Translucent skin

Some people are born with naturally translucent or porcelain skin. This means that the skin is very pale or see-through. You may be able to see blue or purple veins through the skin.

In others, translucent skin can be caused by a disease or other condition that causes the skin to be thin or very pale in color. In these cases, the skin may require treatment to help regain color or thickness.

Translucent skin is defined as an increased ability of the skin to pass light through it and allow typically hidden features such as veins or tendons to be more visible through the skin.

Translucent skin can appear over the entire body, but can be more noticeable in areas where veins are closer to the skin such as:

  • hands
  • wrists
  • top of feet
  • breasts
  • ribs
  • shins

Translucent skin can usually be attributed to a lack of melanin in the skin.

Skin that has lost melanin — the pigment that gives color to human skin, hair, and eyes — is usually called hypopigmented skin. If no pigment is present, the skin is diagnosed as depigmented.

Common causes of hypopigmentation are:

Many cases of translucent skin simply occur due to genetics. If your father or mother have visibly pale or translucent skin, you most likely inherited it from them.

Other causes of your skin — or parts of your skin — to be discolored or more translucent include:

Thin skin may appear to be more translucent. Skin is naturally thinner on areas such as the eyelids, hands, and wrists. Thinning skin in other places may be caused by:

  • aging
  • sunlight
  • alcohol or smoking
  • medication (such as those used in eczema treatment)

In some cases, you can treat translucent skin. If you have a condition such as tinea versicolor, there are treatments in the form of antifungal medication that can be used to combat patchy skin and hypopigmentation.

Will tanning help?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recommend tanning.

The UV rays from the sun or a tanning booth or bed can increase melanin in your skin causing your skin to appear darker, but this is actually a sign of damage.

Instead, you should regularly practice skin protection to prevent further damage from the sun.

  • Cover your skin when outdoors.
  • Use sunscreen according to directions.
  • Wear a shirt while swimming or during long-term sun exposure on the water.
  • Wear a hat to guard your face and head.
  • Avoid the sun when possible.

If you are self-conscious or embarrassed about your translucent skin, you can use a self-tanner or consult with a dermatologist about using cosmetics or skin dyes to create the appearance of tanned skin.

If your translucent skin has just made an appearance and has not been previously evaluated, you should contact a doctor to be fully diagnosed and put on a treatment plan if necessary. Tests may include:

Translucent skin is typically genetic, but may be caused by albinism, vitiligo, tinea versicolor, or other conditions.

If your skin changes rapidly or you are experiencing shortness of breath or other symptoms along with abnormally translucent skin, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible.