Dark spots are a form of skin hyperpigmentation where the skin’s natural pigment- melanin, is produced in irregularly large amounts in certain patches of the skin. Dark spots indicate skin damage that could be internal or due to environmental factors. They give the skin a darker, uneven texture making it look dull and unattractive. Getting rid of dark spots is one of the main challenges of obtaining young, radiant and healthy skin.
What causes dark spots?
Knowing the cause is always the first step to the solution. Melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin. Overproduction of melanin could be triggered by a number of factors, primarily the following:
UV radiation exposure triggers the melanocytes to overreact. This is why it’s common to see dark spots after summer.
With age, the size of melanocytes increases which means increased melanin production and therefore hyperpigmentation. Dark spots are often called ‘age spots’ as this condition is extremely prevalent in older people.
Certain hormones like progesterone and estrogen have the tendency to increase melanin production. This is why dark spots are often seen in pregnant women.
Acne, waxing, harsh scrubs and other skin products can also lead to dark spots. They trigger inflammatory responses in the skin which in turn cause increased melanin production.
How to get rid of dark spots
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to control melanin production and reverse skin damage. These include:
Topical, over-the-counter creams containing hydroquinone, vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) and licorice are the most common treatment for dark spots. They are easily accessible and affordable options. However, they have shown different levels of effectiveness and may also contain toxic ingredients like mercury and steroids which are harmful in the long term.
Retinoids or vitamin A derivatives are also effective in treating dark spots. These could be obtained with or without prescription in the form of creams commonly known as Retin-A (tretinoin).
Face acids such as alpha hydroxy acids, salicyclic acid, kojic acid, L-ascorbic acid and azelaic acid are other OTC and beauty store products that work against dark spots. Chemical peels use face acids to remove the epidermis or outer layer of the skin to get rid of dark spots. However, they come with the risk of skin irritation and inflammation and should be used with caution.
If you have deeper pockets, there are a number of clinical treatments that claim to work against dark spots. These include microdermabrasion, intense pulse light therapy, and laser. They usually involve complex equipment to remove layers of the skin and stimulate production of new skin cells.
Get rid of dark spots naturally
Nature has many solutions to treat any kind of skincare problems. If you’re one to trust natural and organic ingredients over chemicals and clinical treatment, here are some effective hyperpigmentation natural treatment options:
- Lemon juice
Rich in citric acid, lemon juice is a natural bleaching agent, especially in treating dark spots caused by photo damage and inflammation. Simply dilute 1tsp of lemon juice with 1tsp of water. Apply it on the skin, massage for 2 minutes and leave it on for 10 minutes before washing off. Do not expose the skin to sunlight right after as lemon juice increases skin sensitivity. Hence, it is best applied at night before sleeping.
Known for its amazing antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, turmeric works to reverse skin damage caused by oxidation and removes blemishes. It has been used as a promising natural whitening agent for generations in Indian households.
Simply mix 1tsp of turmeric in 2tbsp of gram flour and 1tbsp of yogurt to make a paste. Apply this as a mask on the face and leave it on for 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water.
You can also use turmeric with honey to whiten as well as moisturize the skin. Mix 1tsp of turmeric in 2tbsp manuka honey and apply the mix as a mask. Leave it on the skin for 20 minutes before washing off.
- Tomato paste
Rich in lycopene, tomato works against the effects of sun damage to reduce melanin production in melanocytes. Grind a tomato into a smooth pulp and apply it on the skin. Leave it on for 20 minutes and rinse with cool water.
- Green tea extract
Green tea is rich in antioxidants that neutralize free radicals that cause oxidation and skin damage in the form of dark spots. It also stimulates new skin cell production to replace the overactive melanocytes.
Steep a bag of green tea in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and place the bag on the skin for 10-15 minutes. Rub the bag gently on the dark spots.
- Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar hyperpigmentation treatment is another common home remedy to dark spots. Rich in citric acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid, it works as an excellent exfoliating and bleaching agent.
Dilute apple cider vinegar with equal parts of water and apply the solution on the skin with a cotton ball. Leave it on for 20 minutes and wash off.
- Aloe vera gel
Aloin, a compound in aloe vera gel, is a natural depigmenter that lightens the skin complexion by reducing melanin production. Also, rich in vitamin A and antioxidants, aloe vera gel reverses photo damage and restores skin health by moisturizing and nourishing it.
Simply cut up a fresh stalk of aloe plant and extract the gel from its cross section. Apply this on the skin, massage gently and leave it on overnight.
Buttermilk is rich not only in lactic acid, an effective whitening agent but also lipids that moisturize the skin. Apply buttermilk directly on the skin or mix with equal parts of honey to make an excellent mask to make your skin even toned.
- Natural oils
Natural oils contain fatty omega acids (like oleic and linoleic acids), vitamin A, B and E and antioxidants also help fade out dark spots. Some of them have shown to inhibit enzymes like tyrosinase that are responsible for melanin production.
Oils also cleanse the skin to get rid of dirt and dead cells to prevent acne and skin irritation are the root cause of dark spots. Tea tree, coconut, argan, perilla, grape seed, jojoba, sesame and sweet almond oils are some of the best natural oils for hyperpigmentation.
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