Dark spots. Sun spots. Age spots. We know them as a lot of different things, but we all wish they would fade away quickly.
What causes these spots on our complexion, and beyond that, how do we get rid of them?
What causes dark spots?
Dark spot is a colloquial term for a skin condition called hyperpigmentation. This is when our skin's production of melanin is more than normal, causing small patches of darker skin on our complexions.
Melanin is a natural pigment that affects the color of our hair, eyes, and skin. Not only just in humans, but in animals, too! Not only do these cells appear as a darker shade of your skin, but also in gray, purplish tones as well.
Various different things can cause dark spots, but the core three are scars from acne, sun exposure, and hormone changes. It’s important to note that while we may have aesthetic reasons for wanting to reduce the appearance of dark spots, they aren’t dangerous. However, they can be a sign we aren’t treating our skin properly.
For most people, the most common cause of dark spots is sun damage. Your skin also produces more melanin when you tan, the same pigment that causes dark spots. Acne is another common cause.
As a pimple is healing, your skin can produce cells with too much melanin to replace the damaged skin cells. This is called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, more commonly known as acne dark spots.
The final common cause of dark spots is a change in hormones. The skin condition melasma, which is characterized by patches of discoloration, can be caused by hormone changes in women. This is particularly common in pregnant women and those on birth control because of its connection with female reproductive hormones.
How To Minimize Dark Spots
Over time, dark spots will naturally fade in appearance. However, this can take months and even years, so we wouldn’t call that the optimal treatment plan. The good news is that there are some naturally found ingredients that have proven effects on dark spots.
Last week, we talked about rosehip oil, which contains a high amount of vitamin A, otherwise known as retinol. This is a powerful natural way to reduce dark spots and other signs of aging. Our Facial Recovery Elixir combines this with another hyperpigmentation reducer, vitamin E. making it a great oil for dark spots.
We recommend using retinol products in the evening. This is because they make your skin more sensitive to UV light, so keeping out of the sun is essential. Vitamin C serums also helps fade hyperpigmentation.
There are some chemical—and even mechanical—treatments for dark spots. These include chemical peels and laser treatments. These work by removing the top layer of skin to reveal brighter skin.
These treatments can be very harsh on the skin, and lasers can even cause scarring. This is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of natural treatments that are gentler than the alternatives. We strongly advise to consult your dermatologist before starting any aggressive treatment, as you could cause more damage than help your skin.
Finally, we strongly suggest staying far away from skin care products that contain hydroquinone. This chemical is a popular dark spot reducer, but according to the Environmental Working Group, there is strong evidence it’s toxic for human skin an may cause undesirable side effects. This ingredient is actually banned in South Africa, although products containing it can still readily be found in the United States.
Preventing Dark Spots
It’s easiest to gain more dark spots during the summer. This is because of an increase in time spent outdoors and in the sun. So then one key element of prevention is our mantra of sunscreen on and coverup.
Follow our guide on clean sun protection to get all of the details. A face-covering hat is one of our favorite summer staples.
Another way to prevent dark spots and keep an even skin tone is to treat your acne properly. While it may be tempting, and a habit for many, popping pimples only increases the possibility of a dark spot forming.
Acne prevention and treatments are highly dependent on your skin type. But everyone can make sure to cleanse once a day and remove makeup and sunscreen. This prevents pores from getting clogged. Especially if you're using dark spot correctors, you want to thoroughly cleanse your skin everyday to fully remove every trace of product that might be left on your skin.
Fortunately, many serums that help minimize dark spots also work to regulate the production of acne-causing sebum as well. To treat existing pimples, cleansers and serums that contain tea tree oil can also be very effective. This essential oil can be very drying, however, so pair with a good moisturizer.
Remember that essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin without a carrier to reduce concentration. Otherwise, you may accidentally do more harm than good.