discolored Patches on Skin

There are several conditions that may lead to discolored patches on the skin.

Sun Exposure

Exposure to the UV rays of the sun may lead to sunburn that may lead to hyperpigmented patches on the skin.

Sun exposure may also increase the appearance of age spots and speed up aging.

Any part of the skin that is not covered can be affected by sun exposure including ear lobes, scalp, and lips. The skin affected by sun exposure may look extremely pink or red.

Hormonal Changes

Changes in hormones can lead to discolored patches on the skin. It may lead to melasma, which are the symmetrical patches on the face on the cheek, forehead, and upper lips.

The changes in hormones are triggered during pregnancy and menopause. It can also result due to taking hormonal contraceptives.

Hormonal changes during menopause may make the skin thinner and drier and lead to an increase in the appearance of age spots.


There are certain skin conditions such as vitiligo and birthmarks, which can be inherited.

In vitiligo, there is a loss of melanin from the skin in patches. It occurs as the cells that make melanin die or stop working. It can also affect the inside of the mouth and hair.

Vitiligo cannot be cured completely but there are a few treatments that can be of help.

Skin Injury or Inflammation

Scarring, acne, or cuts and bruises on the skin can lead to skin discoloration.

Scarring can cause skin discoloration, especially in the case where the scar is raised in different texture from the surroundings.

Bruising occurs when the blood vessels under the skin break and release into the surroundings. It can make the skin turn black, blue, or red.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can occur when the skin turns darker after injury, inflammation, or skin irritation. It can cause an increase in melanin leading to discoloration.

Skin Diseases

Skin diseases including eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea may lead to discoloration.

Eczema can lead to dry skin patches. The symptoms may vary in people with the skin condition being presented as looking brown, purple, gray, or red.

Rosacea is a skin condition that leads to discoloration on the cheek. The skin in people with rosacea may look pink or red. People with a family history of rosacea are more likely to suffer from this condition.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that mostly affects the bends of the joints. It looks red on lighter skin and purple, gray, or dark brown on darker skin.

Shingles is a skin condition caused by the virus that causes chicken pox. The rashes in it look like blisters on one side of the body or face. There may be pain and itching on the shingles and discoloration would be a later symptom.


Using certain medications, and exposing the skin to the sun’s rays may lead to discolored sunburn patches.

Using hydrocortisone cream for a longer period than suggested can also lead to sunburn.

Certain antibiotics can also lead to skin discoloration.

Treatment of Skin Discoloration

There are numerous skin-lightening creams available over the counter that can be helpful in reducing hyperpigmentation.(4)

It is important to buy them from reputable brands. Some creams might contain mercury that may lead to rashes and worsen discoloration.

Also, before trying any of the over-the-counter medication on the skin, consulting a dermatologist and knowing the cause of the condition is important.

If the cause of the condition is any product, stopping the use of that product may stop the irritation and resolve the discoloration.

There are certain natural products that people may use to alleviate skin discoloration, which includes:(2)

There are also laser therapy and chemical peels that may alleviate skin discoloration. However, these treatments may cause a few side effects in some people. For example, laser treatment used to reduce dark spots in people may lead to hypopigmentation and in some cases also might worsen hyperpigmentation.(3)

How to Prevent Skin Discoloration?

In some cases, it is difficult to avoid discoloration. The pigmentation caused due to acne, wounds, and sunburn can be prevented with some strategies, which include:

  • Avoiding picking at the skin
  • Wearing sunscreen daily
  • Ensuring proper wound care
  • Avoiding irritating pimples with hands or popping them

Most of the skin discolorations are not of any issue and may resolve gradually.


Skin discoloration refers to any changes in the skin that may be lighter and darker than normal. It may be caused by several factors. A dermatologist should be consulted before using any product for proper diagnosis and treatment plans and to avoid any aggravation.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 16, 2023

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