Home Skin CareSkin pigmentation What is the lack of melanin due to?

What is the lack of melanin due to?

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Melanin is the pigment or natural substance located in the skin, hair, and iris of the eye and is responsible for giving color and tonality to each area. The body naturally synthesizes melanin from melanocytes through a mechanism known as melanogenesis.

When there is a decrease in melanin production, it is usual to consume some foods, administer a supplement, or use a cream that stimulates its production.

However, it is essential to know why this melanin synthesis mechanism fails, and in this FastlyHealarticle, we will answer the question: what is the cause of the lack of melanin?

Skin pigmentation

Before knowing what causes the lack of melanin, defining how skin pigmentation occurs is essential. The melanocytes are the cells responsible for melanin production located in the epidermis and the hair follicle.

The process by which melanin is formed is called melanogenesis, a mechanism that occurs through a hormone called melanocyte-stimulating hormone, or MSH.

Melanin works as a filter against the possible damage generated by ultraviolet rays and free radicals on the Skin, an essential substance for the Skin’s health.

A deficit or lack of melanin is known as hypopigmentation and depigmentation. The first one refers to the fact that few cells form melanin, that is, few melanocytes, and the last one implies a total absence of melanocytes. The lack of melanin can be reflected locally or in larger areas.

Types of melanin

Knowing that melanin is responsible for the color of the Skin and hair, it is essential to know that there are three types of melanins, each one with a particular function:

  1. Eumelanin: is responsible for providing all dark colors ranging from brown to black. It is the most abundant in human beings.
  2. Pheomelanin: is responsible for giving light colors ranging from yellow to reddish-brown.
  3. Tricosiderin: is accountable for providing brown and reddish reflections.

What is the lack of melanin due to? – Causes

When at some point, the Skin appears lighter in a specific area or a larger area, it means that the melanocytes are not working correctly and, therefore, do not produce melanin or that this cell group has been destroyed by skin damage.

Either of these two options can occur in the case of:


This is the first reason why there may be a lack of melanin. Dermatologists indicate that it can appear anywhere on the body and include fungal infections, such as pityriasis Versicolor, or viral infections like chickenpox or china. In both conditions, there may be hypopigmentation of the Skin.

Pityriasis Versicolor presents as a discolored, flat, scaly area on the trunk and extremities, especially in young adults. This type of fungal infection usually remits with 2% topical ketoconazole applied once a day; the duration of treatment will depend on the specialist’s assessment.

Pityriasis alba

Pityriasis alba is a type of dermatitis of which, to date, there is no known definite cause. However, it is related to factors such as:

  1. Solar radiation.
  2. Temperature.
  3. Humidity.
  4. Ambient.

This is a common disease in children and pre-adolescents between the ages of 3 and 16; it is characterized by the appearance of hypopigmented plaques on the face, typically on the cheeks and chin. 20% of the lesions can also appear on the trunk, as stated by the AEPED (Spanish Association of Pediatrics).

So far, there is no specific treatment for this condition. However, it is known that its course is benign and significantly affects the person’s aesthetics.


There are dermatological lesions that trigger an inflammatory response, such as:

  1. Eczema
  2. Systemic lupus erythematosus.
  3. Seborrheic dermatitis.
  4. Psoriasis.

Any of them triggers a chronic inflammatory process in the Skin, causing the appearance of hypopigmented spots.


Likewise, any direct alteration on the Skin can trigger the destruction of the melanocytes and, in turn, cause hypopigmentation of the area. This occurs when there are burns and traumatic wounds, any of which tends to generate a healing process in which there is a lack of melanin.


Direct skin exposure to some chemical agents can damage the epidermis; this happens with chemicals such as antiseptics and disinfectants.


The use of topical corticosteroid medications has the adverse effect of loss of pigment; it can be partial or temporary depending on the duration of treatment with this type of drug.

Diseases due to lack of melanin

There are commonly known diseases related to a lack of melanin:


According to the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, in this disease, the melanocytes are destroyed by an autoimmune process; it has an incidence of 1% in the population.

There is no distinction of race or sex in vitiligo, and at least 50% of cases appear before 20 years of age. The typical characteristic of vitiligo is the presence of whitish, symmetrical patches with defined edges of approximately 2–3 mm, primarily affecting areas such as the anogenital, perioral, periorbital, elbows, knees, and armpits.

To avoid burns, people with vitiligo must protect themselves from solar radiation, and with the use of PUVA treatment (psoralens plus ultraviolet radiation), the patient improves considerably.


Genetic disease in which skin melanocytes cannot form. This translates into a partial or total absence of pigments in the skin, hair, and eyes, which makes people who suffer from it more susceptible to sunburn and, in turn, to develop skin cancer.

The symptoms and their severity vary according to the individual and their genetics. These include lack of color in the iris, Skin, hair, patches of colorless Skin, or Skin and hair much lighter than usual.

The treatment of albinism aims to protect the Skin and eyes to reduce the risk of injuries generated by UV rays.

Lack of melanin: less common causes

  • Anemic nevus: it is a non-progressive congenital lesion characterized by presenting a well-defined kind of macula. Anemic nevus (AN) is detected from birth and is typically located on the infant’s trunk in the upper ½ of the back and neck. NA does not represent a serious health problem, so there is currently no defined treatment.
  • Nevoid hypopigmentation: it is a strange dermatological disease in which there is an alteration in the pigmentation of the skin, especially its discoloration. It affects multiple areas of the Skin (trunk and extremities) and is associated with other disorders such as seizures and mental retardation.
  • Tuberous sclerosis: this rare genetic disorder causes benign tumors, and is characterized by light skin spots, especially in infancy and childhood, skin tumors, delayed development, and seizures.
  • Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis: alteration in skin pigmentation in loss and alteration of melanocytes reducing and disappearing melanin. It is characterized by presenting depigmented areas of the Skin; the lesions tend to be minor, 2–3 cm, and predominate in the pretibial area and forearms.

Several causes are associated with the lack of melanin, which must be adequately studied; the dermatologist is the specialist in charge of determining what the hypopigmentation or depigmentation is due to and the best way to treat this condition.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to What is the lack of melanin due to? We recommend that you enter our category of Skin, hair and nails .

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