Dark spots. Age spots. Liver spots. Sun damage. Discoloration. Freckles. Melasma. There are lots of ways we describe uneven skin tone, which are most often seen on the face, chest, and hands because of their frequent exposure to the sun and other elements.
While there are variations on how these spots look and how they come to be, they all fall under the headline of hyperpigmentation, defined as any darkening in skin pigment due to an increase in melanin. This happens due to the overstimulation of melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells in skin.
What Causes Dark Spots in the First Place?
Soaking up the Sun
The most obvious and common cause of dark spots is sun damage. UV rays penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, where they cause disruption that can manifest as dark spots. In response to sun exposure, the body produces more melanin, which is how you get a suntan—but it also creates an uneven skin tone and dark spots. You might mistake this type of hyperpigmentation for freckles, but freckles can sometimes fade in the absence of sun exposure, while it requires some skincare treatment to see a reduction in appearance of dark spots.
Limiting sun exposure altogether and using a high SPF is your best defense against both the cosmetic and more serious effects of the sun.
This one is pretty unavoidable. Regularly referred to as “age spots” or “liver spots,” some amount of discoloration does go hand in hand with lifetime sun exposure. You may see more dark spots because melanocytes increase in size and pigment production with age and skin becomes thinner, making hyperpigmentation appear more pervasive.
Those with lighter skin tones are more prone to this damage, which are usually brown spots on areas that have been directly hit by UVA/UVB rays like the face, shoulders, upper back, and hands.
Evidence of Aging
Breakouts often cause dark spots on skin. This is because overproduction of melanin can occur as a response to the irritation caused by acne—and sun exposure can make this reaction appear worse. These spots may fade over time on their own, but a powerful dark spot serum can help improve them faster.
Evidence of Irritation
There are other types of irritation besides breakouts that can cause dark spots. After an injury to the skin including a burn, a flare-up of a condition like eczema, an infection, or an allergic reaction, skin can look discolored. This is seen more frequently in darker skin tones and can appear blue-gray in color.
Pregnancy and Hormonal Changes
If you’re on birth control or have recently been pregnant, your dark spots may be a result of hormonal fluctuations. Melasma, sometimes called “the mask of pregnancy,” is a type of hyperpigmentation. It typically affects women of reproductive age with medium to darker brown skin tones who tan well. Increases in estrogen and progesterone are thought to be what triggers the melanin production that results in Melasma.
Melasma is often more splotchy than other varieties of hyperpigmentation, and concentrated to certain areas of the face like the cheeks, chin, forehead, or above the upper lip.
Many of the factors we have reviewed here are perfectly normal. Even proper daily sun protection and generally good health maintenance can’t fully prevent hyperpigmentation. It’s a natural reaction to the environment we live in and the aging process.
How to Fade Dark Spots
Now for some good news. Skincare products are getting better and better at fading dark spots and creating a more even skin tone. With ingredients such as Vitamin C and Retinol over time you will begin to see results, however, there’s a new ingredient that Dr. Pearl Grimes recommends to help reduce the appearance of dark spots called Malassezin.
Mother Science’s Molecular Hero Serum has been clinically proven to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and sun damage starting in just two weeks. It’s powered by a breakthrough, proprietary ingredient, Malassezin, a naturally-occurring molecule found on skin with dramatic benefits for visibly reducing dark spots.