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How to Protect Your Skin & Prevent Pigment Disorders

Tuesday 23 February 2021
Skin Conditions

Table of Contents

I. Common Pigment Disorders

II. Inherited Skin Conditions

III. Preventing Vitiligo

IV. Managing Melasma and Rosacea

Common Pigment Disorders

Abnormal pigmentation affects many people worldwide. Some skin conditions, like albinism, birthmarks, macular stains, and hemangiomas, can affect a person from birth. Other conditions, such as vitiligo, melasma, and rosacea, are disorders that are caused by skin damage. For conditions caused by skin damage, common treatments include the use of Azelex Cream (azelaic acid), Oracea, and hydroquinone 4%. Many forms of skin damage can be prevented by taking the right steps. Read on to learn how to protect your skin from pigment disorders. [1] 

Inherited Skin Conditions

Not all skin pigment conditions are caused by skin damage, and not all of them can be prevented. Albinism, characterized by the absence of pigmentation, is an inherited disorder. Albinism is caused by an abnormal gene that restricts melanin production. Because it is an inherited disorder, there is no way of preventing albinism. There is also no cure for this condition, and many people with albinism have accompanying eye problems.

two people with contrasting skin tones

Even though albinism cannot be prevented, people with albinism should still take steps to protect their skin. Albinism increases the likelihood of sun damage and skin cancer, so protecting the skin can help those with albinism avoid exacerbations. [1] Lacking melanin makes it easier to get sunburnt, so people with albinism should wear sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.

To stay on top of your skin cancer risk, those with albinism should tell their doctor about any new moles, growths, or lumps. Early detection can make skin cancer treatment easier and more successful. [2]

Preventing Vitiligo 

Vitiligo is a condition characterized by pigment loss. It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks pigment cells (melanocytes). Vitiligo is often characterized by white skin patches. These patches usually occur around the mouth and eyes, although they can appear anywhere on the body. [1]

Those who have vitiligo cannot use tanning beds or sunlamps because vitiligo makes the skin hypersensitive to UV light. Any form of damage to the skin can cause a new patch of vitiligo to appear, so it is important to shield your skin during activities that may harm your skin. Here are some general guidelines for people with vitiligo: 

  • Limit time under the sun
  • Wear water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more when outdoors
  • Re-apply sunscreen generously every two hours
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses on sunny days
  • Avoid getting a tattoo as it may damage your skin [3] 

the rays of the sun through a palm tree

Some people with vitiligo report that certain foods can worsen their condition. Medically, there isn’t a list of foods that are certain to worsen vitiligo. But anecdotal evidence suggests that avoiding the following foods may help:

  • Alcohol
  • Blueberries
  • Citrus, coffee, curds
  • Fish and fruit juice
  • Gooseberries and grapes
  • Pickles, pomegranates, and pears
  • Red meats
  • Tomatoes
  • Wheat products [4]

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that certain substances can reduce the amount of skin discoloration in people with vitiligo. These substances are not medically proven to improve vitiligo, but many people claim that they are effective:

  • Vitamin B-12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Folic acid
  • Beta carotene
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Amino acids
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Zinc [4]

For most people with this skin disorder, vitiligo is a lifelong condition that can only be managed. There is no cure, but eating a healthy diet and taking steps to protect your skin from the sun can prevent the condition from worsening. For expert advice on how to protect your skin and prevent vitiligo exacerbations, talk to a dermatologist. [4]

Managing Melasma and Rosacea

Melasma is very common, affecting around six million women in the United States. Melasma primarily affects women because it is caused by changes in estrogen levels. It is estimated that nine out of 10 people with melasma are women. [5] Genetics are a factor that can cause melasma, but the main triggers of this condition are sun exposure and hormonal changes. Excessive heat can also irritate the skin, causing the skin to produce too much pigment.

a woman with a melasma patch on her cheek

Rosacea is another skin condition that involves pigmentation. With rosacea, damaged skin reddens and can cause irritation, blisters, and sores. For these conditions, daily sunscreen use is important once again. In addition to protecting the skin from the sun, some abrasive skin care products may need to be avoided as well. To avoid melasma or rosacea exacerbations, you may want to use a gentle skincare routine. [5] 

Skin pigment disorders are common. Even if you eat a healthy diet, exercise, have a gentle skincare routine and protect yourself from the sun, one of these conditions may still occur. Your doctor may suggest products such as Azelex Cream (azelaic acid), Oracea, and hydroquinone 4% to help you manage symptoms. Prevention is key, and following these guidelines can give you a good chance of avoiding a skin disorder.  

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.