Whether it is sun spots, age spots, freckles, sun damage, or melasma – skin pigmentation is a common issue. Imperfections can be beautiful, but if not addressed appropriately, those tiny, brown spots adorning your cheeks or nose can become a real problem. Hyperpigmentation is usually harmless. However, it may also indicate an underlying medical condition.
If you developed these spots due to a lack of proper skin care, you could take steps to fade them. You can also use natural methods instead of resorting to laser treatment. Scroll down to know everything about skin pigmentation and its remedies.
Table Of Contents
What Is Skin Pigmentation?
Pigmentation is discoloration of the skin. This common problem in which you develop dark patches on your skin is faced by both men and women. It is caused by excess melanin – the pigment that gives you your natural skin tone. When this pigment forms a deposit in the skin, it causes pigmentation (or hyperpigmentation).
Note: Not all pigmentations are harmless. Some may be a sign of an underlying disease. Consult a doctor if you notice any skin discoloration.
There are several types of skin pigmentation – some may respond to treatment, and some may not. The most common types of skin pigmentation are discussed in the following section.
Types Of Skin Pigmentation
- Age Spots Or Solar Lentiginosis (Liver Spots): These are the most common type of skin pigmentation and are formed due to sun damage. They are found in the areas frequently exposed to the sun.
- Melasma Or Chloasma: This is characterized by spots similar to age spots but covering a large area on the skin. These spots mostly appear due to hormonal changes. For instance, during pregnancy, the hormones may trigger the overproduction of melanin and cause skin darkening.
- Freckles (Ephelides): These are caused by sun exposure. They appear as tiny dots and specks on your face and shoulder areas.
- Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH): It is a condition in which your skin develops marks or spots as a result of an injury, burns, acne, or aggressive chemical treatment. It is also called hypopigmentation.
You may also face skin pigmentation disorders like:
- Vitiligo: It is an auto-immune condition, and the causes are still unknown. The melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) stop working and cause light patches on your skin. This condition can affect any or all of your body parts.
- Albinism: This is a genetic disorder. and People with albinism do not produce enough melanin, resulting in little or no pigments in their bodies.
There are several causes behind skin pigmentation issues.
What Causes Skin Pigmentation?
UV rays are the biggest culprits that trigger the overproduction of melanin. However, the damage caused by UV rays is not visible immediately. Hence, if you have developed pigmentation on your face recently, it is most likely a result of the damage caused to your skin about a decade ago.
If you have been using sunscreen all your life but are still experiencing skin pigmentation, do not get baffled. The other factors that may cause skin pigmentation are
- Skin damage caused by injury (also called post-inflammatory pigmentation)
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy (melasma)
- Skin rashes (rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, contact dermatitis)
- Skin infections (acne, ringworm, tinea versicolor, candidiasis)
- Medical conditions ( Lupus, cyanosis, untreated or undiagnosed diabetes)
Certain skin cancers can also cause skin pigmentation, such as actinic keratosis, squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
It is important to consult a doctor if you notice any changes in your skin color. Although most spots and hyperpigmentation are harmless and occur mainly due to age, sun exposure, or negligence, they may also indicate a medical issue. Before opting for home remedies for hyperpigmentation and spots, you need to know what type of hyperpigmentation it is and what caused it.
If your skin pigmentation and spots are harmless, and you want to reduce their appearance quickly, your doctor may suggest chemical peels with acids, such as lactic, glycolic, salicylic, or citric acid. You can also try home remedies to help fade the pigmentation and blemishes.
Note: These home remedies might not fade the pigmentation and spots completely. However, they can help improve their appearance and make them less apparent. These remedies take time to show results, so be patient. If your pigmentation and spots are not caused by medical issues, try these home remedies.
Home Remedies For Skin Pigmentation
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains polyphenolic compounds that offer various health benefits (1). These compounds may also be beneficial for the skin. Anecdotal evidence suggests that ACV may be beneficial in managing pigmentation and other skin issues. However, there is no scientific proof to prove these effects.
How To Use: Mix a tablespoon each of apple cider vinegar and water in a container (take equal parts of both depending on the treatment area). Dip a cotton swab into the mixture and apply it to the affected area. Leave it on for 3 minutes or until it dries completely. Wash it off with lukewarm water. Repeat twice daily.
2. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera contains an active ingredient called aloin that has skin lightening properties (2).
How To Use: Mix 2 tablespoons of fresh aloe vera gel and 1 teaspoon of honey in a bowl. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes. Apply it to the affected area and let it dry. Wash with lukewarm water.
3. Green Tea
Tyrosinase is an enzyme found in your body that is responsible for pigmentation. Green tea extracts have been found to inhibit mushroom tyrosinase (in vitro), which may have a depigmenting effect (3). However, more studies are required to establish its efficacy.
How To Use: Steep a green tea bag in a cup of hot water and wait for it to cool down. Rub the tea bag on the affected area. Repeat this treatment twice daily.
Lemon is a potent bleaching agent and has skin lightening properties. It is used in many skin lightening formulations, such as Lucederm, Meladerm, and Skin Bright (4). However, lemon juice can irritate sensitive skin, so do a patch test on your arm before using it. Also, make sure to apply sunscreen after using this remedy because lemon juice can make your skin photosensitive.
How To Use: Mix a tablespoon of diluted lemon juice with a teaspoon of organic honey. Apply the mixture on the affected area and wait for 15 minutes before washing it off with lukewarm water.
5. Red Onion
Red onion is often used in scar lightening creams. A study done on mushroom tyrosinase found that the skin of red onion contains ingredients with potential for skin-whitening cosmetics (5).
How To Use: Rub a slice of red onion on the affected area. Let it stay for 10 minutes and then wash it off. Repeat the treatment twice daily.
6. Licorice Extract
Licorice contains glabridin, a polyphenolic flavonoid that helps prevent UV-induced pigmentation and has an anti-inflammatory effect. However, further studies are required to establish the depigmenting property (3).
How To Use: Boil 4-5 licorice roots in water. Let the liquid cool down and strain it into a spray bottle. Apply it as a mist twice daily.
Note: Store the licorice extract in the refrigerator and use it within 8-10 days.
Milk contains lactic acid, which is used in chemical peels to brighten and whiten skin. It has also been found that lactic acid could be used to treat melasma (6).
How To Use: Apply fresh milk with a cotton swab on the affected area and let it dry. Wash it off with lukewarm water. Do this twice daily.
Tomato contains lycopene that can reduce the long-term effects of photodamage (7). Since spots and pigmentation are also long-term consequences of photodamage, tomato may help lighten them.
How To Use: Slice a tomato and rub it on the spots. Let it dry. Wash it off with lukewarm water. Follow this twice daily.
9. Black Tea
Black tea extract is said to have a skin-whitening effect. A study found that when applied to pigmented spots on guinea pigs, black tea inhibited the development of melanocytes and reduced hyperpigmentation (8).
How To Use: Boil a tablespoon of tea leaves in water. Let the water cool down and strain it into a bowl. Apply it to the affected area with cotton balls. Use it twice daily.
10. Orange Peel
Orange peel extracts can reduce melanin deposits, fade dark spots, and brighten your skin. The study was done on humans, and none of the subjects developed skin irritation (9).
How To Use: Dry and powder the orange peels. Mix the powder with a teaspoon of diluted lemon juice and honey and apply it as a face mask. Do this three times a week.
Potato contains azelaic acid that may help reduce blemishes and hyperpigmentation caused by acne and breakouts (10).
How To Use: Slice a potato and rub it on the spots. Wash it off after it dries. Repeat the process daily.
12. Sandalwood Oil
Sandalwood oil contains alpha-santalol that helps in hibits tyrosinase and UV-induced and age-related pigmentation (11).
How To Use: Mix 2-3 drops of sandalwood oil with a carrier oil (such as jojoba or sweet almond oil) and apply it to the affected area. Use this once daily.
13. Mulberry Extracts
Mulberry extracts derived from mulberry leaves can help with hyperpigmentation. In-vitro studies found that Mulberroside F, the active component present in mulberry inhibits tyrosinase activity, melanin production, and transfer. It also functions as a Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) scavenger. In a randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 75% of mulberry extract oil was found to be effective in reducing melasma (12).
How To Use: Steep mulberry leaves in jojoba or sweet almond oil for 3-4 days and then apply the oil to your skin. You can also apply crushed mulberry fruit on your skin. You may notice the results over time.
14. Orchid Flower Extract
The orchid extract has a similar effect as vitamin C for improving hyperpigmentation. A study involving 48 women between the ages of 30 and 60 for eight weeks found that it helped improve melasma and lentigo senilis and also had skin-whitening effects (13).
How To Use: You may buy products that contain orchid extracts, or you can seep orchid petals in hot water for half an hour, store it in a spray bottle and use it as a face mist.
Natural ingredients usually do not have major side effects unless you are allergic to them or have hypersensitive skin. They are safe but may take time to show results. If your condition is severe and you want quick results, talk to your doctor for more effective medical treatment options.
Medical Treatment Options For Pigmentation And Spots
The treatment you undergo depends on the cause of your hyperpigmentation. If it is due to other health-related issues, treating the underlying problem can help reduce pigmentation. Some of the common treatments options include:
- Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment
- Chemical peel
- Laser resurfacing
- Topical creams (corticosteroids, hydroquinone, retinoids, and vitamin C)
Preventing unwanted skin darkening is the first step to avoid hyperpigmentation in the future. You need to take good care of your skin and limit sun exposure. Here are a few tips you can follow to prevent skin pigmentation.
Tips To Prevent Skin Pigmentation
1. Use Sun Protection Every Day
Exposure to UV rays triggers sun spots, age spots, dark patches, and hyperpigmentation. Do not forget to apply sunscreen lotion on the exposed areas. Excessive sun exposure activates the melanin production system, and a good sunscreen helps to prevent that.
2. Apply Anti-Inflammatory Skin Care Products
Whether it is acne or dermatitis, skin inflammation leaves marks that are tough to erase and make your skin look dark and pigmented. Let your skin heal by using anti-inflammatory skin care products.
3. Eat Healthy
A healthy and balanced diet keeps your skin and body healthy. Your body can use the vitamins and nutrients derived from the diet to trigger healing.
Most of us have hyperpigmentation in some form, and it is impossible to get rid of it overnight. You have to be consistent with your treatment method. These natural remedies can help minimize its appearance and prevent future damage. However, before trying any natural remedy or alternative treatment, consult a doctor to find out the reason behind your hyperpigmentation. If you have ignored those spots all these days, it’s time you get serious about them.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Is it possible to get rid of hyperpigmentation permanently?
If the pigmentation has affected the skin on deep levels, it may not be easy to get rid of it completely. However, with constant care and treatment, you can fade it to a great extent.
How do you get rid of pigmentation overnight?
It is not possible to get rid of pigmentation overnight. You can try home remedies and medical treatment options to improve its appearance over time.
What is the best treatment for hyperpigmentation?
A combination of medical treatment and home remedies is the best way to treat hyperpigmentation. Also, minimize sun exposure to ensure the issue does not aggravate.
How long does it take to clear up hyperpigmentation?
It may take anywhere between 3 months and 2 years, depending on the extent of your pigmentation and the treatment method. Ensure to take proper care of your skin.
- Atik, Derya et al. “The Effect of External Apple Vinegar Application on Varicosity Symptoms, Pain, and Social Appearance Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2016 (2016): 6473678.
- Sharique, A Ali et al. “On The Novel Action of Melanolysis by a Leaf Extract of Aloe vera and Its Active Ingredient Aloin, Potent Skin Depigmenting Agents.” Biological and Pharmacological Activity Original Papers: Thieme E-Journals, Planta Med Vol. 78,8 (2012): 767-771.
- Sarkar, Rashmi et al. “Cosmeceuticals for Hyperpigmentation: What is Available?.” Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery vol. 6,1 (2013): 4-11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3663177/
- Smit, Nico et al. “The hunt for natural skin whitening agents.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 10,12 5326-49. 10 Dec. 2009.
- Arung, Enos Tangke et al. “Tyrosinase inhibitory effect of quercetin 4′-O-β-D-glucopyranoside from dried skin of red onion (Allium cepa).” Natural product research vol. 25,3 (2011): 256-63.
- Singh, Rashmi et al. “Effect of 82% Lactic Acid in Treatment of Melasma.” International Scholarly Research Notices vol. 2014.
- Rizwan, M et al. “Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo : a randomized controlled trial.” British Journal of Dermatology vol. 164, 1 (2010): 154-162.
- Choi, So-Young, and Young-Chul Kim. “Whitening effect of black tea water extract on brown Guinea pig skin.” Toxicological research vol. 27,3 (2011): 153-60.
- Wuttisin, N. et al. “Anti-tyrosinase activity of orange peel extract and cosmetic formulation.” International Food Research Journal vol. 24,5 (2017): 2128-2132.
- Umadevi, M. et al. “Health Benefits and Cons of Solanum tuberosum.” Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies vol. 1,1 (2013):16-25.
- Moy, Ronald L, and Corey Levenson. “Sandalwood Album Oil as a Botanical Therapeutic in Dermatology.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 10,10 (2017): 34-39.
- Hollinger, Jasmine C et al. “Are Natural Ingredients Effective in the Management of Hyperpigmentation? A Systematic Review.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 11,2 (2018): 28-37.
- Tadokoro, Taketsugu et al. “Whitening efficacy of plant extracts including orchid extracts on Japanese female skin with melasma and lentigo senilis.” The Journal of Dermatology vol. 37, 6 (2010): 522-30.
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