What are dark spots? Why do you have them? Learn more about what causes them, how to get rid of them and much more.
What causes them
When looking at what is responsible for this hyperpigmentation spots, it is worth to know the underlying or exact cause. Some causes are due to internal conditions or external influence. Other causes are disease related.
What is hyperpigmentation? In simpler terms refers to the extra dark color that affects a small, large area or may cover the whole of the body. How hyperpigmentation causes them is through increased production of melanin triggered by active pigment cells known as melanocytes located in the dermis or epidermis.
To help you understand further there are three major causes of hyperpigmentation.
The first common cause of hyperpigmentation is Lentigines. These are caused by exposure to UV rays from the sun and are usually scattered in no defined pattern. They may affect the whole body surface or cover much of your body.
Many women or men who are above 60 are more liable to Lentigines.
2. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
Secondly, PIH or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation could be due to a number of conditions, injury or use of harsh skincare products. For instance, if you get burnt, skin acne or suffering from psoriasis (condition), you are most likely to have black spots.
Another common cause of hyperpigmentation is Melasma. As a type due to hormonal imbalance. Women might see darker splotches appear on their cheeks during times when their hormones are in flux, like during pregnancy or menopause. It\’s also a side effect of birth control pills and hormone therapy treatments. Melasma can also occur as a result of thyroid dysfunction
Dark pigmentation is one of the signs of damage to the liver apart from the very common symptoms (eczema, hives, rashes, coated tongue, dark urine, etc.). How can the liver be damaged? The liver may fail to filter out all deposits of larger portions of fats, drugs and other substances that we get into the body. It means some toxins that form part of the discoloration are retained in the body. The fatty liver disease can cause damage to the liver due to too much intake of fats.
Acne can affect any part of your body i.e. face, neck, back, on chest etc. The very common symptoms of this condition include pimple formation, blackheads acne or whiteheads. After healing these pimples they usually leave marks behind i.e scars usually seen as dark and some white spots spread all over the body – on hands, on back, chest, etc.
In order to help reduce pigmentation due to acne apply topical creams and gel solutions containing benzoyl peroxide. You can also try sulfur lotions, cleansers and masks or go for salicylic acid. Antibiotics are good to kill the bacteria that form the pimples.
Whenever you are using tight clothes or gritty scrubs on your body, sometimes they may become less gentle such that inflammation occurs to the extent more melanin is released. If you may have existing spots on; the more you continue to use such scrubs the more it causes dark spots.
Exposure to the sun for longer durations is another cause. UVR emanating from the sun are harmful in nature that they cause burning. Burning is what really leads to darkened skin spots. There are specific types of sun exposure. Let us look at some of them briefly.
I. Lentigines or Liver Spots
In short, lentigines are “flat lesions usually have discrete borders, are dark in color, and have an irregular shape.” [www.aocd.org].
The influence of UVR rays will cause these patches on the areas exposed to the sun. So the forehead and hands are common places. They vary in size at different ages.
II. Chloasma or Melasma
They are prevalent during pregnancy. After some time they usually disappear on their own.
Other than liver spots, Ephelides spots may become a cause of dark spots if you spend most of the time in sun
These are splotches on the dark skin caused by light from bulbs. According to David Banik (clinical professor Colombia), “visible light causes pigment formation the exact way UV light does.” [www.allure.com]
Since melanin determines our skin color you can prevent these splotches by applying mineral sunscreens that contain Zinc oxide or Titanium dioxide.
According to Jeanine Downie, M.D (dermatology expert New Jersey), too tight bra on your boobs may be what causes red black or dark spots. There is continuous rubbing between the bra and your breasts which brings about irritation to the skin around breasts, shoulders or the back. They seem to look burnt spots.
Studies have proven that the radiation heat from a laptop on thighs while using it may lead to hyperpigmentation on your thighs. Also known as erythema Ab igne, they are “net-like patches of discoloration on your thighs,” [dailymakeover.com] that appear after a prolonged use of your laptop particularly on thighs.
The best way to avoid it is using laptop cooler or place the laptop on the tray table when using it.
Facial Hair Removal
Some women who grow unnecessary hair on chin remove it using, chemical creams, tweezers or pulling them manually. After exposure to harsh conditions such as chemicals or creams, the skin will undergo inflammation. This is one of the ways of causing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation which we saw earlier.
Use a mild cleanser to get rid of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation black spots. If you can apply hydrocortisone cream to reduce pain ensure to use up to 4-7 days only. Avoid using toner and exfoliation to prevent unnecessary injury to the skin.
Some foods such limes, celery, and parsnips may cause psoralens for some individuals especially under much influence of the UVR radiations. It is not actually eating them but really handling the utensils in which such foods have prepared.
If you see recurring them around your neck it is possible you are affected by these foods. The best way out is just to keep these foods away from you.
These are natural black or brownish colored lumps of growths that are either singly or grouped over the body. The major cause of moles is clustering of melanocytes cells at one spot instead of spreading out evenly during cell division and growth. Moles mostly darken more after exposure to sunlight.
There are two common types of moles namely congenital moles (birth moles) and Dysplastic nevi/naevi moles (after birth moles). Other types are junctional melanocytic naevi and compound melanocytic naevi.
At puberty, you and many youths are likely to have pimples as part of the adolescent stage. After the pimple scars have healed, they become dark scars under the influence of melanin production.
As a precaution, you should try to apply Hydrocortisone 1% to have lesser inflammation and lighten them.
Besides the cases discussed above are there different cases that involve skin disorder dark pigments or patches?
How does Vitiligo bring about dark large patches? If it happens that the melanocytes cells are destroyed the skin loses its true pigmentation. As a result, small white spots are formed. These spots can grow bigger leaving only small parts of dark pigments only. It is very common with people who have dark natural skin but anyone can suffer from it.
Some individuals who have immune disorders are more susceptible to Vitiligo.
The best treatments for Vitiligo include phototherapy (controlled exposure to UV radiations), laser therapy and in some cases skin grafting.
2. Acanthosis Nigricans
This is not a disease but rather a condition is presented by “dark patches of skin, with a thick, velvety texture.” [www.healthline.com].
What causes the large dark patches to appear is rapid cell reproduction especially in the epidermis. This rapid reaction is due to high insulin levels in the blood, and when patients (e.g. stomach cancer) are under certain medications.
3. Tinea Versicolor or pityriasis Versicolor
Versicolor as the word seems to suggest, is another condition of either light or dark patches all over the skin. It is brought about by a fungal yeast (Pityrosporum ovale) found on the skin of humans that may grow excessively. It may not have any serious health concerns, however, if you are dark skinned you may lose the true skin pigmentation.
As part of the discussion, below are other causes.
If you have some brown or dark spots raised above the skin surface, you highly suspect of the flesh moles. Flesh moles are neither harmful nor cause any kind of cancer. Do you need to worry about that anyway? Go and get them removed so that you recover your true nature.
Keloids scar tissue
Keloids are black scars that get enlarged after an injury to the skin occurs. These scar tissues may develop into growths on their own if collagen defects. They are at times known to be itchy, tender to touch or pain.
Keloid is commonly treated with radiation therapy. You can also get rid of the scars though laser surgery.
Scars from Injury or some infections
Apart from acne scars, these spots could be caused by boils (infection), chemical burns, or burns due to heat. All dark or black patches will always appear after healing.
Dark spots due to the use of some medicines
In trying to treat certain human diseases or conditions some of the drugs administered result in increased sensitivity especially those used externally or on the skin. Estrogens
To mention, Tetracyclines, Phenothiazines, Sulfonamides, and estrogens are just an example of some of the medicines
Other conditions or diseases which may cause them are:
- Hemochromatosis – abnormal or excess iron storage.
- Addison’s disease.
If you are interested in these read more from the sources given in Reference sections.
Reference and Sources
- Causes of Dark spots: http://dermatology.about.com/od/skincareproducts/a/darkspotcause.htm
- Hemochromatosis: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/related-conditions/hemochromatosis.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
- Addison’s Disease: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/adrenal-gland-disorders/addison-disease