Although we firmly believe that everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin, there’s no denying that sometimes, we all fantasize about achieving smooth, flawless, glowing faces. Of course, plenty of skin issues get in the way of that fantasy—acne, rosacea, oiliness, dryness, and so much more.
Well, today, we’ll be discussing one of the most frustrating skin issues of all—dark spots. Though so many of us deal with this problem, it seems like many people have no idea what they really entail. So, for your convenience, we’ve put together this guide to Dark Spots 101. By the end of this article, you should be a real expert.
What Are Dark Spots?
Before we delve into all the particulars of this subject, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. What are dark spots, exactly?
The term “dark spots'' is just another way to refer to hyperpigmentation, a super common skin issue that affects loads of people around the world. Anyone might experience hyperpigmentation in their life, no matter their ethnicity, age, or gender. In general, the main symptom of this condition is the appearance of dark patches (or spots) on the skin.
Hyperpigmentation—also known as dark spots, sunspots, melasma, or age spots—occurs when the body overproduces the pigment melanin. This may happen for a wide variety of reasons, all of which we will get into shortly.
Fast Facts About Dark Spots
What Causes Dark Spots?
Well, if it makes you feel any better, it’s very likely that your dark spots aren’t just appearing out of nowhere. There are numerous causes of hyperpigmentation, and familiarizing yourself with those causes will help you avoid them in the future.
Possible causes of dark spots include:
So, here’s what you need to know about the causes of dark spots
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First things first, dermatologists agree that the single most prevalent cause of dark spots is a little something called sun exposure. Hence, the term “sunspot.”
While spending time in the sun is a source of joy for many of us, it’s not without its vices. Sadly, sun damage is an incredibly real threat to our skin. It can lead to issues like wrinkles, dry skin, and sunburn. Plus, it may even trigger more serious diseases, such as skin cancer.
When our skin is exposed to the sun, it produces melanin to protect against the sun’s UV rays (both UVA and UVB rays). However, when you spend too much time soaking up those rays, the body begins to create way too much of the pigment. In the end, that overproduction leads to the discoloration known as sunspots (or hyperpigmentation).
Fast fact: Only 11% of Americans regularly wear sunscreen, and nearly 50% of Americans never wear sunscreen.
Like hyperpigmentation, acne is a very common skin issue. Unfortunately for all our faces, these two conditions sometimes go hand-in-hand, causing more issues together than they ever could on their own.
Allow us to explain. Basically, a pimple appears, exists for a while, and disappears. However, when it’s gone, it’s not fully gone—it leaves behind a long-lasting dark spot. This is called hyperpigmentation acne.
Some researchers believe that this occurs as an immune response to inflammation, called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. When your acne becomes inflamed, the body produces melanin as a defense mechanism. Thus, you’re left with an irritating dark spot.
Hormones, Age, and More
Finally, we should discuss one more category of these causes—all of the factors you can’t really control.
For example, as we get older, our hormones undergo major changes. Along with those changes often comes hyperpigmentation. Likewise, many women see dark spots appear during pregnancy (once again, as the result of hormonal changes).
Clearly, these factors are far more difficult to avoid. However, with proper skincare and the right treatment tips, you can certainly minimize the appearance of such spots.
Are Dark Spots Harmful?
Sometimes, looking in the mirror to discover a dark spot triggers a jolt of panic. Is that spot something to be concerned about?! Should you visit the doctor?
In most cases, the answer is no. Most of the time, hyperpigmentation is utterly harmless, health-wise.
However, we should note that, in some cases, a dark spot may develop into something more dangerous. If you ever notice that one of your spots has darkened, grown larger, or changed in color, you should certainly speak with a doctor. These symptoms could be signs of serious illness.
Finally, remember that sun exposure may worsen pre-existing dark spots. So, always limit your time in the sun and be sure to lather on the sunscreen all day, every day.
How Can You Get Rid of Dark Spots?
If you’re currently dealing with hyperpigmentation, removing those dark spots is probably at the forefront of your mind. That said, not everyone wants to go for a laser treatment. Fortunately, we’re here to help you out with all the most popular treatments, from over-the-counter products to natural remedies. Moreover, we’ll help you determine which ones are actually worth your time.
We won’t keep you waiting any longer—let’s delve into the stuff you really want to know.
First things first, we’ve got a few mainstream topical treatments for dark spots. These are a few of the most common OTC remedies for this condition:
- Hydroquinone: Hydroquinone is a common ingredient in many OTC and prescription products for hyperpigmentation. Basically, it bleaches the skin by reducing the number of melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) present.
While these products can be effective for some (fair-skinned) people, they tend to have harmful side effects. Indeed, hydroquinone may actually worsen hyperpigmentation in people with darker skin tones. Likewise, people with dry or sensitive skin might find that this ingredient causes dryness and skin irritation.
- Mercury: Shockingly, many skin-lightening products contain mercury, an incredibly harmful chemical. If you’re shopping for hyperpigmentation treatments, you’ll want to avoid mercury at all costs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that certain ingredients indicate that a product may contain mercury. These include calomel, cinnabaris, hydrargyri oxidum rubrum, and quicksilver. Be on the lookout for any of these ingredients. While they may help reduce dark spots, the health risks that come along with them are just not worth it.
- Chemical Peels: Finally, getting a chemical peel is often recommended by dermatologists to treat a whole host of skin issues, including dark spots.
Chemical peels use strong acids to remove the epidermis of the skin. More intense variations may even penetrate the dermis, or the middle layer, of the skin. There are OTC chemical peels available, as well as professional-level peels.
This type of treatment is effective for many people, but it does pose certain risks. Chemical peels may cause redness, irritation, and blistering. They may even lead to scarring if performed improperly.
As you can see, there are several popular OTC treatments for dark spots, but they all present certain risks. Other remedies, like microdermabrasion and laser peels, pose similar potential side effects. However, if you’re willing to take the risk, one of these options may just work out (except for mercury, of course).
Natural Treatments for Dark Spots
Now, let’s do a full-180 as we turn to the other category of treatment: natural remedies. Here at Gleamin, we’re all about that natural life. So, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of our favorite all-natural ingredients and DIY options for fading the appearance of dark spots.
Here are a few of the best ingredients for fading hyperpigmentation:
Turmeric: Ah yes, another household item that has countless hidden skincare perks when used correctly. Turmeric is loaded with antioxidants, and it’s considered a natural soother. As such, it’s definitely a must-have.
One way that turmeric helps to treat dark spots is by helping to prevent dark spots from forming as a result of sun damage (it’s no substitute for SPF, though!).
Apple Cider Vinegar: This ingredient has been huge in the health and wellness world recently, and for good reason. It contains a compound called acetic acid, which is known to improve complexion and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
Aloe Vera: This cooling, soothing gel is good for more than just sunburns. With an active ingredient called acemannan, aloe vera is also perfect for reducing the appearance of sunspots. By rubbing a thin layer of aloe vera on your dark spots each day, you may be able to get rid of their visibility in no time.
Lemon Juice: Finally, lemon juice is an age-old remedy for both the reduction of dark spots and the lightening of hair. However, just remember that lemon juice may dry out the skin. If you notice that it’s doing more harm than good, be sure to set the lemon juice aside.
Vitamins for Days
We’d be remiss not to discuss vitamins. Although vitamins are certainly all-natural ingredients, we decided to include them in a section of their very own because they’re just that important.
If you’re looking to reduce dark spots, be sure to check out these three vitamins:
Vitamin A: The “A” in vitamin A stands for amazing. Vitamin A, which belongs to the retinoid family, is ideal for exfoliation. It helps support the skin’s natural ability to make new cells, and in turn, dark spots heal much more quickly and the skin’s texture may improve because all those dead skin cells are cleared away.
Vitamin E: This vitamin is widely used to help reduce the appearance of scars and hyperpigmentation. Plus, it helps build your skin’s natural defense mechanisms against sun damage. In this way, applying vitamin E serves as a proactive measure against dark spots (though it’s nowhere close to comparable to SPF).
Vitamin C: Finally, vitamin C—the holy grail of skincare vitamins. Vitamin C helps to prevent the appearance of new dark spots. It’s said to be especially helpful for people with dark skin tones.
Like vitamin A, vitamin C is also an excellent exfoliator for the top layer of the skin, so it provides benefits similar to those of vitamin A. Vitamin C serums are very popular, as are masks and moisturizers that contain it.
What About Face Masks?
You probably have one last question on your mind—what if I’m looking for a specific product? What’s the best product for fading dark spots? We might be biased, but we would have to say face masks.
The right face mask will provide intense nourishment, hydration, and healing for your skin. For example, our Vitamin C Clay Mask is specifically designed to give your skin all those things and more.
When it comes to reducing the appearance of dark spots, our mask is the only viable option. It’s packed with many of the ingredients we mentioned above, like:
All of these ingredients work together to fight those frustrating spots for you.
Better yet, our mask is natural. This means that you don’t have to worry about any of the worrisome side effects of certain harsh chemical treatments. Our mask is only here to help.
Final Thoughts on Dark Spots
At this point, you’ve become a seasoned expert on the subject of dark spots. Hopefully, this article will have given you the tools you needed to go forth and achieve the glowing, flawless skin you’ve always wanted. And just remember, no matter how many spots you have, you’re still perfect to us.
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