Your face is the first thing people see when they meet you. Blemishes such as dark spots are a common skin complaint. What causes these so-called “liver spots” and how can you prevent them?
The spots are due to a skin condition known as hyper-pigmentation.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
The color of your skin is called pigmentation. It’s determined by how much melanin your skin has. While people generally have the same kind of color their entire lives, pigmentation disorders can cause the color of skin to change.
One of those disorders is hyperpigmentation, which causes your skin to darken in patches or your entire body.
Liver spots (also known as age spots) are one type of hyperpigmentation. Acne scars and other skin blemishes are another type of hyperpigmentation.
While harmless, skin hyperpigmentation can be embarrassing and affect your self-esteem.
Types of hyperpigmentation:
Melasma is large, dark brown patches on the face, abdomen and other areas of the body. They are larger than age spots and are common during pregnancy or while using birth control. Constant exposure to the sun makes the condition worsen.
Age Spots (Solar lentigines)
Age spots are light brown or black spots that can appear anywhere on the body, but are most common on the hands and face. This is due to the hands and face being exposed to the sun the most. The UV rays from the sun are the cause for the spots and they can potentially turn cancerous. Wearing sunscreen anytime you’re outdoors can reduce your chance of developing age spots.
While freckles are very common and often genetic, they are technically labeled as hyperpigmentation. The freckles darken in the summer months and lighten in the winter.
Acne scars are a big cause for this type of hyperpigmentation. The marks usually fade on their own or with the help of topical treatments.
Causes of hyperpigmentation:
Hyperpigmentation is most often caused by long-term, unprotected exposure to the harmful UV rays of the sun. The production of melanin is triggered by the sunlight. This causes tanning. However, too long in the sun leads to too much melanin production and hyperpigmentation skin disorders.
The type of hyperpigmentation known as melasma is triggered by hormones. This is why it’s more common in pregnant women or women on birth control or undergoing hormone treatments.
You may have noticed brown spots on your grandmother’s hands or face. Those are age spots. They are a side effect of aging, but they can be faded with the treatments discussed down below.
Skin injuries, such as acne, cuts or burns can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. As the wound heals, the melanin comes in darker.
Some diseases, medications and genetic disposition can also result in hyperpigmentation.
Can Hyperpigmentation be Cured Permanently?
While skin discoloration caused by acne scars can fade on their own with time, most types of hyperpigmentation require topical or professional treatments. These treatments can reverse the effects of the discoloration or eradicate them completely.
If you’re looking to permanently cure your hyperpigmentation, your best bet is in-office treatments instead of over-the-counter topical products. Here are 4 professional treatments that work well in curing hyperpigmentation:
Microdermabrasion removes the upper layer of skin to remove age spots and other discoloration. You can also infuse anti-pigmentation ingredients into the skin at the same time to brighten your skin even more.
A chemical peel uses glycolic acid and salicylic acid to remove deeper discoloration. However, the process can cause its own scars that can turn darker with time.
Intense Pulsed-Light (IPL)
The Intense Pulsed-Light option works best for spots caused by sun exposure. The process of the treatment involves pulsing light-based energy into the blood vessels to remove discoloration. It is sometimes used in conjunction with laser therapy.
Fractionated Laser Resurfacing
This option is for completely erasing stubborn dark spots. The laser is used to injure the skin to make the skin develop fresh skin to the area.
Natural Ways to Reduce Hyperpigmentation
If you prefer to skip the topical creams and visits to the dermatologist, there are natural ways you can get the dark spots to fade. Some scars and dark spots will fade on their own, while others, such as birthmarks, can be reduced with the following natural ingredients:
Aloe vera contains aloin, shown to naturally lighten dark spots on the skin. Simply apply aloe vera to the hyperpigmentation before you go to bed and rinse off the next morning. Use daily for improved skin color.
Chia seeds are rich in linolenic acid, which interferes with melanin production. This reduces more dark spots from appearing. Chia seeds can be added to any meal after soaking the seeds in water.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is the vinegar of all trades. It can be used to clean, to cook and is a staple in many skincare routines. So, it’s no surprise that the acetic acid in the vinegar can lighten dark spots.
Combine apple cider vinegar with water, apply to dark spots and wash off after two minutes. You can do this twice a day until the spots are lighter.
Apple cider vinegar also has numerous vitamins and minerals that will make your skin look clean and fresh.
Green tea extract
Like apple cider vinegar, green tea is used in all types of beauty regimens. It can be used to reduce the visibility of dark spots. You can use the extract or directly apply green tea bags to the discoloration.
Simply steep the tea bag and remove it from the water. Once the water has cooled, rub the tea bags onto the dark patches. Repeat the process twice per day. You can also save the green tea water and use it as a toner for your skin.
Turmeric & Honey
Mix the turmeric and honey together to form a mask. Massage it onto the dark spots and wash with cool water. This mask also helps reduce acne.
Milk does a body — and a face — good. The lactic acid in milk helps scars and blemishes disappear. You can use milk or buttermilk (even sour milk, but gross) to lighten the dark spots.
Use a cotton ball soaked in milk to massage over the dark patches. Wash with cool water and repeat once or twice per day.
Black tea water
Black tea contains ingredients shown to effectively remove dark spots from guinea pigs. Steep tea leaves for two hours and strain. Apply tea water to face with a pad. Repeat twice a day for a month.
Vitamin C can slow the production of melanin and give you a more even complexion. Tomatoes contain large amounts of vitamin C. You can make a tomato face scrub and use it exfoliate the dark spots.
Simple squeeze the juice from the tomatoes and combine with yogurt to make a face mask. Apply to your face and let it sit for 10 minutes. Wash with cool water and use the mask a few times per week.
Like milk, yogurt contains lactic acid that can exfoliate dead skin cells. Use the recipe above for a tomato/yogurt face scrub.
These useful natural remedies can help you restore your natural skin color by evening the pigmentation. The best way to prevent age spots and other hyperpigmentation is to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and wear sunscreen, regardless of whether is it summer or winter.