You may have noticed darkening of the skin around your eyes, your elbows, your knees, or your thighs and butt areas.
If you wonder what causes this darkening and how to get rid of it without bleaching and damaging your skin, you are in the right place.
Your normal skin cells, called Melanocytes, produce a dark brown pigment called melanin, responsible for protecting your skin from the harsh rays emitted from the sun. It also works with Vitamin D, which strengthens bones and reduces inflammation. In all, melanin is the good guy.
However, when your melanocytes produce excess or too little of this special substance, it leads to hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation of your skin, resulting in darker or lighter patches.
The key to getting even-toned skin is finding the root cause as to why your cells are producing more of this darkening substance called Melanin.
What Causes Skin Darkening?
● Excess exposure to the sun: Since melanin is released to absorb the sun’s rays, it is only logical that excess exposure to those rays will lead to an overproduction of melanin, resulting in dark spots on the skin and face.
● Underlying medical condition: The imbalance in melanin production may be because of an underlying condition such as Addison’s disease or other metabolic disorders. It could also be due to a physiological condition such as pregnancy.
● Friction, injury, and damage: If you notice increased hyperpigmentation after switching products, it is likely because your new products are too harsh on your skin. Your skin is producing more melanin than usual to protect itself from damage. It could also be a result of acne. It is common for acne to leave dark spots after treatment.
Dark inner thighs are also a consequence of friction from thighs rubbing together when walking. Often, this friction causes the sensitive skin to tear, leading to injuries that leave the area darker even after they heal.
● Drugs and diet: Yes, your diet definitely has an effect on your skin. Stay away from oily foods and switch to a healthier diet. Improvement in skin tone will be seen within weeks. Also, drugs that increase your sensitivity to light are known to cause darkening of the skin. A common example is birth control pills. Consider other alternatives of contraception if skin darkening is noticed. Other brands of oral contraceptives may be employed.
● Having dark skin: It is quite ironic that people with dark skin are more likely to have dark spots than other people. Though not much can be done about this, it is worth looking into ways to prevent or correct dark patches without damaging healthy skin cells.
How to Treat Hyperpigmentation
If it is of particular concern and seems to be more than you can handle, visit a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment. However, if you simply want a more even skin tone, the following solutions are at your disposal.
1. Many times, the dark spots on your skin fade away on their own once the stimulus is removed. For example, if it is caused by pregnancy, the dark spots will fade after delivery.
2. Using sunscreen: A sunscreen containing zinc oxide with an SPF above 30 should do the trick. Sunscreens protect your skin from direct sunlight, reducing the need for your skin to fight back. Apply sunscreen daily or every 2 hours if you are frequently exposed to the sun. Also, fill your wardrobe with SPF infused clothing that protects your body from harsh sun rays.
3. Use exfoliants: it is advisable to use only chemical exfoliants, as physical exfoliants are likely to cause irritation, which leads to more darkening. Chemical exfoliants employ acids to break up and loosen dead skin, and over time, a more even complexion is noticed. These exfoliants include salicylic acid, mandelic acid, lactic acid, amongst others.
Lactic acid, for example, can be got from milk. You could go natural by applying sour milk to your dark spots, or you could purchase a higher concentration of the acid from a cosmetic store.
When treating dark spots, avoid bleaching products such as quinolones which may cause redness, itching, and uneven colouration of the skin.