Whether you suffer from sun or age related dark spots, melasma or discolorations from acne scars, we all want to get rid of them. Everyone wants an even complexion particularly on our face, regardless of skin type or tone. Uneven pigmentation can be difficult to cover even with make-up.
Dark spots won't magically disappear on their own. You are likely to get more over time, so ignoring them is not wise. No worries, we can treat them and even help prevent more from developing.
What causes dark spots on face?
Dark spots (liver spots, age spots, sun spots) are caused by an overproduction of melanin in your skin. This hyperpigmentation is triggered by damage from sun exposure or hormones (melasma) and become more common as we age. Inconveniently, spots on the face and hands are most common, since they are always exposed to UV rays.
Skin discoloration can also be caused by post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, as in acne scarring. The scars have darker skin tones. This hyperpigmentation can be particularly stubborn to fade.
Get Rid of Dark Spots
There are a wide variety of treatment options available to remove or lighten dark spots. Many are done in a dermatologist's office, but you can also learn how to get rid of dark spots on face or hands at home.
Let's discuss the options and you can decide what ingredients, products or treatments are best for you!
Assuming you get regular skin cancer screenings by a dermatologist and are in the clear, many dark spot issues may be resolvable at home.
Products to Use on Dark Spots
Skin lightening products, even some DIY natural home skin brightening treatments, can fade dark spots. The gentle fading will help even out skin tone. Results will be slower and more subtle than the treatments you can get through your dermatologist, but they do help alleviate uneven skin tone.
Most most reduce the appearance of dark areas by exfoliation which triggers fresh collagen production. Some also have a mild bleaching effect.
Look for these ingredients and products with them when shopping for treatment of uneven pigment.
Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that is made from sugar cane. It creates a gentle skin peel effect, that exfoliates dead skin cells. Using this acid smooths skin and helps remove the spots.
This dark spot corrector is a by-product of the fermentation process of making Sake. It is a powerful antioxidant, and reduces melanin pigmentation by inhibiting the production of free tyrosinase. Kojic acid has been found to be even more effective than glycolic for many people. [study]
Retinol is widely used in skin care products, particularly those for acne scar issues. Like kojic acid retinols aid in inhibiting tyrosinase activity, which reduces skin pigment in the area of application. A sunscreen must be used with retinol to avoid skin damage.
Beta hydroxy acids (BHA) ingredients, such as salicylic acid and tropic acid are becoming more common ingredients in dark spot treatments in recent years. Like retinol, sunscreen should be included in these products. [ref.]
Azelaic acid is often teamed with Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), and/or retinol in skin brightener products.
Hydroquinone creams other topical products are typical first choices of action by dermatologists treating various pigment spots. While stronger creams are available with prescription, milder formulations with hydroquinone can be purchased over the counter. [ref.]
Hyaluronic acid injected into hyperpigmentation as a dark spot treatment. It has been shown to work on stubborn spots. [study]
The ingredient can also be applied topically and hyaluronic acid serum is easy to make and use at home. It improves overall skin texture and elasticity too. It works particularly well teamed with glycolic acid to create a gentle dark spot correcting serum.
Vitamin C serum (ascorbic acid) is also a popular choice for brightening and one home users will feel comfortable with due to their familiarity with the common vitamin.
Lactic acid is another ingredient most of us are very familiar with since it is found in milk. It can help exfoliate and lighten complexion. The acid is found in a wide array of beauty products.
Home Remedies for Dark Spots
You may be able to fade your spots without store bought skin lightening products. Give these natural DIY skin brightening hacks a try and see if they help fade discoloration.
The citric acid and vitamin C in lemon juice make it an excellent skin bleaching agent. Apply juice to the spots with a cotton ball and leave on for at least 10 minutes. For those with sensitive skin dilute the lemon with water or aloe vera gel or juice.
The same enzymes in pineapple that help tenderize meat and leave your lips tingly if you eat too much of it will break down dead skin cells AND eat away at dark spots. The ascorbic acid (vitamin C) found in pineapple will help fade the hyperpigmentation too.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another kitchen item known for it's mild skin bleaching properties. To use dab on diluted (1 to 1 ratio with water) vinegar with a cotton swab and leave on until it dries, then rinse with warm water. Make sure skin condition is good before applying, as it can be irritating.
Make sure to protect your skin by using an SPF 30 or more sunscreen daily. Not only does the sun bring on age spots, it can also darken existing ones.
If hyperpigmentation is pronounced or near your eyes, seek help from a board certified dermatologist. Of course, you will get best results from professional skin care, rather than DIY solutions. Home treatments can only do so much.
Laser treatment is very effective on age spots, but may not be as much so on other types of dark spots. Your doctor will let you know if your dark spots are good candidates for this procedure. Laser skin lightening is quick method of treatment compared to most. There is some healing time involved, it takes up to two weeks for the spot to flake off. [ ref.]
Chemical peels are another treatment your skin specialist may suggest. These are considerably stronger than the peels people buy for home use. They range from light to deep peels and may even involve some downtime for the most aggressive ones. The benefits are the chemical peel will make dark spots much less noticeable and reduce fine lines and wrinkles as well. [ref.]
The process of microdermabrasion exfoliates the top layer of skin off with a tool. This works as a dark spot corrector by sloughing off some of the dark skin and encouraging skin cell turnover. The new skin often comes in with typical levels of melanin pigment, brightening the skin and creating a more even skin tone.
Another dermatological procedure for removing dark spots is cryotherapy. This method freezes of the area with extra pigment. Liquid nitrogen is swabbed or sprayed onto the surface of the spots. The area heals lighter after the treatment. There is some danger of scarring. Your dermatologist may do a test spot first to see how well you heal from it.
Preventing Dark Spots
Avoiding further sun damage by using appropriate sun protection is essential. After all the best way to treat the appearance of dark spots, is not just fading the ones you have, but to prevent new ones. Let's stop the cause of the discoloration.
To prevent damage from the sun, apply a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen whenever you will have sun exposure. Ones with zinc oxide are quite effective.
Use essential oils for acne and other treatments to limit scarring.