What Causes Blotchy Skin on Your Face? 5 Common Culprits

What Causes Blotchy Skin on Your Face?

Common Culprits Behind a Cloudy Complexion

“Blotchy skin” is a descriptive term, not a diagnosis. We say skin is blotchy when the color or tone is inconsistent. Some people develop red spots or rashes, while others notice white patches. Regardless, blotchy skin on your face can look damaged or unhealthy.

We’ll discuss some common causes of blotchy skin: sun damage, eczema, dry skin, infections, and vitiligo. It’s important that you visit your dermatologist if symptoms persist, since only a professional can provide a medical diagnosis.

Sun Damage & Dark Spots

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably learned about sun safety the hard way. Painful burns and peeling skin can wreck a vacation, but dark spots and skin discoloration can last for months. These blemishes are often caused by overexposure to the sun’s rays.

When UV rays hit your skin, they cause your body to produce more melanin as a protective response. Melanin is the dark pigment responsible for skin color, and it can also partially shield you from solar radiation – though it’s no substitute for sunscreen.

Melanin sometimes congregates in dark ovals – known as sun spots or age spots – and gives your skin a blotchy appearance. While not dangerous, you may want to get rid of sun spots for cosmetic reasons. This is usually accomplished through bleaching or exfoliating skin to fade or remove the extra pigment.

Preventing future sun spots is just as important as treating the ones you have. Wearing a strong broad-spectrum sunscreen can protect skin from UV rays that cause damage and discoloration.


If your blotchy skin is accompanied by itching, bumps, and other irritation, you may be suffering from eczema. Also known as atopic dermatitis, the condition can lie dormant, then flare-up unexpectedly.

No one is quite sure what causes eczema, and there’s no known cure. The severity of breakouts varies from person to person, but eczema can be managed. Some people find that an over-the-counter moisturizer helps control the symptoms. For more severe cases, there are several treatment options your dermatologist may recommend.

Prescription moisturizers often deliver hydration more effectively than their OTC counterparts, and hydrocortisone creams can reduce irritation. Your doctor may also choose to prescribe an oral medication to help your body combat the symptoms from within.

Dry Skin

It’s possible that your blotchy skin is caused by nothing more exotic than a lack of moisture. Dry skin can appear red, rough, and flaky. It’s hard to overstate the importance of skin hydration for its overall health.

Moisturized skin contains oils that seal-in water and allow tissue to easily stretch and fold without damage. If skin is dehydrated, it’s more likely to show signs of distress, like redness.

Luckily, dry skin is usually easy to treat. Store-bought moisturizers can relieve cracking, painful skin. You might also try switching to a mild soap, as some cleansing ingredients can irritate skin. If neither of these approaches works, consult your dermatologist for expert advice.

Skin Infection

One of skin’s most important functions is protecting our body from damage, including infection. While healthy skin is very good at healing itself and holding off pathogens, it can become infected.

Tinea versicolor presents itself as patches of discoloration – usually white, red, pink or brown. These blotches are caused by the overproduction of a yeast that’s found on everyone’s skin. As the yeast thrives, it produces an acid that discolors skin.

Are you grossed out yet? There’s good news: this fungal infection is easily treated with creams or medication. Skin usually regains its natural color once the infection clears up, though the change can take months.


Vitiligo is a fairly common skin condition where pale, blotchy patches begin appearing. These discolorations can show up anywhere on the body. Sometimes the changes are limited to a small area of skin, but vitiligo can spread.

While doctors aren’t sure what causes vitiligo, there are treatments available to manage the symptoms. These include light therapy and skin bleaching. Some people find that a good foundation is enough to cover up blotchy patches of skin.

Blotchy skin is inconvenient, unsightly, and sometimes painful. If you’re concerned with the appearance of your skin, make an appointment to speak with your doctor or dermatologist.