Leukoderma is a skin condition characterized by a loss of skin pigmentation. Leukoderma has many possible causes, including exposure to chemicals. Here are three things you need to know about chemical leukoderma.

What causes chemical leukoderma?

Chemical leukoderma occurs when your skin is exposed to a chemical that destroys the melanocytes within your skin. Your melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin, which is the pigment that gives your skin its color. When these melanocytes are destroyed, the affected area of your skin no longer has any melanin production, and it turns white.

Many chemicals can have this effect on your skin, but phenols and catechols are often responsible. Phenols are used in cosmetics and hair colorings, while catechols are used in pesticides, perfumes, and medications.

What are the signs of chemical leukoderma?

If you have chemical leukoderma, you'll notice hypopigmented (pale) macules on your skin. Macules are flat areas of discolored skin. Numerous macules are generally present.

This hypopigmentation occurs on areas of your skin that were in contact with the offending chemicals. The face is the most commonly affected area, especially the eyelids. This is because the skin on your face is thinner than the skin in other parts of your body, which allows chemicals to penetrate it more easily.

The hands and feet are also commonly affected. While your hands and feet have thick skin, they're commonly affected because they have a high rate of exposure to chemicals.

Can chemical leukoderma be treated?

In some cases, the white macules will undergo repigmentation if the offending chemical is avoided. Because of this possibility, your dermatologist may recommend delaying treatment to see if the condition will go away by itself.

If your macules don't darken on their own, treatment will be required. Medicated creams, like topical immunosuppressants, can be used for this purpose. If creams don't get the results you want, narrowband UVB phototherapy can be used.

Narrowband UVB phototherapy uses ultraviolet light to treat your hypopigmented patches. This treatment is also used to treat other causes of white patches on the skin, like vitiligo. For this treatment, you'll stand in an upright ultraviolet cabinet to receive this treatment. Your skin will be exposed to ultraviolet light for just long enough to turn it slightly pink, which may only take seconds. Between two and five sessions a week are required to see results.

If you think you have chemical leukoderma, contact Dermatology Associates or a similar organization.