Causes of Skin Discoloration on the Face

Skin discoloration can be an embarrassing cosmetic concern, especially if it occurs on your face. Though you can cover up skin discoloration on other parts of your body, that's not possible. There are many things that can cause skin discoloration on the face, most of which are minor. However, if the discoloration is causing you concern or undue mental angst, you should definitely visit a dermatologist to have it checked out.

There are many conditions that can mar a clear face and leave the skin discolored.


Melasma is a skin condition that causes brown patches, most often on the face. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melasma is much more common in women--90 percent of the cases occur in women--and it often occurs during pregnancy. People with darker skin types are also more prone to getting melasma. Though the cause is unknown, people with a family history of melasma are more likely to get it. Melasma sometimes clears up on its own, but there are a range of treatment options, including chemical peels, microdermabrasion and creams containing hydroquinone.


Rosacea is a skin disease that causes a red, acne-like rash on the face. The redness appears mainly on the forehead, cheeks, chin and nose and may be accompanied by bumps or pimples or visible blood vessels. The National Rosacea Society estimates that more than 16 million Americans have the disease. While the cause of rosacea is unknown, and there is no cure as of 2010, there are treatments that can lessen your symptoms.


Acne is a skin disease caused by overproduction of oil, or sebum, which combines with dead skin and bacteria to clog pores and cause lesions. Acne is most common on your face but may also occur on the chest, shoulders and back. Acne lesions can cause redness and scarring and chronic acne can lead to changes in the skin's color, according to the National Institutes of Health. Treatment of acne includes both over-the-counter and prescription skin creams. Dermatologists may use chemical peels and dermabrasion to clear up scarring and skin discoloration caused by acne.

Sun Damage

Sun damage is a major cause of facial skin discoloration, especially in older people. Long-term sun exposure leads to pigmentary changes that can lead to brown freckles and white marks, according to the New Zealand Dermatological Society. Sun exposure can also lead to seborrhoeic keratoses, which are brown, wart-like precancerous lesions; and can also cause skin cancer.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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