If you are suffering from skin discoloration on your face, you may have a disorder that is affecting your pigmentation. Facial skin discoloration disorders are broken down into two main categories, hyper-pigmentation and hypo-pigmentation.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Skin color is determined by cells called melanocytes, which produce the pigment melanin. There are larger melanocytes in darker-skin than in those of lighter skin.” When your melanocytes produce more melanin it is called hyper-pigmentation, which create dark spots. When your melanocytes produce less melanin this is called hypo-pigmentation and leads to white blotches on the skin.
Whether your skin is light or dark to begin with, you can experience Hyper-pigmentation, or the production of too much melanin. Hyper-pigmentation can happen after an injury, cut, scrape, burn, eczema, or acne. After the injury has healed, a dark spot can be left on your skin in its place. Be careful not to pick at sores or acne, because this can increase your chances of hyper-pigmentation spots.
Hormonal changes can cause hyper-pigmentation. During pregnancy you can get melasma or pregnancy mask, dark splotches along the chin, jaw and cheeks. Aging or sun exposure can cause dark liver spots on your face as well.
Both of these hyper-pigmentation disorders will usually go away and lighten on their own, but may take years. Applying a fade cream or bleaching agent, such as hydroquinone, can lighten dark spots. Hydroquinone can be purchased over-the-counter at 2 percent strength. Exfoliate, or wash your skin daily with a wash cloth, to keep it smooth and get rid of the top layers of hyper-pigmented skin to even out the skin tone.
Hypo-pigmentation, or the lack of melanin, causes Vitiligo. Vitiligo is a disorder where the melanocytes are destroyed from either an infection or an autoimmune disease. White splotches start to appear on the face or anywhere on the body. The melanocytes can continue to be destroyed by the infection or immune system and the white spots can get larger and possibly cover the whole body. Treatments include steroids, antibiotics, light therapy, and bleaching creams to lighten the surrounding skin to match.
Tinea versicolor is a skin disorder that may look like Vitiligo with white patches of skin, but it's caused by a fungal infection. The fungus prevents skin from tanning normally, so that lighter patches appear. Using a fungal cream can usually correct this problem.
Albinism is a form of hypo-pigmentation. Albinism is a rare hereditary disease where the body is lacking the enzyme that produces melanin. An albino has very white skin; sometimes it is splotchy with lighter and darker areas. A person is born with albinism and there is no cure.
Pityriasis Albo is a hypo-pigmentation condition where there are light patches of skin covered with flaky scales, usually on the face. This is a form of eczema and can be treated with hydrocortisone cream.