Uneven Skin Tone: Major Causes and Preventative Steps to Take

Having radiant, clear skin can be a symbol of health and beauty for many people. But genetic and environmental factors can cause your skin’s appearance to look uneven, or discolored, in certain regions. If you’re struggling with uneven skin tone, it may help to learn a bit more about what causes these skin problems, how to treat them, and how to prevent them from occurring in the future.

What is uneven skin tone?

Simply put, uneven skin tone refers to areas of skin that have become somehow discolored. It’s essentially an overproduction or inconsistent production of melanin (which gives skin its color and protects it from UV light), which can be attributed to several different factors. This phenomenon can happen in any region of the body, regardless of gender or age. Those who develop uneven skin tone on their faces may be particularly bothered by how it looks, causing them to seek out help from a local dermatologist.

What are the main causes of uneven skin tone?

Uneven skin tone can develop naturally as part of your skin’s aging process, often due to sun exposure. Your ability to produce and release melanin at a proper rate may decrease, which can cause darker patches to appear. If you’ve ever heard older people refer to “liver spots” or “sun spots” on their hands or face (i.e., areas that are often exposed to UV rays), this is the perfect example of uneven skin tone. This kind of sun damage occurs when the skin is repeatedly exposed to UV light; the body essentially produces too much melanin as a defense mechanism, which results in those dark spots. This is also known as hyperpigmentation.

There are other reasons for uneven skin tone, as well. Hormones can play a role here, particularly among pregnant women. Melasma, which is hyperpigmentation caused by increased hormones in the body, can occur and cause what’s known as the “mask of pregnancy.” This produces dark spots in the face. In many cases, this disappears after the mother gives birth. Some women also experience hyperpigmentation due to the oral contraceptives they take (and the resulting changes in hormones).

Acne scar-related discoloration can also lead to uneven skin tone. This is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Lesions or injuries to the skin caused by acne (often when a patient picks or scratches at pimples) can lead to darkened skin. This can also happen after a sunburn.

How can I prevent these skin problems?

The source of these skin problems matters when developing an effective preventative method. It’s important, therefore, to talk to your skin doctor to come up with both a treatment plan and ways you can prevent further damage to the skin. If your uneven skin problems were caused by acne scarring and you still have active pimples, you and your doctor can develop a plan of action to keep additional hyperpigmentation from occurring while treating the uneven skin tone you already have. Uneven skin tone caused by sun exposure, on the other hand, will need to be treated and prevented in different ways.

In general, hydration is key to healthy skin. That means drinking plenty of water, using a dermatologist-recommended moisturizer, and following a skin care regimen. You should also use broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 or higher, exfoliate the skin (as directed by your doctor), and wear protective clothing and hats to minimize damage from the sun.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to live with hyperpigmentation and skin damage. If you’re experiencing uneven skin tone or other skin problems, it’s important that you speak to a dermatologist who can design a custom treatment plan to address your concerns.

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