From liver spots to freckles to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, the uneven complexion is one of the most notorious skin problems that most people have to endure. A 2013 review article mentions that pigmentary disorders are the third most common dermatologic disorder and can cause significant psychosocial impairment.
Brown patches, hyperpigmentation, dark spots, sun spots—whichever name you would like to call it, occur when your skin produces excess melanin. Melanin is the substance that gives our skin, hair, and eye color. Thus, dark spots occur more often amongst people of color. When excess melanin is secreted in a certain area, it creates patches that are darker than the surrounding skin.
While hyperpigmentation is mainly harmless and can develop naturally due to the aging process, it can also be an indication of an underlying medical condition.
Keep reading to learn more about how dark spots can come about and the best ways to treat and prevent them.
What Causes Dark Spots On Face?
Different causes and symptoms depend on the types of hyperpigmentation. The most common ones are:
Despite having many positive effects such as being a source of vitamin D and a mood enhancer, it is not all just sunshine. is known to induce melanin production as well as stimulate free radical generation in the skin.
The suggests that UVA rays can penetrate the deeper layer of the skin and thus causing indirect yet profound damage to the skin such as loss of firmness and wrinkles. On the other hand, UVB rays cause a more instantaneous effect like sunburns. Both of these UV light radiations can cause patches that are darker in comparison to our natural skin color called sun spots or age spots. Consequently, sun spots will appear mostly on the sun-exposed areas of the body like the face, hands, and arms.
Dark spots caused by inflammation are usually called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), and it can happen to all skin types, but especially and more frequently arise in people with medium-to-darker skin tones.
When your skin is undergoing a recuperation process from a wound or irritation—a rash, a scratch or scrape, and even acne--the skin will over-compromise by overproducing melanin, thus causing darkened areas on your skin where the inflammation took place.
PIH coloration also manifests differently based on where the excess pigment is distributed within the layer of the skin. When it develops in the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin), it will appear brown, tan, or dark brown and might take months to years to heal on its own. Meanwhile, those within the dermis (inner layer of the skin) will have blue-gray color and could be permanent if left untreated.
Unfortunately, the battle doesn't stop with external factors. The internal constituent—our hormones—also play a critical role in determining how our skin looks. Hormonal hyperpigmentation is usually known as melasma or chloasma.
While it can affect both men and women, melasma is particularly common in pregnant women (which is often called "the mask of pregnancy"), taking an oral contraceptive or undergoing hormonal therapy. The result of melasma is dark brown patches on the forehead, cheeks, temples, upper lips, or nose that are roughly symmetrical. Although the exact cause stays an enigma, sun exposure is known to induce melasma, if not exacerbate its appearance.
What You Can Do?
Prevention is better than cure. Dark spots develop as a result of excess melanin; sunscreen is your best friend in minimizing the likelihood of this overproduction. “Your first line of defense is always going to be sunscreen. Everyone should wear at least SPF 30 on their face daily and reapply every two hours if outside in the sun, or sitting next to a window" asserts Dr. Corey Hartman of Skin Wellness Dermatology to Vogue.
While you may be excited to hit the beach once summer commences, keep in mind that the bronze tan skin you have been dreaming of throughout winter is your skin's way of protecting itself. It is also important to note that acne PIH is worsened by sun exposure. Get a minimum of SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen with a formula you like. We suggest the Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen and EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum, or the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 30 Sunscreen for a more affordable option but ample with SPF nonetheless.
Aside from the essential sun protection, it is also suggested by Dr. Hartman to Vogue that regular applications of antioxidant-rich skin-care products are necessary to reduce free radicals which can lead to hyperpigmentation.
For fading PIH dark marks and reducing one skincare routine, Eadem's Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum is a great option as it contains both vitamin C and niacinamide, not to mention its featured amber algae ingredient. Dr. Alexis Stephen, a board-certified dermatologist, suggests to Vogue that the Eadem's Milk Marvel's unique formula also helps to prevent future hyperpigmentation and gently resurface the skin.
Skin cell regeneration is undoubtedly an important step in the recovery process. One way to ensure that new cells are constantly forming is to first remove the dead skin cells that harbor the excess melanin by getting into the habit of exfoliating your skin.
If dark spots on your face are caused by acne, inflammation, rash, or other sorts of scarring, opt for chemical exfoliants as physical exfoliants can be too abrasive and might aggravate the wound. Choose products that include ingredients such as AHA, BHA, or glycolic acid.
If over-the-counter products are fruitless and don't remove the dark spots adequately, other procedures can be taken into account.
Some alternative therapies include:
Choosing The Right Treatment
There are many factors that you might need to consider before buying an OTC product to treat the dark spots on the face. The reason being is because every skin is different. One person's solution could be another person's problem. Thus, consider the following factors when choosing the best treatment for dark spots on your face:
- Skin tone
- Skin type
- Hormonal changes
- Medical condition
It is always best to consult your dermatologist to avoid using the wrong product (products that have extreme side effects or are harmful). The same goes with any cosmetic procedure in removing dark spots on the face.