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Dark Spots: Are They A Cosmetic Problem Or Something More Serious?

Troubled by dark spots or patches on your face? These dark marks, also known as hyperpigmentation, are fairly common among people of all skin types, though people of color are more likely to have them.

Here’s a closer look at what causes them, how to treat them, and what else one should know if you’ve noticed these spots on your face or other areas of the body.

Hyperpigmentation can occur in small areas, but larger dark marks may appear on any area of the body, especially the face and hands.

It is fairly common and usually not a symptom of a more serious condition, and includes sun spots, melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. 

Fix Your Dark Spots in 3 Steps! | Hyperpigmentation | Melasma | Skincare Made Simple

Sun spots, as their name implies, are caused by sun exposure while melasma is caused by hormonal fluctuations, often related to pregnancy. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs when skin is infected or injured. Acne and other skin conditions can leave dark marks on the skin even after they are healed. 

If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you’re more likely to develop hyperpigmentation. Inflammation can also increase melanin production and your risk of hyperpigmentation.

Melanin is the pigment in your skin that determines its color; hyperpigmented skin has more melanin in it than the surrounding skin. 

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Using oral contraceptives and being pregnant increases your risk of developing dark spots, as can taking drugs that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. People with darker skin tones are also more prone to changes in pigmentation. 

A dermatologist can tell you the cause of your hyperpigmentation and whether it’s simply a cosmetic concern or something that should be biopsied. Hyperpigmentation can be treated with topical medications such as hydroquinone or creams containing topical retinoids.

However, these treatments may take several months to lighten dark spots. Your doctor may also recommend chemical peels, laser treatments or dermalinfusion to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. 

To prevent hyperpigmentation, stay out of the sun as much as you can, especially during peak sun times, and use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day. Some patches may fade when no longer exposed to sun; others may not fade completely even with treatment.

It’s important to note that dark spots are usually not a sign of a significant medical condition, but if you have any questions or concerns, consider speaking to your health care provider. The attached resource, What Are Those Dark Spots? And How To Treat Them, tells you more about this common skin concern.

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This infographic was created by Zapatat, a laser tattoo removal provider

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