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Skin Discoloration: Causes, and Treatment

Written by Dr. Salim Olabi | Medically reviewed by Editorial Team
Last updated on: April 18, 2024

Skin is the largest organ of our body and having healthy skin is important for self confidence. Many skin conditions can cause skin discoloration e.g melasma, sun spots, PIH, birthmarks, vitiligo etc. Many factors involved in skin discoloration include genetic predisposition, sun exposure, ageing, hormonal changes, certain medications, friction, thyroid disease and secondary to many skin conditions like eczema, lichen planus. Treatment depends upon underlying reasons and the nature of skin discoloration. Topical creams, lasers, chemical peels and mesotherapy are widely used therapeutic options.

What causes skin discoloration?

There are a wide range of different skin conditions causing skin discoloration. It’s hard to describe all in one paragraph. However some of the most common causes of skin discoloration are discussed here. Sunspots are the most common cause of skin discoloration. Small dark patches on skin can happen anywhere on sun -exposed areas. Melasma is common as well that causes dark patches usually on cheeks. Pityriasis versicolor is another common cause for skin discoloration that happens because of malassezia fungus most often on the trunk area. Lichen planus is an autoimmune skin disease that can cause dark purple patches on the skin. Vitiligo is the other condition that occurs in genetically prone individuals manifesting itself by pale white spots mostly on trauma induced sites like hands, elbows and knees although it can happen anywhere on the body. Many skin conditions can cause red patches on the face or body like rosacea and psoriasis.

How are discoloured skin patches diagnosed?

Visit to a dermatologist is recommended for any skin discoloration. Most of the conditions are diagnosed clinically by physical examination and or with wood lamps. In some cases skin biopsy is performed to make the final diagnosis. Your dermatologist might also recommend getting a diagnostic blood test to figure out the cause of skin discoloration.

Prevention of Skin Discoloration

  • Sun protection: Sun protection is the major factor to prevent from many hyperpigmented conditions. Sun protection includes applying sunscreen regularly, avoiding peak hours of high sun intensity between 10am to 4pm and having a physical protection like hat or umbrella.
  • Proper skin care: Many skin conditions can be prevented or improved by proper skin care. For example avoiding long water contact and regular use of moisturiser can prevent dry and eczematous skin. Staying in a cooler environment and avoiding sweating can prevent us from getting pityriasis versicolor.
  • Healthy lifestyle habits: Drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily, eating healthy food, avoiding stress, good quality sleep and controlling underlying health conditions play a vital role for having a healthy
  • Limit your skin touch: Try to avoid unnecessary skin touch. It can aggravate many skin conditions like Lichen planus, popping up pimples can leave dark spots, scratching can disrupt skin barrier
  • Apply SPF: Apply SPF every 3 hours


Discoloured skin patches can be caused by a variety of factors. Birthmarks, for example, are not harmful and may not require treatment. Others, such as skin conditions like Lichen planus, eczema,psoriasis etc, will almost certainly necessitate prompt medical attention. Sometimes it’s really challenging to deal with persistent discoloration like vitiligo.

FAQs: Skin Discoloration

  • Sun exposure
  • Healing after a rash or burn or infection or injury
  • Hormonal changes
  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Skin inflammation

Skin discoloration usually does not cause a concern and doesn’t impact on health. For example vitiligo is merely a cosmetic concern but when it appears on exposed areas it can negatively affect over self esteem. Similarly melasma that generally affects the face; can be associated with low quality of life.

Depending upon diagnosis we can choose from wide range of skin discoloration treatment options including topical cream, IPL , laser devices like moxi, pico, & chemical peels

By taking good skin care and starting timely treatment will be helpful to avoid skin discoloration.

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