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hello mr. hen, this picture is quite vital, I assure you.

When it comes to superstars of his level, there always seem to be controversies, conspiracies, or some other mystery, and just one of the many surrounding Michael Jackson is that he for some reason intentionally had his skin color altered.

Regardless of the cause, there is no denying he exhibits a dramatic difference in pigmentation between the time he shot the 'Thriller" video and the "Black or White" video. And ever since I was young, everyone seems to have had their opinion as to why this happened.

I've heard the same old rumors (as I'm sure many others have) since the early 1990's, some insisting Jackson had his skin somehow lightened, either chemically or medically. Others explain that he had a skin condition known as vitiligo, which turns skin lighter through depigmentation. People counter that argument by saying there has never been a documented case of vitiligo causing depigmentation as widespread as Jackson's. I've yet to see either argument backed by compelling data, and to the best of my knowledge, this debate continues informally to this day, along with whether or not Elvis is still alive and whether or not Paul McCartney is an impostor.

There are of course countless internet debates such as this where people voice one opinion or the other, although I notice a startling lack of any real evidence to back up these claims.

Personally, I cannot say I find the argument of either side terribly compelling, and have yet to come across an explanation I would be willing to accept as both correct and complete.

So, where does the science come down on this one?

Is there any scientific evidence that Michael Jackson intentionally lightened his skin?

Could his extensive (some would say unprecedented) depigmentation be explained by vitiligo?

Is it even scientifically possible to lighten skin that dramatically through either chemical or medical procedures?

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Maybe he just stopped going out in the sun. I've seen white people get pretty dark when they spend entire days in the sun, as well as brown people become almost completely black. There's also a lot of people who have very pale skin from lack of sunlight. Could his change in pigment have to do with just spending a lot of time indoors. He seemed to be in hiding a lot. –  Kibbee Jun 9 '11 at 1:55
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@Kibbee, from my understanding, the reason you become darker when you go into the sun is because your body naturally cannot cope with the intense light. So your body produces more melanin which is a naturally occurring dark pigment. I do not think the converse is true. i.e. less light does not mean lightening of skin. –  picakhu Jun 9 '11 at 2:02
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No, but let's just assume the opposite. That's MJs natural skin color (without sunlight) is close to what his skin color was in the "Black or White" video. Maybe when he was younger, he got a lot more sunlight, causing his skin to be darker. –  Kibbee Jun 9 '11 at 2:11
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It can't be vitiligo. It doesn't appear by your skin slowly getting paler, it appears by you getting splotches that go completely pink. You can have it so widespread that it's almost all over the whole body, though. But Vitiligo it ain't. –  Lennart Regebro Jun 9 '11 at 8:27

2 Answers 2

First off, it's pretty well documented that Michael Jackson suffered from some form of vitiligo, which is a skin disorder that causes uneven depigmentation of the skin. This results in having a blotchy, uneven skin tone, or what is sometimes described as a "harlequin" appearance.

I found that this website had the most thorough explanation of his particular struggle with vitilgo.

Vitiligo Photos (and Lupus) Michael Jackson

From the article:

Two candid pictures from the Triumph tour where Michael’s very heavy stage make-up is be running. (Read more about stage make up in reference to this discussion here). People made fun of him in the 1980s because of all the make up he wore (i.e. made him look feminine) but there was a reason as to why he used it.

Whatever else you may say about the King of Pop regarding surgery, possible misdeeds, or how he handled his condition, it's pretty evident that he HAD a condition. Whether or not he later chose to bleach his skin in order to give himself a more even complexion, I cannot say. Most times you see him, he is wearing extensive makeup anyways.

As far as whether or not skin bleaching is even possible, the answer is "Yes".

Skin Whitening

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Presumably, lupus would also explain why he changed from human to wolf in one of his videos! –  Andrew Grimm Jan 2 '13 at 1:29

I'm guessing this doesn't count as evidence by a long shot, but on this website there are some interesting photos of Michael Jackson (though some of them don't show his face, so no proof that it is really him).

For All Those Who Thought Michael Bleached His Skin

However, the really interesting photo is the example of a completely different girl going from 'black' to 'white'. Once again, no proof that it's the same person in each photo...

enter image description here

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