What are Dark Spots
Dark spots on the skin also known as age spots, solar lentigines, or liver spots, depending on their cause—can happen at any time, but most often appear in middle age. Most often, they are a consequence of past sun exposure or artificial UV light.
Most people experience dark spots on the face, but they can also affect the skin on the body too. Typically, they occur because of damaged skin, however, they are generally not harmful.
What Causes Dark Spots?
Sun Damage: A common source of dark spots is excessive sun exposure, found in roughly 90% of people over 60 but is also common in younger adults too. It is where the skin produces extra melanin as a protection against harmful UV rays.
Melasma: This is caused by hormone imbalances and can be triggered during pregnancy, menopause or when using birth control etc.
Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation: This is caused when the skin has undergone a form of trauma i.e. acne scars, burns or psoriasis. This is particularly prevalent as we get older, as our skin cells do not reproduce as quickly, these are sometimes referred to as age spots.
Wound healing: Dark spots may remain after an insect bite, burn, or cut heals. These may fade with time.
Dark Spots Treatment
Dark spots don’t hurt and they have the same texture as the rest of your skin. Most of the time they don’t pose any health risks, so you don’t have to get rid of them, although many people choose for cosmetic purposes. Dark spots can be diminished or removed completely with prescription drugs, medical procedures, and at-home treatments.
Prescription bleaching creams gradually reduce the color of dark spots, usually over a period of several months. Hydroquinone is the active ingredient in prescription bleaching creams for dark spot treatment. It works by inhibiting the production of melanin and should only be used on a short-term basis, as its safety has been questioned.
There are also a number of other over-the-counter products that treat dark spots. Look for creams that contain retinoids alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, deoxyarbutin, and kojic acid. They might reduce dark spots, but might not completely eliminate them.
Side effects, including redness, swelling, and skin irritation can occur with any topical medication. Because these products contain abrasive ingredients that also make the skin extremely sensitive to UV exposure, it’s very important to wear sunscreen with SPF consistently throughout treatment.
Medical procedures are used to treat dark spots on any part of the body and are often used in conjunction with topical treatments, though some may not be appropriate for people with sensitive skin. Options include:
Laser treatment: This uses concentrated light energy to remove skin layer-by-layer, which burns dark spots off.15 Risks include bruising, swelling, redness, tightness, scarring, infection, and changes in skin texture.
Chemical peels: These contain salicylic acid and glycolic acid, which remove the top layer of the skin, revealing healthier and more evenly toned skin beneath. Skin irritation is a possible risk.
Microdermabrasion: There are two types of microdermabrasion, both of which physically erode surface skin cells. With crystal microdermabrasion, a machine emits fine crystals through a wand that rub against the skin and scrape away cells. For diamond-tipped microdermabrasion, the abrasive end of the wand is used for this purpose instead. The skin may be pink for a while afterward, but these techniques are considered low-risk.
Cryosurgery: Cryosurgery fades age spots by freezing them with a liquid nitrogen solution,16 causing the darkened skin to peel away from the body. Risks include permanent whitening of treated areas.
In addition to dermatological procedures and prescription medications, people may find that some home remedies might fade dark spots on the skin, as the following sections discuss.
Over-the-counter skin creams:
Skin-lightening creams recommended by dermatologists are not as strong as prescription medications, but they may also work. Creams and serums contain various ingredients, including retinol or alpha hydroxy acid, which may speed up the exfoliation of the skin and enhance new skin growth.
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