How to Get Rid of Dark Spots on Deep Skin Tones
Have you started to notice dark spots or patches on your face? This discoloration can appear on all skin types and tones for a number of reasons, but it’s particularly prevalent amongst those with deeper skin tones. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes that dark spots and patches are one of the most common skin reasons patients with darker skin tones visit a dermatologist. The good news is that this discoloration can be effectively managed and even prevented — all you need is the proper insight. We tapped plastic surgeon and SkinCeuticals ambassador Dr. Peter Schmid for help. Keep reading for his expert tips on how to address dark spots on skin of color.
What Is Hyperpigmentation or Dark Spots?
Before you can help improve the appearance of your dark spots, it’s important to first understand the basics behind the common skin concern. Hyperpigmentation is characterized by patches of dark skin discoloration that may be consistent with freckles, blemishes, sun spots or melasma. “It is one of the most common reasons patients consult with me,” Dr. Schmid says. “Rest easy, because many of these conditions are able to be addressed with a commitment to regular skin care, be that with a quality home skin-care regimen or advanced in-office treatment.”
What Causes Dark Spots or Hyperpigmentation?
Dark spots and patches can appear for a number of different reasons. According to the AAD, dark spots occur on black skin when an aggressor triggers the skin to produce extra melanin, the substance that gives skin its color. Those triggers can include certain medications, a breakout, irritation from skin-care products, hormonal fluctuations and more. Another trigger can be sun exposure. “The most prevalent cause of hyperpigmentation is unprotected sun exposure, subsequent sun damage and aging of the skin,” Dr. Schmid says. “All skin types remain vulnerable to UV radiation, be there cloudy skies or rain. Sun damage and pigmentation management demands preventative skin care.” Keep in mind that UV exposure can darken pre-existing spots, which is even more incentive to be diligent with sunscreen use.
To keep your skin protected, look for a broad spectrum UVA/UVB physical or chemical sunscreen that you can wear every day. We like the Glossier Invisible Shield. Take your sun protection measures a step further by covering up with protective clothing, seeking shade and avoiding peak sun hours.
When Can Dark Spots Appear?
Dark spots may appear alongside other signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles, but they’re not exclusive to mature skin. Dr. Schmid says he often begins seeing dark spots on teenagers and those in their 20s due to hormonal changes or daily sun exposure. Once the problem starts, it’s crucial to begin taking action sooner rather than later. “Unfortunately, most hyperpigmentation remains persistent or darkens over time if not addressed,” Dr. Schmid says. “In fact, bad habits in our teen years can set us up for the future health of our skin, as the skin has a memory of repetitive sun exposure, long hours of tanning and burns.”
How to Address Dark Spots on Skin of Color
The struggle with skin discoloration can be daunting, but don’t let that discourage you. There are simple skin-care habits you can adopt to help improve the appearance of dark spots. As far as professional treatments go, Dr. Schmid says chemical peels and microneedling may help improve the clarity of the skin when paired with a science-based skin-care regimen.
“My recommended home regimens vary based upon the skin type, skin sensitivity and severity of the hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Schmid says. To start, try “a medical-grade cleanser combined with SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, followed by a broad-spectrum sunscreen.”
If your skin is void of redness, broken capillaries or hypersensitivity, Dr. Schmid recommends retinol products. “Retinol therapy, however, should be prescribed under the direction of a professional,” he says. “And product efficiency relies upon the proper timing and method of application.” Just keep in mind that retinol use can cause skin sensitivity to sunlight. When applying retinol products to the skin, pair them with broad-spectrum sunscreen during the daytime hours to protect your skin from UV rays.
How to Prevent Dark Spots on Dark Skin Tones
There are many preventative measures you can take to protect your skin against future dark spots. Keep reading to learn more.
Tip #1: Wear Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen
Because people of color have more melanin in their skin, many wrongly assume that they’re naturally more protected from harmful UV rays. As such, many people of color tend to skip out on applying sunblock. This is a big no-no — applying sunscreen is an absolute must across all skin tones and types. It is absolutely essential in preventing all kinds of skin conditions caused by sun exposure — both non-serious and very serious — hyperpigmentation included.
Tip #2: Start Your Routine Early
Your best defense (after sunscreen, that is) is starting a solid skin-care regimen as early as possible and continuing that routine throughout your lifetime. Be sure to research what kind of skin-brightening products might be best for your specific skin type and needs.
Tip #3: Set a Routine
Sticking to a skin-care routine catered to your individual needs can help reduce the risk of breakouts which can cause subsequent areas of hyperpigmentation. For example, if you know you have oily skin and are more likely to experience a breakout, form a regimen that incorporates both acne-combatting products and SPF.