Dark Spots: Causes, Types, And Natural Treatment

Medically reviewed by Dr. Hari Hara Sudhan, MD, MD
Written by Shaheen Naser

Dark spots or hyperpigmentation occurs when your skin overproduces melanin. This forms spots or patches on your skin that are darker than the surrounding areas.

These spots usually appear on your face, legs, and arms. They can also appear as a result of excessive exposure to sunlight. They are usually harmless, but in some cases, they may be a sign of an underlying skin condition.

This article lists the natural ways as well as medical treatment options that may help in lightening dark spots.

What Causes Dark Spots On The Face?

Dark spots or hyperpigmentation occurs due to excess melanin production in certain areas of your skin. Melanin is a pigment produced by your body that gives your hair, eyes, and skin color.

Factors that may contribute to dark spots include:

  • Exposure to peak sunlight every day can cause the appearance of dark spots on your skin (1). This is because it increases the production of melanin on the surface of your skin.
  • Hormonal imbalances can also cause hyperpigmentation (2). This, in turn, can lead to the appearance of dark spots on your skin.
  • Certain medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), psychotropic drugs, or tetracyclines can lead to increased melanin production (3). This can result in dark spots.

Dark spots can be classified into different types, depending on how they are caused.

Types Of Dark Spots

  • Melasma – It is caused by hormonal fluctuations and is more prominent during pregnancy or menopause (4).
  • Lentigines – They are caused by excess sun exposure and are more common in old age (over 60 years) (5).
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation – It is caused by skin conditions like acne, burns, etc. (6).

Sometimes, acne can also cause spots on your skin. These spots are usually formed when sebum gets oxidized, and they do not indicate skin damage.

Dark spots can take a while to fade or disappear, and, in some cases, you may have to consult your dermatologist. Here are a few natural remedies to lighten dark spots.

Natural Ways To Lighten Dark Spots

1. Lemon Juice

Lemons are rich sources of flavonoids and other antioxidants, which may help lighten the dark spots on your face (7).

What To Do: You will need a teaspoon of lemon juice, water, and cotton swabs. Mix the lemon juice and water. Dip a cotton swab in the solution and apply it to the affected areas. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes. Rinse with water. You may do this once daily.

Note: Lemon juice can cause a stinging sensation on some skin types. If you are allergic to lemon juice, you must avoid this remedy. If you use this remedy, ensure you apply sunscreen before heading out.

2. Parsley

Parsley exhibits skin-lightening properties as it is rich in vitamin C. This may help treat dark spots and other similar conditions, including epidermal melasma (8).

What To Do: You will need 1-2 tablespoons of parsley leaves and sterile cotton pads. Blend the parsley leaves in a blender. Apply the mixture to the entire face. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes and rinse with water. Do this once daily or every alternate day.

3. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera contains aloin, a compound with melanocytic effects that can help depigment dark spots (9).

What To Do: You will need aloe vera gel and cotton pads. Extract the gel from an aloe vera leaf. Whisk the gel using a fork. Dip a cotton swab into the whisked gel and apply it to the affected areas. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes before rinsing. You may do this once daily for best results.

4. Orange Peel

Orange peel contains hesperidin, a potent flavonoid, which has skin-lightening effects. This may help eliminate the dark spots on your skin (10).

What To Do: You will need half a teaspoon of dried orange peel powder, water, and a cotton pad. Mix a few drops of water with the dried orange peel powder. Apply the mixture to the affected areas using a cotton swab. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes and rinse with water. You may do this once daily.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant with anti-melanogenic effects (11). This may help lighten dark spots.

What To Do: You will need a teaspoon of turmeric, some water, and cotton pads. Mix the turmeric powder with a few drops of water to form a thick paste. Apply the mixture to the affected areas. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes. Rinse with water. You may do this once daily.

Note: Some people may develop an allergic reaction to turmeric paste. If you are allergic to turmeric, you must avoid this remedy.

6. Cucumber

Cucumber is a rich source of antioxidants and silica-rich compounds that possess skin-lightening properties (12). This may help minimize the appearance of dark spots.

What To Do: Take a fresh cucumber and blend it. Apply this paste on the areas with dark spots. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes and rinse with water. You may do this 1-2 times daily.

Use any or a combination of these remedies to lighten stubborn dark spots. If you are dealing with a severe case of hyperpigmentation (or dark spots), you need to consult a dermatologist.

How Does A Dermatologist Treat Dark Spots?

The common treatment options include:

  • Laser therapy, which uses laser rays to target melanin deposition and fade dark spots (13).
  • Chemical peels, which involve the application of a chemical solution to the skin to exfoliate the surface layer, thereby helping lighten the dark spots (14).
  • Microdermabrasion, which removes the outermost layer of the skin using a special device to promote collagen growth and reduce dark spots (15).

Prevention Tips

  • Always wear sunscreen with SPF 40 or above before stepping out in the sun. Reapply every four hours in case of continued sun exposure.
  • Wear sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face from the harmful sun rays.
  • Treat inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema, or psoriasis immediately to prevent the development of dark spots on the skin.
  • Avoid going out between 10 AM and 4 PM, when the sun rays are the most intense.

These tips can complement the remedies and give you better results.

Dark spots are usually harmless and fade on their own. However, if you want to speed up the process, you can use any of the remedies listed in this article. Remember, natural remedies take time, and the effectiveness of the remedy depends on the cause of the dark spots and the severity of the condition. But if you do not notice any improvement in your condition, seek immediate medical help.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the best cream to treat facial dark spots?

Most over-the-counter formulations containing retinol and alpha hydroxy acids work well to treat dark spots. But they might also cause adverse effects, including increased sensitivity and skin inflammation. Hence, you need to consult a dermatologist.

How long do the dark spots take to fade?

While dark spots caused by acne or skin injury may fade within a couple of weeks, those caused by an underlying skin condition can take anywhere between six months to over a year to fade completely.


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Shaheen holds a postgraduate degree in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology. She is a Geneticist with proficiency in Biotechnology, Immunology, Medical Genetics, Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Genetic Counseling. Her passion for writing and her educational background have assisted her substantially in writing quality content on topics related to health and wellness. In her free time, Shaheen loves to explore the world and the different flavors/cuisines it has to offer. Photography is another hobby she has developed of late.