Skin discoloration can happen on any type of skin. However, it may be more apparent when it occurs on darker skin. Skin conditions, such as acne or eczema, could discolor black skin.

Many treatments can reduce skin discoloration, including laser therapy and chemical peels. Home remedies may include creams that contain vitamin C or retinol.

A person should speak with a dermatologist before trying any sort of treatment. A dermatologist specializes in treating skin conditions and can suggest a product or treatment that is a good match for an individual’s skin type. A person may find a dermatologist directly, or they may receive a referral from their doctor.

Below, we look at the different causes of discoloration on black skin and how to treat it.

Discoloration on dark skin can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • acne
  • eczema
  • rashes
  • infections
  • birthmarks
  • pigmentation disorders
  • skin cancer

Skin discoloration causes skin to look lighter (hypopigmented) or darker (hyperpigmented).

Hyperpigmentation is when the skin becomes highly pigmented and appears darker than usual. This results in dark spots.

Acne, eczema, wound healing, and sun exposure can all cause hyperpigmentation.

A form of hyperpigmentation called melasma typically occurs with hormonal changes. Pregnancy or some types of hormonal birth control could cause melasma.

Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation is common in dark skin and may develop after an injury or inflammatory response. The resulting dark spots and discoloration sometimes last for years.

With hypopigmentation, the skin loses its pigment and becomes lighter than usual. A person can be born with hypopigmentation or they can acquire it.

Like hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation may occur once a wound heals. It is also much more noticeable on black skin.

Vitiligo is a condition that causes melanin-producing cells to malfunction, leaving some patches of skin lighter than others.

Hypopigmentation from inflammation or infection usually resolves on its own. However, hypopigmentation from scarring is more difficult to alleviate and people respond differently to vitiligo treatment.

Learn more about vitiligo here.

Causes of discoloration on the face include:

  • vitiligo, which can affect any area of the body
  • postinflammatory hypopigmentation
  • acne
  • eczema
  • certain medications
  • sun damage
  • pityriasis rosea, a rash that can affect multiple parts of the body and cause severe itching
  • skin cancer

Discoloration of the hands can happen because of:

  • vitiligo
  • scratching and skin irritation due to eczema or other skin conditions
  • burn, cuts, scratches
  • sun damage
  • pityriasis rosea
  • skin cancer

Potential reasons for discoloration on the legs include:

  • vitiligo
  • scratching from chickenpox or eczema
  • scars or cuts due to shaving
  • insect bites
  • pityriasis rosea
  • sun exposure
  • skin cancer

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) say that skin-lightening creams can help reduce hyperpigmentation.

However, it is advisable to buy these from a reputable retailer. Some creams may contain toxic ingredients, including mercury. Creams that do not meet stringent manufacturing safety standards may cause rashes, make discoloration worse, and exert other harmful effects on the body.

Before trying any treatment or cream, a person should either contact a dermatologist directly or speak with their doctor. A doctor may treat the condition on their own, or they may refer an individual to a dermatology department.

A person should notice their skin getting better when they stop using products that cause skin irritation and discoloration. However, it can take up to a year for some dark spots to fade.

To alleviate skin discoloration and scarring people may want to use products that contain:

  • aloe vera
  • vitamin E
  • tea tree oil

Therapies that help alleviate skin discoloration include laser therapy and chemical peels.

However, a person may experience some side effects from these treatments. For example, laser therapy can help reduce dark spots but may produce hypopigmentation around the affected area. It can also worsen hyperpigmentation in some cases.

Learn more about laser therapy for scars here.

If a person notices a sudden patch of discoloration that does not go away, or gets worse, they should speak with a doctor. It is important to talk with a doctor about sudden skin discoloration as it could be a sign of skin cancer.

Similarly, if a person feels self-conscious about skin discoloration, they should talk with a dermatologist. They can suggest treatment options to reduce hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation. A person can find a dermatologist directly or seek a referral from their doctor.

In some cases, discoloration is unavoidable.

With acne, wounds, and sunburn, some strategies can help prevent discoloration. These include:

  • not picking at the skin
  • not popping pimples
  • wearing sunscreen daily
  • ensuring proper wound care

When a person has eczema, emollients and lotions may help provide relief from itching.

While most skin discoloration is nothing to worry about, in some cases it could be a symptom of skin cancer.

According to the AAD, people of color often receive skin cancer diagnoses when their cancer is at a later stage. Because of this, it is crucial that people of color do regular skin checks.

Addressing the underlying cause of the discoloration may help reduce any future instances of hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation. However, in some cases, hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation can be permanent, especially if it is present at birth.

If a person has concerns about discoloration on their skin, they should speak with a dermatologist. In many cases, medical treatments may produce better results than at-home remedies. A person can contact a dermatologist directly or receive a referral from their doctor.

Skin discoloration is often harmless and not usually cause for concern. However, a person should speak with their doctor if they notice sudden changes in skin color, or the discoloration is spreading or getting worse.