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What Is Hypopigmentation? A Skin-Care Expert Explains

Hypopigmentation: What It Is and How to Treat It, According to a Dermatologist

You may be familiar with hyperpigmentation — dark spots or discoloration found on the skin and commonly caused by acne, sun exposure, or other trauma — but are you familiar with hypopigmentation? While hyperpimentation and dark spots are often at the forefront of conversations surrounding skin conditions, the latter isn't as frequently talked about, and therefore not as well known.

Hypopigmentation is where an area of the skin is lighter in color than the rest of the skin tone. "It is the opposite of hyperpigmentation, which is increased pigment in the skin," Corey L. Hartman, MD, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL, told POPSUGAR. "Hypopigmentation results in patches of skin that are lighter than the normal skin tone. This happens when melanocytes, the pigment producing cells in the skin, produce less pigment or the pigment in the cells is destroyed." It's more visible in those with darker skin tones because it causes a stronger contrast, but it can happen to anyone.

Keep reading to learn more about this condition of the skin, what causes it, and how to treat it.

What Causes Hypopigmentation?

The causes of hypopigmentation range from postinflammatory responses to autoimmune conditions. If your hypopigmentation is the postinflammatory type, it can occur following irritation on the skin. "For example, after a red, inflamed rash has subsided, it could temporarily leave an area of hypopigmentation," said board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD. Scarring and some types of skin cancer can also lead to a lightening of skin pigment, as well as "a yeast on the skin called tinea versicolor or vitiligo — which is an autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system attacks the cells that make pigment," she said. "In the case of vitiligo, the skin actually becomes depigmented, not just hypopigmented."

It's always best to consult with a doctor when you're unsure what caused your hypopigmentation or if you're concerned that it could be something more serious.

How Do You Treat Hypopigmentation?

Your treatment options for hypopigmentation vary depending on the cause. "If it's postinflammatory hypopigmentation, then the preceding inflammation should be thoroughly treated and the skin barrier should be supported with emollients and other moisturizers," said Dr. King. Additionally, discoloration caused by tinea versicolor can be treated with the help of a doctor and antifungal creams. There is no cure for vitiligo, on the other hand, but certain treatments can help improve the pigment of the skin.

"Microneedling has emerged as a promising therapy that can help to recover pigment in certain cases of hypopigmentation," said Dr. Hartman. "Especially when combined with Latisse, or topical latanoprost, which is a surprising way to make pigment return."

To treat moderate hypopigmentation at home, Dr. King recommended that you "support the skin barrier with moisturizers that contain humectants, emollients, and occlusives." You should also avoid any products or treatments with ingredients that can cause or further irritate inflammation on the skin. Dr. Hartman added that you should also "observe strict sun precautions and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day."

While topical corticosteroids can help decrease inflammation associated with hypopigmentation, Dr. King explained they can also cause hypopigmentation. "Consult with your dermatologist to discuss treatments that will be best for you," she said.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly
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