Translucent skin can be inherited, but can also be caused by other health conditions. It can cause self-consciousness and a lack of self-confidence.
However, to deal with transparent skin successfully, you need to confirm the reason behind it. In this article, we would explain how translucent skin looks, how it is formed, and the possible causes and treatment methods.
What is translucent skin?
Translucent skin is a skin condition associated with very pale and thin skin. Just like translucent paper, you can easily see through translucent skin.
Translucent skin is normal in some people because they are born with it. In others, it is caused by an underlying disease that reduced the thickness of the skin and also made it pale.
The difference between translucent and healthy skins is that light can easily pass through translucent skins. Therefore exposing underlying structures like veins, superficial arteries, and tendons.
These structures are more apparent in places where the skin is thin, like in the ribs, breasts, the surface of the feet, wrist, and shin.
What can cause translucent skin?
Generally, translucent skin is caused by a lack of melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives the hair and skin that gives it color. People have different proportions of melanin, and that’s why people have different skin and hair colors.
A good amount of melanin and a thick skin would prevent light from passing through the skin easily and make it transparent.
However, translucent skin has no melanin at all and it’s thin, meaning it is depigmented. This makes light pass through the skin easily.
Here are some possible causes of translucent skin;
As we age, the layers of our skin shrink, starting with the outermost layer. However, the number of layers does not reduce.
Also, the melanin cells in the skin start reducing to remain just a few. The few melanocytes remaining increase in size but do not produce enough melanin for the skin.
These factors make the skin of an aged person thin, pale and translucent.
Albinism is a genetic condition that causes little or no melanin production. Sometimes, it is inherited, and other times it is caused by genetic mutations.
With little or no melanin, albinos are prone to having translucent skin among other skin conditions.
In some, the transparency is very little that you can only see the veins, while in others, you can see both the veins and tendons.
Vitiligo is a medical condition that is associated with discoloration of the skin in small areas. Over time, these discolored areas get wider and almost the whole skin depigmented.
Vitiligo is caused by the death or malfunctioning of melanin cells in the skin. This can happen spontaneously to anybody but is most noticed among black people.
In these patches where there is no melanin, you can see the underlying veins, superficial arteries, and tendons if present.
Tinea versicolor, or pityriasis Versicolor, is a fungal skin infection. The fungus disrupts the pigmentation of the skin to create obvious patches on the skin.
These patches might have no pigmentation or darker pigmentation. In cases where the patches are depigmented, the skin would be translucent.
If a depigmented patch gets wider, the light would easily pass through the skin to expose the underlying skin structures easily.
Your skin and other connective tissues are formed by different combinations of proteins. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a name given to a group of inherited diseases that affects the proteins of connective tissues.
Some of these diseases might affect important proteins that determine the elasticity, thickness, and pigmentation of the skin. By affecting these factors, EDS can make the skin thin, pale, and depigmented.
Patients with EDS that have translucent skin can see the superficial vessels on their thorax, shoulders, and sometimes, their abdomen.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that comes in different forms. It can start as a mole, a scar, a strip of color under the nail, or a discolored spot on the skin.
This spot might have little or no pigment. Also, the spot can spread across other areas, making the translucent skin more apparent.
In this case, melanoma could be easily mistaken for other skin conditions, but other symptoms like long-lasting sores and an itchy growth would confirm a melanoma.
Anemia is a health condition associated with the poor production of red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen to different parts of the body including the skin.
If the skin does not get quality red blood cells, like in anemia, the skin would be pale and translucent in areas where it is thin. These areas are the wrists, above the feet, ribs, etc.
Metal poisoning is caused by over-exposure to heavy metals. Heavy metals see all around us in the air, on the ground, in our water, and even in some products, we use daily.
Some heavy metals include zinc, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, and iron. Over-exposure to these heavy metals could lead to the destruction of the collagen fibers and melanin-producing cells of the skin. This could lead to hair and skin discoloration, especially zinc poisoning.
How to treat translucent skin
To treat translucent skin, you have to find the cause of the transparency. However, not all conditions that cause transparent skin can be treated.
Some, like Albinism and old age, are natural causes and cannot be treated, but others like tinea versicolor can be treated.
Although some can’t be treated, they can be managed using any of these sun-protective steps:
- Protect your sun from ultraviolet rays by covering yourself when you are outdoors.
- Apply sunscreens on other areas that are likely to be affected by sunlight but you can’t cover.
- Prevent long sun exposure even in water by wearing a shirt while swimming.
- Use hats to protect the skin of your head and face.
Can tanning be used to treat translucent skin?
Tanning can increase the melanin in your skin but should be used to treat translucent skin. Tanning transparent skin can cause more damage than good.
It is best to treat the underlying cause if possible or practice the sun-protective measures listed above.
Most times, translucent skin is inherited, but it can be gotten from other health conditions like anemia, metal poisoning, etc.
If you noticed some transparency on some parts of your skin suddenly, it is best to get it checked by a medical doctor. There are many possible reasons for sudden translucent skin.
Transparent skin could be an emergency if it occurs suddenly with other symptoms like shortness of breath. You should visit a doctor.
Always check for treatment methods with a medical doctor and don’t turn to self-treatment methods like tanning. It would yield worse results.