Dark Spots on the Skin – Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Dark spots, also known as age spots, or solar lentigines, are small, dark-colored areas caused by the accumulation of pigment-laden cells in the skin, and these areas appear darker than the surrounding skin. Although they usually represent a harmless and painless condition, these darker-colored patches of skin can pose a cosmetic problem for anyone who has to deal with them. Once visible, these unwanted spots may be difficult to conceal. The presence of dark spots can make your skin appear less attractive and make you look older than you actually are. These spots are often called age spots, but that label does not tell the whole truth. In most cases, they also do not have any connection with liver function.

Dark Spot Causes

Some of the main causes of dark spots include the following:

Sun exposure: Sun-related dark spots develop on areas of the skin that have been frequently exposed to the sun. Exposure to lots of sunshine speeds up the production of melanin, which acts as your skin’s natural sunscreen. The cells in the epidermis produce more pigment as a protective mechanism, resulting in the accumulation of pigment deposits under the skin and the appearance of sunspots.

Aging: Despite the name, age spots are not primarily caused by age, but these spots are very common in adults older than age 50. As the body ages, the skin becomes less able to properly distribute melanin, increasing the risk that age spots will formulate. 90% of all people 60 years and older have sun-induced age spots. However, younger people who spend a lot of time in the sun can get them too.

Genetic inheritance: Many people have a hereditary predisposition to develop brown spots. Dark spots are more obvious in people with a fair complexion due to the contrast in color, but they can appear in people with darker skin as well.

Acne: Dark spots may appear after instances of inflammation, which can be caused by acne. Popping a pimple can lead to the formation of brown spots on the skin that will take some time to disappear on their own.

Diseases, skin trauma, skin disorders, hormonal fluctuations, vitamin deficiency, intestinal disorders, and stress can also cause dark spots.

Areas Prone to Dark Spots

Dark spots are more prominent on parts of the body that are often exposed to the sun, such as the face, shoulders, forearms, backs of the hands, legs, neck, and chest.

Age spots are often seen as an extension of dark under-eye circles. Some people have dark spots on their lips due to ceaseless smoking and a high intake of tea and coffee. Hyperpigmentation that occurs on the knees and elbows is a result of the higher amounts of friction these body parts are subjected to.

How to Prevent Dark Spots

One of the best ways to prevent the occurrence of dark spots is to minimize sun exposure. Try to limit your sun exposure at midday when the sun is at its strongest and its rays can cause the most damage.

Using appropriate skin coverage in strong sunlight and regularly applying sunscreen will help to prevent future discolorations. Wear a hat outdoors and cover your skin with clothing to protect your skin from the sun. Wear sunglasses when going outside to protect your eyes.

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF rating of 30 or higher. Make sure to apply sunscreen anytime you will be outdoors for more than 20 minutes.

Treatment Options for Age Spots

Some of the most effective treatments for brown spots on the skin include the following:

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy

Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy is a non-invasive procedure that uses intense pulses of light to treat skin problems. IPL targets specific areas on the skin and heats the undesirable marks to the point of destruction without harming the skin’s surface. IPL devices are different from lasers in that they provide a broad range of wavelengths instead of just one wavelength. Treatments with intense pulsed light typically consist of a series of 4 to 6 sessions.

Laser Therapy

A laser is an intense beam of coherent monochromatic light that can selectively destroy dark spots without damaging the skin. The laser pulses break up the pigment deposits, which are then eliminated from the body through the lymphatic systems. Laser therapy may require multiple sessions for optimal results.


This is a painless, non-chemical cosmetic procedure that uses microscopic crystal particles and vacuum suction to gently remove the uneven outer layer of skin along with dead skin cells to reveal younger, healthier-looking skin. After a series of treatments, your skin will appear noticeably smoother, brighter, and more even in color. For best results, 6 to 10 treatments need to be repeated at intervals of about two weeks.

Chemical Peels

This treatment uses an acid of mild concentration to remove the build-up of dead skin and stimulate the skin regeneration process. After a peel, skin appears healthier, fine-textured, and free of pigmentation.

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Medical Disclaimer: Information on this site is provided for informational purposes only. The information provided is not meant to substitute the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professionals.


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