What Causes Skin Discoloration + How to Treat It

Read this to go from spotty to spotless.
BY Sarah Lim
| Last updated Apr, 2023
What Causes Skin Discoloration

First thing first—having freckles, moles, or other color differences on your skin is absolutely fine (as long as it’s not a health risk). If you want to bare it to the world, do it! At the same time, if you’ve noticed skin discoloration crop up and want them to fade, that’s OK, too. 

So what exactly is skin discoloration, and how can it be treated? When you’re struggling with uneven skin tone or a patchy complexion, here’s how to identify what the problem could be and how you can potentially restore your skin.

What Exactly Is Skin Discoloration?

What Exactly Is Skin Discoloration

Melanin is a natural pigment that exists in the skin of humans and animals. Melanin is responsible for your skin’s natural color and makes skin a consistent color. As you may have guessed, melanin is also responsible for unusual skin color changes.

When your skin has too much or too little melanin than normal, skin discoloration can occur. For example, when your skin gets too much sun exposure, it will try to protect itself by producing more melanin. This is what gives your skin that summer tan, but it’s also what causes hyperpigmentation, or dark spots, on the skin.

However, hyperpigmentation isn’t the only thing responsible for changes to skin color. Any area that looks lighter or darker than the rest of your skin can qualify as skin discoloration. And, since the skin is your body’s first line of defense against pathogens, discolored skin from inflammation, injury, sun exposure, and infection is relatively common. 

Is Skin Discoloration Temporary or Permanent?

Is Skin Discoloration Temporary or Permanent

It depends on the type of discoloration, the cause of it, and the treatments available. For example, birthmarks or skin conditions such as vitiligo tend to be chronic, although they may change over time.

Skin discoloration from sun exposure, such as hyperpigmentation, can significantly fade with time and the right treatments, but completely alleviating the discoloration may be difficult.

Other discolorations, such as those from inflammation, rashes, and allergies, typically improve with the appropriate treatment or management, so the discoloration likely won’t be permanent. Your experienced dermatologist can tell you whether you can expect your skin discoloration to go away and what treatment options are available to you.

Causes of Discolored Skin (And How to Get a Diagnosis)

There are many potential causes of discolored skin. Some of the most common causes include:



Any type of allergy—whether it’s to food, a skincare product, medication, or something in your environment—can cause skin discoloration via eczema or dermatitis (and potentially hives). 



Birthmarks can be brown, red, or even bruise-colored. Some will go away, while others will be permanent, but most are non-cancerous skin discolorations that don’t affect your health. 



One of the most common signs of skin cancer is an unusual area of discolored skin. It could be a mole that has changed or just an odd discoloration or texture. That’s different from the rest of your skin. 

Pigmentation Disorders 

Pigmentation disorders

These pigmentation disorders include hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation. Examples include vitiligo, melasma, freckles, or liver spots that can alter the color of the skin, sometimes in larger areas. 



A skin infection such as ringworm, a virus, or an infected wound can cause skin discoloration that is typically temporary until the infection clears up.

Skin Disorders 

Skin disorders

Rosacea, psoriasis, and keratosis pilaris can all cause discolored skin, especially red, inflamed, scaly, or patchy areas on the skin. 

Since the symptoms of discolored skin and skin disorders can be specific to the person, and some can look alike, it can be difficult to self-diagnose a specific skin problem.

As such, it’s important to follow up with a dermatologist or ask your primary care physician to assist you with getting a proper diagnosis so you can pursue the appropriate treatment options.

Potential Treatments Options to Restore Your Complexion

Potential Treatments Options to Restore Your Complexion

If discolored skin is affecting your confidence, you’re not alone. Fortunately, you may not have to live with discolored skin. There are treatment options that may help restore your complexion and help your skin look more uniform.

For discoloration caused by allergies, infections, cancer, and other disorders, it’s essential to work with a professional to help resolve the issue. And if you have skin cancer or a skin infection, medication or additional therapies will likely be necessary to restore your health and your skin.

When it comes to birthmarks, pigmentation disorders, and other skin disorders such as rosacea, treatment or management will be specific to your unique symptoms and diagnosis. For many people, rosacea isn’t curable, only manageable. 

Certain birthmarks may be able to be removed but can result in scarring. Hyperpigmentation can typically be treated with chemical peels, skincare products with vitamin C, and protecting skin from further sun damage, while hypopigmentation may need laser therapy to improve. 

As you can see, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to skin discoloration.

In some cases, laser skin therapy or microneedling may be effective for treating a specific discoloration, such as that from broken capillaries or melasma. In others, managing sun exposure may reduce the appearance of the discoloration, as with hyperpigmentation.

Still, in other cases, changing your diet may improve the problem, as in cases of eczema. Your dermatologist can review all your options with you based on your goals for your skin.

Who Is Most at Risk for Skin Discoloration?

Who Is Most at Risk for Skin Discoloration

Some people are more at risk of having discolored skin. These include:

  • Older individuals because they tend to have a long history of sun exposure, which is a major factor in skin discoloration.
  • Pregnant women or women taking hormonal contraceptives, due to changing hormones in the body. 
  • Those with a family history of skin discoloration, whether it be vitiligo, melasma, or eczema, are more at risk of developing discolorations. 
  • People who get a lot of sun exposure without sunscreen are also at much higher risk for discoloration, especially as they age.
  • People who take medications that make them more sensitive to sun exposure, such as antibiotics, antihistamines, and cholesterol medications. 

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1 Comment

  1. Awesome! Its genuinely remarkable post, I have got much clear idea regarding from this post


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