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What Is Skin Fading?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 17, 2024
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As skin diseases go, skin fading is also known as vitiligo, which is a process that begins to occur when the skin loses melanin — the pigment that gives skin its color. Loss of melanin, which often happens in uneven patches, as opposed to a blended overall loss of pigment, can cause splotchy skin or discoloration. Skin fading can also refer to the intentional lightening of skin that those with darker skin color may choose to go through. That is, skin fading can refer to a cosmetic treatment as well.

A clear explanation as to why skin loses melanin is not known. Some medical experts believe that skin fading is hereditary, while others believe that a loss of melanin is directly connected to emotional stress. Since fading can happen to anyone of any race, this skin condition is not race related. Any portion of one's skin can fade, though this disorder tends to affect parts of the skin that are exposed to direct sunlight.

Vitiligo is not painful, though many people tend to experience depression as a result of the condition. Since skin that changes color is frequently skin that people can see, this kind of discoloration can be psychologically and emotionally damaging. Treatment-wise, there are various methods that have been proven effective.

Depigmentation is one treatment that many people opt for, though this type of treatment is best for those with a large percentage of discolored skin. The object of depigmentation is to change the color of skin that has not been affected by vitiligo, so that all skin appears the same. Corticosteroid treatments are another option. These treatments attempt to add color to skin that has been lightened. Some types of chemotherapy may also be used in order to restore melanin to the skin, though these treatments tend to have various side effects including red skin.

Some people who have severe fading may choose a surgical treatment that involves skin grafting. This type of treatment can be helpful, but it is also painful. Skin grafting involves taking pieces of normally colored skin from one area of the body, and applying that skin to affected areas. As with any operation, skin grafting includes various risks that should be carefully considered.

The best way to determine a proper skin fading treatment is to speak with a medical professional. Home remedies and over-the-counter products are not recommended, since fading cannot be reversed without proper medical treatment. Carefully weighing all treatment options is a wise idea, since each individual case is unique. In order to reverse the signs of skin discoloration, it is best to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

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