Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Shreya Singh (Pharmacist) on 25th Sep 2020

Say Goodbye To The Dark Spots On Your Face With These Useful Ingredients

Say Goodbye To The Dark Spots

Changing weather, increasing pollution, and direct exposure to sun rays can affect our skin. This can make it look dull and blemished and sometimes affect our self-confidence. But don't worry. You aren't alone, okay!? We're in this together!

You can opt to hide these dark spots, but using layers of concealers can get annoying after a point. Though these spots are not a cause for serious concern and may not need any treatment, you're probably a little conscious of their presence.

A few self-care tips and some useful ingredients can help you deal with these dark spots without undergoing any painful procedures.

If you have tried a lot of products to get rid of those stubborn black spots on your face and haven’t seen much of a difference, then this might be the right article for you. Just read along to know why your dark spots and how to treat them with super powerful ingredients. 

Why do dark spots appear?

Dark spots occur when melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, get hyperstimulated. Melanin is produced in excess due to this. This makes our skin appear darker than usual and causes hyperpigmentation. 

What causes dark spots?

Before beginning with any treatment, you first need to understand the underlying cause as to why your skin is getting dark spots in the first place. Once you know the root cause, you can effectively treat them and prevent new ones from occurring.

Although there are several different causes of dark spots, some major factors which can cause dark spots are: 

1. Sun exposure:

The most important reason for the appearance of dark spots can be prolonged UV exposure. Hyperpigmentation often appears in the areas most likely exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, or arms, mainly when sunscreen has not been applied.  

2. Melasma:

Dark spots are also likely to develop due to conditions such as melasma. Melasma is a common hyperpigmentation disorder that appears as dark, discolored patches on the skin. It is also known as a “pregnancy mask” since pregnant women are more prone to developing this skin condition.

3. Medications:

Studies have suggested that certain medications can result in hyperpigmentation. This is because they can make our skin more sensitive to photodamage. Medicines containing strong steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, estrogens, psychotropic drugs, antibiotics, amiodarone, and oral contraceptive pills cause hyperpigmentation. 

4. Inflammation / Wounds:

Whenever there is any inflammation or wound, our skin's healing process involves a chemical reaction by hyper activating our melanocytes and producing more melanin. This process of darkening of the skin after any inflammation is known as Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation. Sometimes, a pimple or acne flare-ups can also leave behind dark spots on the skin, which generally fade away with time.

5. Skin products:

Certain products and creams in the market can be harmful to your skin. You must always be cautious while choosing a product because some may contain harsh chemicals that can end up causing more harm than good to your skin and can leave behind dark spots. 

How can dark spots on your face be treated?

Although dark spots are harmless and do not associate with any health risk factor, people may choose to treat them for cosmetic reasons.

The best treatment option depends on the extent of dark spots, the underlying cause, and how deep they are embedded within the skin. People are advised to do a small analysis of their skin type and concern and choose the right treatment or ingredient accordingly.

There are several over-the-counter (OTC) products, ingredients, and clinical treatments available that can help your dark spots fade away to a great extent. Take a look at them below:  

Topical Treatments

Hydroquinone:

Hydroquinone is one of the most popular skin lightening agents that are widely used in medicated creams and lotions.

It is a powerful ingredient to lighten dark areas of the skin, but there are many controversies around its usage. Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production of melanin in the skin by the breakdown of melanocytes. It also acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor, which is the enzyme required for the formation of melanin.

However, hydroquinone should strictly be used only after being prescribed by a dermatologist due to its side effects on the skin, such as bleaching, dryness, irritation, and inflammation. In some cases, it can be carcinogenic to the skin.

For this reason, “The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has limited the concentration of hydroquinone to 3% - 4% in prescription products, and 2% in over-the-counter products.” It is recommended to use hydroquinone based products only for a short period and under an expert’s supervision. 

Retinoids:

Retinoids are commonly used to diminish the appearance of wrinkles, scars, and dark spots. It has gained a lot of popularity because of its ability to treat almost every skin aging and hyperpigmentation related issues.

It works by speeding up the pace of cell turnover and paves the way for new skin cells. This helps in the cell renewal process and reduces hyperpigmentation. It also stimulates collagen production and skin cell proliferation, which helps in restoring thickness to the skin. 

Retinoids also have some typical side effects such as dryness, redness, and flakiness, especially when beginning usage. Therefore, people are advised to limit the initial use to 1-2 times a week and gradually work their way up as per their skin tolerance. 

Alpha Hydroxy Acids:

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are organic acids derived from plant-based and animal-based compounds and are readily accessible. It is one of the most popular and well-praised skincare ingredients and comes in various products such as creams, face washes, lotions, and serums.

Some commonly used AHAs are: 

  • Glycolic acid - derived from sugarcane
  • Lactic acid - obtained from fermented milk
  • Citric and malic acid - derived from fruits
  • Hydroxycaproic acid - derived from animal-based compounds

AHAs are widely used in chemical peels and peeling solutions. They aid in quick exfoliation of the skin and help treat several skin conditions such as fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, age spots, post-acne scars, and discoloration.  

Why AHAs Can Help:

Repeated and routined use of AHAs helps in removing the damaged layers of the skin.

Studies have revealed that regular use of AHA can entirely fade away pigmentation and scars by removing damaged and discolored layers of the skin.

AHAs also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that aid in healing wounds and help suppress inflammation and reaction, thus, preventing hyperpigmentation. 

Glycolic Acid:

Glycolic acid is the most effective and well researched among all other AHAs.

It functions as a potent exfoliant, and at a concentration of 5-10%, it causes the skin to lighten by melanin redistribution. Its peeling action helps retexturize the skin’s surface, lightening dark spots and acne scars, making your skin blemish-free and even-toned. 

Salicylic Acid:

Salicylic acid is a type of Beta-hydroxy acid. It is an age-old remedy that has been practiced for centuries to treat various skin disorders.

It is widely popular for its ability to exfoliate deeply and intensely cleanse out the skin from within and works a layer deeper than AHAs.

It works as a powerful peeling agent and causes the skin's topmost layers to shed off, which helps in fading dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and sun damage.

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it helps in reducing the possibility of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. 

Good to Know

Since it is an intense acid, it must be used with caution and should not be used on a wounded or peeling skin. It can dry up your skin and might cause slight irritation; therefore, its application should be avoided on sensitive skin. 

Kojic Acid:

Kojic acid is obtained from mushrooms and fermented rice. It is widely used in Asian skincare products to improve skin clarity by reducing pigmentation.

It works by inhibiting the L-Tyrosinase enzyme required for the production of melanin. It is a secret skin lightener that effectively fades away dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and stubborn post-breakout marks leaving a clear, brighter, and radiant skin.

Although it is considered safe to use in 1-2% concentrations, people with sensitive skin should be cautious while using it because it may cause slight skin irritation or discomfort. 

Cosmetic Procedures

Some primary medical procedures include:

Laser Treatments:

For this, light energy in the form of lasers effectively targets the specific areas containing dark spots. They burn the topmost layers of the skin containing discoloration. It helps in removing the damaged and hyperpigmented skin and thus resulting in clear and flawless skin

Good to Know

Laser therapies are usually costly and may not work for every skin type. Therefore, it is recommended to seek a dermatologist’s advice before undergoing any such treatment. Possible risk factors include swelling, redness, irritation, infections, or alterations in the skin’s texture. 

Chemical Peels:

Chemical peels containing the blend of acids, such as AHAs, BHAs, or TCA, works wonders in treating dark spots and hyperpigmentation related issues. They work as a powerful exfoliant and cause stripping off the skin's superficial layers, exposing the newer and fresher skin beneath. As a result, the topmost layer containing pigmentation and dark spots gets peeled off, and your skin looks bright. 

Good to Know

Chemical peels containing strong acids may cause redness and irritation to the skin; therefore, a patch test before using it on the face is highly recommended.

Microdermabrasion:

Microdermabrasion is a medical procedure that involves physical scraping off of the skin cells.

It helps remove dark spots by rubbing against the skin with an abrasive machine, which gently pushes away the skin cells containing pigmentation. This results in skin rejuvenation and replenishment. It is a low-risk procedure and is generally considered safe to use. 

Important Note:-

All the above treatments and procedures are known to make your skin more susceptible to photodamage. Therefore, applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen while undergoing these treatments is non-negotiable.

You are advised to deal with patience and persistence as the fading process may take some time and not give up halfway through the treatments. 

Key Takeaways:

Lastly, always remember, “Prevention is better than cure,” so the first and the foremost important aspect of the treatment is controlling your sun exposure and following a very strict sun protection measures.

Always apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and above and use protective clothing while stepping out in the sun.

Treatment of dark spots can be challenging and requires long term planning. People should not expect a quick fix or cure for dark spots since the condition did not occur overnight.  

Word of Advice:

It would be great to consult a dermatologist to understand if these treatments would suit your skin type. One should consider their skin type and how their skin is responding to the treatment and continue accordingly.

If your dark spots have not become manageable even after using these products and treatments for 6-12 weeks due to any underlying cause, consider seeking a dermatologist’s advice, as he/she may suggest you with another option as per your condition.