What are Dark Spots?
Dark Spots refers to patches of skin, often in an oval shape, that become darker than the surrounding areas of skin. This is created by higher amounts of melanin (the natural pigment which dictates the skin color) found in these spots. This is also known as hyperpigmentation, age spots, solar lentigines, or liver spots, depending on their cause. It can happen at any age, however it is most common for dark spots to appear in the middle age. Dark spots are frequently attributed to sun exposure over an extended period of time or artificial UV light used in tanning beds.
How to identify dark spots
Dark spots can present in a range of appearances. They appear as light or dark brown or black in color, are flat, and generally oval-shape. Dark spots can develop anywhere on the skin, however they are most likely to form on parts of the body that receive the most sun exposure. When checking for dark spots, pay attention to the following body parts:
- Back of the hands
What Causes Dark Spots
Overproduction of Melanin
Melanin is the skin’s natural pigmentation agent. The amount of melanin dictates the shade of the skin. The more melanin present, the darker the skin is. Sun exposure, among other causes, encourages a greater production of melanin which gives the skin a darker appearance.
Exposure to the sun is difficult to avoid, however it is possible to protect the skin with sunscreen, hats and more. Consistent exposure to the sun over the years, with sun burns, unsafe tanning and more causes an increase in melanin. UV rays encourage melanin production. Damage from the sun can sometimes create dark spots that do not fade with time, and this is what creates sunspots.
Dark spots caused by hormonal changes are called melasma, which is triggered by an excess in estrogen and progesterone. Melasma commonly occurs in pregnant women as this creates a drastic change in hormone levels. Additionally taking hormonal supplements can also cause an imbalance leading to hyperpigmentation. Endocrine diseases, like Addison’s disease can also lead to the appearance of hyperpigmentation, often in areas where the skin is exposed to a lot of sun, or pressure.
Inflammation and Skin Trauma
Inflammation of the skin, pimples, wounds and more on the skin leave a lasting impact even after they have healed. This presents itself in the form of a dark spot.
Dark spots created by diabetes are called acanthosis nigricans. An excess of insulin causes skin cells to reproduce at a rapid rate. Sometimes these new cells have more melanin than the surrounding skin cells. This creates the appearance of darker spots on the skin and it can be an indicator of pre-diabetes.
Free radicals are formed by a chemical phenomena. Exposure to air pollution, sunlight (UV radiation), smoking, alcohol, pesticides and poor nutrition causes the creation of free radicals. This is when an atom is missing an electron, making the atom unstable, so it tries to steal electrons from neighboring atoms. This process creates oxidative stress and damages the skin. The best way to describe the process is by thing of an apple or avocado that is left open in the air. With time it begins to brown, due to the process of oxidation. With an apple or avocado, we use lemon juice to prevent oxidation. For skin we use antioxidant rich foods and skin care products to prevent and repair damage from free radicals. Scientifically anti-oxidants have many additional electrons which can safely be taken by free radicals to stabilize the atom, strong the degenerative process.
These treatments are stressful on the body’s system and some of the side effects are connected to the skin. Dry skin, red spots, itchiness accompany dark spots in the list of skin side effects caused by chemotherapy.
Dark spots vs. acne scars
Treating dark spots from acne is different than treating acne scars.
Scars are difficult to fully remove, and while they may fade over time, they usually remain visible.
Dark spots from acne, on the other hand, tend to become lighter over time, and eventually go away completely. It can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years for them to vanish from view.
For the most part, dark spots are not dangerous to your health, however many choose to treat them for cosmetic purposes. Dark spots can be diminished or removed completely with prescription drugs, medical procedures, and at-home treatments. Before beginning any intensive treatments it is recommended to first consult your dermatologist.
Home Treatments and Remedies
Many times home treatments, skin care products natural remedies can make a big impact on dark spots and can help create an even skin tone.
Vitamin C is rich in antioxidants, which helps fight an uneven skin tone and rejuvenates the skin. Skan care products, specifically serums, can be a great way to deliver vitamin C to your skin. Additionally including vitamin C rich foods in your diet is beneficial for your skin as well as your overall health.
Aloe Vera can be used either in its natural form or in a store bought gel. It is commonly recommended for many skin conditions, so you cannot go wrong with this! The chemical Aloesin which is found in the Aloe Vera plant is proven to help lighten the skin and provide a more even skin tone.
Grape Seed Extract
Regular use of grape seed oil can improve the appearance of dark spots due to the antioxidant properties contained in the formula.
Sunscreen is more of a preventative measure than a treatment for dark spots, however this is integral to protect the skin and prevent further dark spots from forming. Protecting your skin from UVA and UVB rays is one of the best ways to prevent dark spots.
Exfoliating skin care products are recommended to encourage skin rejuvenation while gently ridding the skin of old skin cells. This process can help lighten the appearance of dark spots on the skin.
This refers to creams or serums that specifically target affected areas. This can either be prescribed by a doctor or be found in the skin care department of your local store or pharmacy. Look out for any of the above mentioned ingredients as a guide to choose the correct skin care product for you.