Ask The Expert
October 26, 2012
Skin color is determined by melanin, which is produced by skin cells called melanocytes. When these cells are exposed to the sun, they produce more melanin. This results in a tan.
Melanin helps protect the skin from UV rays that can damage it. Loss of melanocytes or defective melanin production results in light patches on skin. If you’re dark-skinned, the contrast of normal skin and the light patches may be very noticeable. If you’re light-skinned, the light patches are less noticeable unless you get a tan.
You may lose melanin for many reasons and in different degrees.
It is important for your doctor to evaluate these white patches. He or she can determine the cause of loss of color and see if treatment is available. It is very important to protect such areas from the sun. They are more likely to burn.