A dark spot, as small as it may appear, especially on the face has ways of affecting your life in real many ways, from destroying your confidence, social life, and generally how you interact with others.
These spots should however not be the reason you lose your confidence because they are very common and can affect anyone. For women in the limelight, the situation can even be worse.
Dark spots on the skin are not a cause for concern and do not need treatment, though people may choose to remove them for cosmetic reasons.
Ms Chrystal Kizito, a certified skincare trainer says dark spots can be a result of what you are injecting in the body in terms of food, or through a topical application such as the use of a serum, and generally the quality of life that you live.
Are you a person who is always stressed? Are you enjoying quality sleep?
“Dark spots on the face can result from hyperpigmentation, a common skin condition that occurs when the skin produces too much melanin or even much exposure to sunlight. If you are using harmful ingredients like bleaching creams, you are at high risk of getting black spots,” she says.
Other causes of dark spots she says include;
Sun damage: Also called sunspots, solar lentigines, or liver spots, people can develop dark spots on their skin after being exposed to the sun or tanning beds.
Areas of the body that receive the most sun exposure, such as the face, hands, or arms, are most likely to develop sun spots.
Hormonal changes: Melasma is a skin condition that leads to small patches of skin discolouration. The condition is more common in women, especially during pregnancy.
Medication side effects: Certain medications can increase skin pigmentation and lead to dark spots. The most common culprits are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), tetracyclines, and psychotropic drugs.
Inflammation: Dark spots can develop after a bout of inflammation on the skin. Inflammation may occur for various reasons that include eczema, psoriasis injury to the skin, and acne
Wound healing: Dark spots may remain after an insect bite, burn, or cut heals. These may fade with time.
Over recent years, there has been a shift towards natural or herbal beauty products to treat dark spots which have seen an increase in the number of beauty shops offering a variety of products.
This, Clara Njeri, a natural beauty specialist at Naturalglam Cosmetics says is because “we are just going back to what we are sure used to work. Natural skin care products do not contain harmful ingredients like mercury or hydroquinone.”
So what are some of the natural ways of managing dark spots?
“By using liquorice as your inhibitor, rice flour as your brightener, and an exfoliant. Another way is using carrot oil, lemon oil, any oil rich in Vitamin C or Vitamin A, or Aloe vera gel.
In addition to dermatological procedures and prescription medications, Ms Njeri says people may find that some home remedies might fade dark spots on the skin.
“DIY yoghurt mask with turmeric and a DIY mask with tomato and sandalwood or liquorice are some magical home remedies for dark spots,” she says.
However, people may wish to keep in mind that many of the home remedies that webpages recommend may have side effects or no evidence of effectiveness.
Examples include lemon and apple cider vinegar but no research backs the claims that their treatments work.
“In some cases, unproven treatments may aggravate the skin. For instance, the American Society for Dermatological Surgery does not recommend lemon juice or abrasive scrubs, as these methods could make dark spots worse.”
According to Dr Macharia, a consulting dermatologist, anyone can develop dark spots on the skin.
Certain risk factors appear to increase a person’s chances including sun exposure, pregnancy, skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis, trauma, or injury to the skin medications that increase pigmentation, liver disease, and diabetes.
How to remove dark spots
Dark spots on the skin do not require treatment, but some people may want to remove the spots for cosmetic reasons.
He says a dermatologist can offer creams or procedures to lighten dark spots, or in some cases, remove them.
Procedures are more expensive than creams and are more likely to cause side effects, though they tend to work faster.
“The best treatment option for dark spots depends on the cause, the size of the dark spot, the area of the body, and patience. Above all waiting is the best cure for dark spots, says Dr Macharia.
However, he recommends the use of one of the following dermatological procedures for dark spots;
This one he says works miracles. A chemical peel involves applying a solution to the skin, which exfoliates the surface, leading to new skin growth. It may gradually fade dark spots on the skin.
There are different types of lasers. The most common laser to treat dark spots on the skin uses an intense pulse light laser. The light targets melanin and breaks up the dark spots.
During microdermabrasion, a dermatologist uses a special device that has an abrasive surface to remove the outer layer of the skin.
This treatment promotes new collagen growth, which may help reduce spots.
Other medical procedures include;
Cryotherapy: A procedure that involves applying liquid nitrogen to the dark patches to freeze them, which injures the skin cells. The skin often heals lighter afterwards.
Prescription skin-lightening cream
Prescription-lightening cream works by bleaching the skin. It typically works gradually and takes several months to decrease the appearance of dark spots.
When looking for a skin-lightening cream, Dr Macharia advises always choosing one recommended by a dermatologist, as some products can be harmful.
“Some skin-lightening products can do more harm than good. Many contain ingredients that can harm the skin or overall health, such as mercury or steroids. Applying these can cause pimples, rashes, and fragile skin over time,” he adds.
It may not always be possible to prevent dark spots on the skin from developing. For example, hormonal changes during pregnancy that may lead to melasma are not preventable.
There are, however, a few things people can do to decrease the chances of dark spots and prevent them from getting darker:
Don’t pop or squeeze pimples on your face. A pimple is like a little bag under the skin that contains oil, bacteria, and inflammation.
Squeezing can result in these contents being pushed into the surrounding skin, making the problem worse.
It can also lead to infection, scarring, and finally darkening of the skin in that area.
Wear sunscreen and protective accessories. The sun is the number one cause of dark patches on the skin whether you are light-skinned or dark-skinned.
If the sun is shining it is always best to wear sunscreen to protect your skin especially if you constantly exfoliate your skin since exfoliation makes your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Use natural aloe vera gel. Aloe vera is best known for its healing properties and therefore commonly used as a treatment for dark spots on the skin.
You can apply apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is rich in antioxidants and minerals and for that; it has been used for treating all sorts of ailments.
The alpha hydroxyl acid in apple cider vinegar gets rid of dead skin cells and thereby clears any scarring and pigmentation on the skin.
When to see a doctor
In most cases, dark spots on the skin are not harmful. But in some instances, it might be hard to tell the difference between a dark spot and other skin changes, such as melanoma which is a type of skin cancer.
“Dark spots do not just disappear; it takes months or even years. If you are looking for a holistic way, one thing you need to consider is patience and consistency. There is no magical microwave solution,” says Dr Macharia.
People who are unsure what a dark spot is or have not been able to get rid of it can see a doctor to find out more.
He recommends that it is important to talk to a doctor if any dark spot on the skin: appears suddenly, itches, tingles, bleeds, changes colour or size, and does not appear within six months of seeing a dermatologist.