Saturday, November 5th 2022. | Skin Cancer

White pigmentation in skin is a benign skin disease that primarily affects young people. It is a pigment disorder that leads to permanent white patches on the skin. Some types of this disease, like vitiligo, cannot be cured. However, the right therapy prevents it from progressing further. Read everything you need to know about white pigmentation in skin here.

White Pigmentation In Skin

You can have white pigmentation in skin all your life (inherited from a family member), or they suddenly appear on your face or body. If you want to keep your skin as even as possible, white spots don’t work. Vitiligo is a well-known, long-term skin condition that causes the skin to turn paler in certain body areas. The white pigment spots associated with it are permanent. At the same time, white pigmentation is temporary due to pityriasis alba (which appears mainly in children).

In some cases, adults can also get pityriasis alba. Skin discoloration is also caused by sun damage. Perhaps news to you: excessive sun exposure not only increases the risk of dark pigmentation but also of white spots on the face or elsewhere, such as on the décolleté, hands, or shin. Small, discolored spots and yeast spots on the skin indicate pityriasis versicolor, which occurs mainly in summer and is caused by yeasts. 

Yeasts occur naturally on our skin, but under heat and humidity. Yeast can start to overgrow and thus affect the top layer of skin. A certain substance is released that has such an impact on pigment cells that white spots appear. A distinction can be made between hypopigmentation (reduced pigmentation, for example, if you suffer from eczema) and depigmentation, where the pigment has completely disappeared. In vitiligo, areas of the skin are completely depigmented. 

What Is White Pigmentation In The Skin?

When certain skin cells called melanocytes stop making melanin, it becomes visible as white pigmentation in skin. Melanin is the pigment that gives our skin, hair, and eyes color. Without that pigment, uncolored spots form. These spots can appear anywhere on the body, depending on the cause.

What Causes White Pigmentation In Skin?

That depends entirely on the type of white pigmentation in skin, from vitiligo to white pigment spots caused by sun damage. With vitiligo, the cause is unknown, although experts believe there is an autoimmune disease here where the body accidentally attacks and destroys certain cells. Vitiligo may be genetic. Sometimes it is associated with a medical condition, such as thyroid problems. 

White Pigmentation In Skin

The cause of pityriasis alba, which can also cause you to have white pigmentation in skin, is also unknown. It is often associated with dry skin and atopic dermatitis. Usually, pityriasis alba occurs after sun exposure, perhaps because the discoloration of the surrounding skin makes the affected areas more visible. 

White yeast spots, as the name suggests, are caused by a type of yeast called Malassezia. This yeast is found on the skin in more than 90% of adults and usually does not cause skin problems. However, in the case of pityriasis Versicolor (yeast spots), this yeast multiplies much more than normal. Specifically, white pigmentation in skin is created under the sun’s influence. It also needs to be discovered what causes it. 

However, dermatologists see the sun, UV exposure, and age as underlying causes. This is also called idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH for short). It can be an inevitable part of the natural aging process, as the skin loses pigment through a gradual reduction in melanocytes, just as your hair loses color and turns gray or white as you age. While age spots are most common in women in their forties and older, men and women can also develop IGH with white spots earlier in life.

White Patches Due To Pityriasis Alba

Pityriasis alba is a form of eczema or dermatitis that mainly affects children. The name refers to the external appearance of this condition: pityriasis refers to the characteristic, fine scales, and alba to the pale color (hypopigmentation). You will see scaly patches with light pink or red skin.

White Spots Caused By Pityriasis Versicolor

This harmless fungal infection results in spots with lighter or darker skin. Pityriasis Versicolor, also known as tinea versicolor, is a common fungal infection that causes small patches of skin to become scaly and discolored. Skin spots can be darker or lighter than your normal skin color, but red, brown, or pink is also possible. 

The areas develop gradually and may coalesce into larger patches over time. By the way, these are also called yeast spots. It takes some time for them to disappear, usually six months. Although unfortunately, they can come back if the Malassezia is triggered.

Depigmentation Caused By Vitiligo

In vitiligo, we see a complete and permanent loss of color on parts of the skin. Often this first appears on the hands, face, and around body openings and the genitals. What can also occur: is premature graying or whitening of hair on the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or beard. Depigmentation may also occur in the tissues inside the mouth and nose (mucous membranes). Vitiligo can start at any age but usually appears after age 30.

White Pigmentation in Skin Due To IGH

In the case of Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis (IGH), we see small, white spots that look a bit like confetti or white freckles. It is a lesser-known fact that sun damage causes brown spots and white spots. Think “gray hair,” but it is equivalent to the skin. 

Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis (IGH) is harmless but can look disfiguring. It is characterized by flat, white patches on mostly the arms and legs that are round or oval. And is caused by local pigment loss on the skin.

How To Prevent White Pigmentation in Skin?

If you have been a sun worshipper all your life, you are more likely to develop IGH later in life than those who stay out of the sun and diligently apply sunscreen. Admittedly, always be cautious of unexplained white spots that suddenly appear on the skin and always have them checked with a dermatologist. 

White Pigmentation In Skin

Good sun protection is recommended if it is indeed IGH, white age spots. So Pityriasis alba also appears faster after sun exposure. Vitiligo cannot be prevented. With pityriasis alba, it is wise to look at a related skin problem, namely eczema or dermatitis. You can read: ECZEMA IS CAUSED BY WHAT FACTORS?

How To Treat White Pigmentation?

As for vitiligo, the treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Your doctor may recommend topical creams, ultraviolet light therapy, or oral medications to help restore skin tone and stop the spread of white spots. 

Skin grafts are an invasive but potentially very effective way of removing small patches of white skin. Be cautious of home remedies (such as applying fresh ginger or lemon juice) to white pigmentation in skin. First, consult your doctor to find out what type of white pigmentation you are dealing with. 

White Pigmentation In Skin

Always make sure you are under the treatment of a thorough expert. No treatment is required for pityriasis alba; the spots usually disappear independently. Once you have been diagnosed with tinea versicolor, there is no cure. The yeast Malassezia is always there as part of the microbial ecosystem on your skin, and the spots may keep returning, but there are ways to control the white pigmentation in skin. Ask your dermatologist.

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