How to Treat Uneven Skin Tone

Uneven skin tone is a very common skin concern, but one that has a reputation of being difficult to prevent or treat. Read this article which demystifies the problems of uneven skin tone...

What causes uneven skin tone?

Skin tone is generally uniform, but many factors can affect color, causing unevenness. The most common and familiar cause is sunburn or suntan. Sunburns cause the areas of the exposed skin to become red in response to UVB light in a day or two. Suntans occur for the same reason, but the color is caused by melanin, a pigment that activates when exposed to UV light. The purpose of melanin is to protect the skin from further exposure and damage. Naturally, the areas exposed to the sun are darker than areas that are covered by clothing because melanin is activated more often in the exposed areas such as the face.

It's not a tanning problem!

Tans are temporary, and usually not the type of problem people refer to when they talk about uneven skin tone, but the mechanism of action that causes it is the same-it's overproduction of melanin in some areas of the skin. The most common problems related to uneven skin tone which don't fade away quickly are Melasma and Sun spots.

What are melasma and sunspots?

Melasma often affects young women with a darker overall skin tone. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to this form of hyperpigmentation as it is caused by the combination of sun exposure and hormonal factors. The condition can be particularly distressing because it affects the face most often, and often leaves a noticeable contrast with surrounding skin.

Sun spots are common circular spots that are darker than surrounding skin. They become more common with age and with accumulated sun exposure. While similar in appearance to freckles, these spots do not fade during winter, and require treatment to remove.

In both cases, sun exposure is the main trigger that causes what is called hyperpigmentation-a sudden darkening of the skin that contrasts with the color of surrounding skin.

How can I prevent these problems?

The best form of prevention is sun protection. Melanin is generated in response to sun exposure and melanin is always involved in excess pigmentation. Practicing good sun habits are the best way to prevent these problems.

How do I treat uneven skin tone?

Some types of uneven skin tone like melasma disappear over time, but in most cases, the pigmentation problem is permanent without treatment. The most common treatment for uneven skin tone is a skin lightener. Many lightening products can be found over the counter and work, either by lightening the skin, or by inhibiting the further generation of melanin in the area that the medicine is applied. It is important to keep in mind that sun protection is a must when treating uneven skin tone. Many ingredients are photo-sensitizing, so gains made can easily be lost if the skin is exposed to the sun.

Related Videos

Dr. Stuart Maddin (Clinical Professor Emeritus, Department of Dermatology, University of British Columbia) is a well-known Canadian dermatologist who has been educating, practicing and researching in the field of dermatology for the past 65 years.

Ask DermLetter