Uneven skin tone and dark spots are a common concern for many of us. It can be difficult to determine why they develop in the first place or how to treat them. Not to worry as we have the answers for you!
What are dark spots or hyperpigmentation?
Dark spots are patches of pigmentation to the skin that develops over time. There are three types of dark spots that come from different sources.
Solar Lentigo (Sunspots)
As the name suggests, solar lentigo is caused by UV exposure which triggers the excessive growth of sunspots, liver spots and age spots. You’ll find that clusters of the damaged cells begin to appear on the skin. This means the skin’s natural barrier has developed a hole allowing melanin to pour through and make the circular marks that are a few shades darker than your skin tone appears on the surface of the skin.
The more exposure they get to the sun, the darker than become and are constantly visible on the skin if left untreated.
You may have heard of the mask of pregnancy, also known as melasma, which appears during pregnancy or using birth control pills. The melanocyte cells are stimulated to work overtime and create the patches of melanin on the skin. Unlike solar lentigo which is neat, circular spots, melasma can become quite large and can cover more areas of the face. After the birth of the baby or if you decide to change contraception these dark spots fade away naturally over time.
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
We have all be guilty of picking and squeezing pimples and spots at least once in our lives. But what you may not know is after breaking and damaging the skin’s surface you are in fact sending a message to jump-start the melanin production. Pigmentation rushes to the surface and leaves behind a stubborn mark that can remain on the skin for years if left untreated.
How do I get rid of dark spots on my skin?
Here are a few simple steps to follow if you want to remove dark spots;
- Protect Your Skin
Using a daily SPF should be the most important part of your skincare routine. Make sure you slather your skin in sunscreen to stop dark spots from getting darker and prevent new ones from forming. Wearing sunglasses and sun hats is also a great way of protecting the skin from sun exposure.
- Skin Peels
This doesn’t necessarily need to be a professional chemical peel, although those are great treating dark spots. For a more purse-friendly option, there is a variety of over the counter products that will help fade dark spots in the comfort of your own home. Glycolic acid comes in many formulas from toners to serums and can slough away the outer layer of dead skin cells helping to reveal new skin cells and lifting away the pigmentation of dark spots.
- Load Up on Antioxidants
Antioxidants are dark spots worst enemy and are powerful enough to fight off any free radicals and environmental damage, such a pollution and UV rays. Vitamin C is a fantastic brightening agent and can help the skin to become smoother in texture and lighten area dark spots found on the skin without causing any imbalance to the skin’s natural melanin production.
- Get Laser Treatment
Q-switched YAG laser is a great treatment to have to remove solar lentigo. It is performed by a light wave being zapped onto the skin and absorbed by the dark spots without affecting any of the surrounding areas. A thin scab will form and flake away after a couple of days and you will find the spot has gone.
This treatment is not advised for the other forms of dark spots, such as PIH or melasma as they have proven to be unresponsive meaning inflammation and new pigmentation spots can occur.
These are the steps that have been proven to reduce the visible appearance of dark spots with the best results. However, everyone’s skin is different and if you are finding it hard to remove pigmentation than speaking to a dermatologist would be the next step.
How to manage your dark spots?
You now know how to remove dark spots, but there are some other ways of managing them too, either by making them less noticeably whilst you are treating them or preventing new ones from developing.
- Invest in a good skincare routine- try introducing an AHA, such as glycolic acid into your regime to keep the skin clean and exfoliated from any build-up of dead skin cells that can make pigmentation remain longer on the skin.
- Use corrective makeup- there are specially formulated concealers available that counteract the tone of areas, such as redness and dark spots. By using a bright apricot coloured concealer you neutralise the pigmentation of the spots thereby making them very easy to cover. Without using a colour correct concealer you will find that you can still see dark spots through your foundation.
- Keep your skin hydrated- keeping the skin hydrated by drinking enough water and using moisturisers containing hyaluronic acid twice daily will ensure the skin’s protective barrier is fully functioning and able to combat any damaging free radicals that can cause dark spots to become more prominent.
By maintaining the steps previously mentioned and following the advice you have just read you will find your skin’s tone will become more even, brighter and dark spots will become less visible to the naked eye.
Why won’t my dark spots fade or go away?
There are a few reasons why you may find your dark spots are not fading.
- You do not apply daily SPF of 30 and above.
- You have not identified the type of dark spot you have and therefore aren't using the best treatment for it.
- You have exposed your skin to UV rays by using sunbeds.
- The concentration of your AHA based serum isn't strong enough to penetrate the skin.
- You have continued to pick and squeeze any spots and pimples.
- You have not given your treatments enough time to work.
If the answer is not any of the ones mentioned and you still have concerns then try contacting your GP or dermatologist for more advice.
Do dark spots go away on their own?
Yes, dark spots over time can indeed go away on their own. The time scale is difficult to determine as it depends on the type of dark spot you have. PIH can take up to 6 months or more to fade on their own compared to estrogen fluctuations which can be a matter of weeks after the birth of a baby or change of pill. Sunspots differ as the time of year can affect how dark they can be due to more exposure to the sun during the warmer months.
How to remove dark spots naturally?
There are a lot of at-home recipes to try for removing dark spots naturally, here is one of our personal favourites for you to try;
At Home Face Mask for Dark Spots
1 tbs of full-fat Greek yoghurt
1 tbs of manuka honey
The juice of one lemon
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and slather over the face avoiding the eye area. Leave on the skin for 30 minutes to reveal a healthy glowing complexion. Use 3 times a week to reduce the appearance of dark spots over time.
The reason this at home face mask is successful at treating dark spots is due to the mixture of ingredients. The yoghurt contains the AHA lactic acid that is known for gently exfoliating the skin and evening out skin tone. Manuka honey is packed with the antioxidants and can help revive the skin and brighten the complexion. Finally, lemon has the ability to lighten dark spots which have been proven to be very effective and are a great natural alternative to treating them.
So, there you have some more information and skincare tips that can help you manage and prevent dark spots. Luckily, they are very easy to follow but the key is consistency, by following the steps you will find any pigmentation you have will fade in no time at all. If you are wanting to know a little more about dark spots then check out our blog on how to improve uneven skin tone for more information.