Light spots on black skin can have many reasons. But usually the spots are a disease known as vitiligo. This is a condition in which the melanin breaks down or is damaged. Melanin is the pigment responsible for hair color, eye color and skin color. The more melanin a person has, the darker the skin tone or eye color. People of all ethnicities suffer from vitiligo. But light spots on black skin are more noticeable due to the contrast. Vitiligo affects everyone differently which is why there are a wide range of treatments.
According to the article “Vitiligo” on the Mayo Clinic website, vitiligo is “pigment loss that produces milky-white patches (depigmentation) on your skin." Other less common signs are premature graying or whitening of the hair, eyebrows and eyelashes.
The Mayo Clinic reports that vitiligo occurs when the melanin in the skin “is destroyed or not produced.” At this time, researchers and doctors do not know why or how the melanin is damaged.
Scientists have a few theories as to what causes vitiligo but none have been proven. Some researchers think vitiligo is caused by an immune system disorder. There is also some evidence that emotional stress or even a bad sunburn may have brought about the condition. Because vitiligo seems to run in some families, genetics may also contribute to the disorder.
There a few medical treatments for vitiligo. Not all work for everyone. In most cases a person has to try a few methods to find the best treatment or combination of treatments to treat the disease. Treatments include prescription topical ointments that contain corticosteroids or immunomodulators (tacrolimus or pimecrolimus) or psoralen. With some treatments, psoralen is combined with phototherapy or light therapy. The Mayo Clinic states that improvements are usually seen in six to 18 months.
For people who have slow-spreading vitiligo, some doctors recommend the herb ginkgo. The Mayo Clinic suggests taking 40 mg capsules three times each day to prevent further growth of light spots. Wearing sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB rays is also important for treating vitiligo. There are also many types of concealing makeup that cover up the light spots to give a more even skin tone.