What Causes Skin Discoloration?

Medically Reviewed on 8/19/2021
skin discoloration causes
Skin discoloration may result from several factors, such as excessive sun exposure, hormonal fluctuations, autoimmune diseases and genetics.

Several factors can cause skin discoloration. The most common reason is excessive sun exposure without protection, in which some parts of the skin become darker in color than others.

Typically appearing as brown spots or patches, these areas are made up of an excess of melanin, which is the natural pigment that produces skin color and causes skin discoloration. Studies suggest that time spent in the sun increases melanin production to shield the skin from the damaging effects of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Other causes of skin discoloration may include:

  • Chronic UV exposure
  • Hormonal fluctuations (especially during pregnancy)
  • Past acne blemishes
  • Natural aging
  • A nasty outbreak may cause skin damage and lead to skin discoloration
  • According to recent research, there may be a link between traffic-related air pollution and black spots
  • Infections
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Genetically inherited diseases
  • Skin reactions from certain products and medications and as a result of some medical conditions
  • Discoloration in the legs due to varicose veins and spider veins

Can infections cause skin discoloration?

Yes, a few infections may sometimes lead to skin discoloration, such as:

Tinea versicolor

  • Tinea versicolor is a frequent cutaneous fungal infection.
  • The fungus alters the natural skin pigmentation, resulting in tiny, discolored areas that might be lighter or darker.
  • It may be typically on the chest, neck, shoulders and parts of the face.
  • Even though antifungal lotions, creams and shampoos, as well as oral medication can help treat Versicolor, uneven coloring can last anywhere from a few weeks to many months.


  • COVID-19 has prompted experts to notice a new skin pigmentation issue linked to the virus.
  • Red or purple toes, lumps on the fingers, itching hives and a red lacy rash across the arms and legs have all been reported to dermatologists during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • According to the findings, skin discoloration could be caused by a partial or complete blockage (clotting) of blood vessels, which could result in rashes and skin discoloration.

Can autoimmune diseases cause skin discoloration?

There are a few common autoimmune diseases that may trigger the immune system to cause skin discoloration, including:


  • Vitiligo is a chronic skin condition characterized by patches that eventually turn the patient’s skin completely white with sharp edges.
  • Vitiligo is an autoimmune illness in which the immune system attacks the body's organs and tissues.
  • The immune system of a vitiligo patient attacks melanocytes (pigment cells in the skin).
  • Vitiligo treatment is usually recommended and tailored by doctors for each patient. Treatment depends on the skin's changing look and focuses on restoring its original color.


  • Psoriasis is a skin ailment in which the immune system causes some skin regions to create new cells faster than normal.
  • People with psoriasis have skin discoloration that appears as red patches covered in thick, silvery scales and itching, burning, dry, cracked skin that is prone to bleeding.
  • Most people with psoriasis inherit one or more particular genes that impact the immune system and render them susceptible to the disease.
  • Prescription-strength topical or oral medication can be more effective than over-the-counter lotions if psoriasis is severe.
  • Psoriasis is treated using a variety of approaches, so talk to your doctor to determine the best treatment.


Rosacea, Acne, Shingles, Covid-19 Rashes: Common Adult Skin Diseases See Slideshow

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a common skin ailment that causes facial redness and visible blood vessels (almost like a bad sunburn). This illness may also include small, red, pus-filled pimples.

  • Although the etiology of rosacea is unknown, sunshine, stress, spicy meals, excessive heat and even hairspray are known to aggravate the condition.
  • Consult your doctor about topical anti-redness medications, including prescription-strength Mirvaso (brimonidine) and Rhofade (oxymetazoline), which work by narrowing blood vessels to diminish redness.

What is albinism?

Albinism is a hereditary skin disorder characterized by the absence of color in the skin, hair or eyes (due to an abnormal gene that prevents melanin formation).

  • According to the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, the condition affects persons of all races and nationalities.
  • Most albino infants are born to parents with hair and eyes that are typical of their ethnic backgrounds.
  • There is no cure for this condition, but people with this skin condition should always apply sunscreen because they are more susceptible to ultraviolet (UV) damage and skin cancer due to the loss of pigment.

How do you treat environmental skin discoloration?

In general, if the discoloration is caused by environmental causes, such as too much exposure to the sun or pollution, the best method is to protect the skin from it. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher every day. Also, use an antioxidant product that can reduce free radicals along with sunscreen. Having a diet rich in proteins and antioxidants will also help.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 8/19/2021
WebMD. Causes of Skin Discoloration. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-causes-of-skin-discoloration

Anderson A. Melasma, Dark Patches and Skin Discoloration. Franciscan Alliance. https://www.franciscanhealth.org/community/blog/living-with-melasma-dark-patches-and-skin-discoloration