Hypopigmentation is characterized specifically as an area of
skin Skin is the layer of usually soft, flexible outer tissue covering the body of a vertebrate animal, with three main functions: protection, regulation, and sensation. Other animal coverings, such as the arthropod exoskeleton, have different d ...
becoming lighter than the baseline skin color, but not completely devoid of
pigment A pigment is a colored material that is completely or nearly insoluble in water. In contrast, dyes are typically soluble, at least at some stage in their use. Generally dyes are often organic compounds whereas pigments are often inorganic compou ...
. This is not to be confused with depigmentation, which is characterized as the absence of all pigment. It is caused by
melanocyte Melanocytes are melanin-producing neural crest-derived cells located in the bottom layer (the stratum basale) of the skin's epidermis, the middle layer of the eye (the uvea), the inner ear, vaginal epithelium, meninges, bones, and heart. ...
melanin Melanin (; from el, μέλας, melas, black, dark) is a broad term for a group of natural pigments found in most organisms. Eumelanin is produced through a multistage chemical process known as melanogenesis, where the oxidation of the amino ...
depletion, or a decrease in the
amino acid Amino acids are organic compounds that contain both amino and carboxylic acid functional groups. Although hundreds of amino acids exist in nature, by far the most important are the alpha-amino acids, which comprise proteins. Only 22 alpha ...
tyrosine -Tyrosine or tyrosine (symbol Tyr or Y) or 4-hydroxyphenylalanine is one of the 20 standard amino acids that are used by cells to synthesize proteins. It is a non-essential amino acid with a polar side group. The word "tyrosine" is from the G ...
, which is used by melanocytes to make melanin. Some common genetic causes include mutations in the tyrosinase gene or OCA2 gene. As melanin pigments tend to be in the skin, eye, and hair, these are the commonly affected areas in those with hypopigmentation. Hypopigmentation is common and approximately one in twenty have at least one hypopigmented macule. Hypopigmentation can be upsetting to some, especially those with darker skin whose hypopigmentation marks are seen more visibly. Most causes of hypopigmentation are not serious and can be easily treated.


Associated conditions

It is seen in: *
Albinism Albinism is the congenital absence of melanin in an animal or plant resulting in white hair, feathers, scales and skin and pink or blue eyes. Individuals with the condition are referred to as albino. Varied use and interpretation of the term ...
* Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis *
Leprosy Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacteria '' Mycobacterium leprae'' or ''Mycobacterium lepromatosis''. Infection can lead to damage of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This nerve damag ...
* Leucism * Phenylketonuria * Pityriasis alba * Vitiligo *
Angelman syndrome Angelman syndrome or Angelman's syndrome (AS) is a genetic disorder that mainly affects the nervous system. Symptoms include a small head and a specific facial appearance, severe intellectual disability, developmental disability, limited to no ...
* Tinea versicolor * Yaws * An uncommon adverse effect of
imatinib Imatinib, sold under the brand names Gleevec and Glivec (both marketed worldwide by Novartis) among others, is an oral chemotherapy medication used to treat cancer. Imatinib is a small molecule inhibitor targeting multiple receptor tyrosine kin ...
therapy * Injections of high concentrations of
corticosteroid Corticosteroids are a class of steroid hormones that are produced in the adrenal cortex of vertebrates, as well as the synthetic analogues of these hormones. Two main classes of corticosteroids, glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, are involve ...
s (transient)


Areas of lighter pigmentation can be indications of hypopigmentation. Biopsies and genetic information are also used to diagnose.


Often, hypopigmentation can be brought on by laser treatments; however, the hypopigmentation can be treated with other lasers or light sources. Micropigmentation can also be used to obtain a more normal appearance of the hypopigmentated skin. Treatment for hypopigmentation depends on the initial cause of the discoloration.

See also

* Hyperpigmentation


External links

Dermatologic terminology Disturbances of human pigmentation {{cutaneous-condition-stub