WHAT ARE DEPIGMENTING AGENTS AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
The color of your skin, hair, and eyes depends on the amount of melanin (a natural skin pigment) present in your body, which is produced by special skin cells “melanocytes”. Each of us has the same number of melanocytes; however, the amounts of melanin produced by the cells differ. If the cells produce less melanin, the color of the skin is light, and if they produce more melanin, the color of the skin is dark. The amount of melanin produced in your body depends on your genes.
Depigmenting agents affect melanogenesis (production of melanin) by inhibiting tyrosinase synthesis. Tyrosinase, an enzyme produced only by the melanocyte cells, is responsible for the first step in melanin production. It converts a protein building block (amino acid) called tyrosine to dopaquinone, and a series of other chemical reactions convert dopaquinone to melanin in the body.
Depigmenting agents are available in the form of creams and gels. Depigmentation is usually achieved after one to four months; however, it may take up to 12 months for complete depigmentation of a particular site. The use of a sunscreen during the day makes the depigmenting agents more effective.
HOW ARE DEPIGMENTING AGENTS USED?
Depigmenting agents are used for the following:
- Vitiligo (a disease that causes loss of skin color in patches; the discolored areas usually get bigger with time)
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (marks after chemical peels, laser treatments, or even after a bout of acne)
- Freckles (flat small tan or light brown spots on sun-exposed skin)
WHAT ARE SIDE EFFECTS OF DEPIGMENTING AGENTS?
Avoid applying the cream to the eyelids or mucosal surfaces.
Common side effects include:
- Erythema (redness of the skin, either in a limited area or all over)
- Localized contact dermatitis (blistering, scaling, dry skin, and swelling of treated sites)
- Loss of color (leukoderma) at sites away from the area of application of the cream
Other rare side effects include:
- Exogenous ochronosis (asymptomatic blue-black pigmentation of the skin)
- Fingernail staining
- Hypersensitivity reaction
The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.
WHAT ARE DRUG NAMES OF DEPIGMENTING AGENTS?
Drug names include:
Skin Problems and Treatments Resources