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The colour of skin and hair is mainly due to the amount of brown melanin pigment mixed with blue (from reduced haemoglobin), red (from oxyhaemoglobin) and yellow (from carotenoids in the diet). The amount of melanin is determined by constitutional colour (white, brown or black skin) and skin phototype.
Increase in melanin (hyperpigmentation, hypermelanosis) can be due to an increased number of pigment cells (melanocytes) or from increased production of melanin.
Reduction in melanin results in pale patches (hypopigmentation, hypomelanosis). White skin or white patches (depigmentation, leukoderma) are due to an absence of melanocytes or loss of melanin in the epidermis. See DermNet's article on pigmentation disorders for more details.
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