How to Address and Prevent Dark Spots on Deep Skin Tones
Dark spots, or hyperpigmentation, can appear on all skin types and tones, but are particularly prevalent amongst those with deeper skin tones. The good news is that discoloration can be effectively managed and even prevented. To help find out how to address dark spots on skin of color, we consulted with Dr. Peter Schmid, plastic surgeon and SkinCeuticals ambassador.
What Is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is characterized by patches of dark skin discoloration that may be a form of freckles, blemishes, post acne marks or melasma. “It is one of the most common reasons patients consult with me,” says Dr. Schmid . “Rest easy, because many of these conditions are able to be addressed with a commitment to regular skincare, be that with a quality at-home 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 American Academy of Dermatology, spots occur on dark skin tones 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 skincare products, hormonal fluctuations and more.
“The most prevalent cause of hyperpigmentation is unprotected sun exposure and the subsequent sun damage and aging of the skin,” says Dr. Schmid. “All skin types remain vulnerable to UV radiation, be there cloudy skies or rain. Sun damage and pigmentation management demands preventative skincare.” 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 CeraVe Sheer Tint Hydrating Sunscreen With SPF 30. 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?
Dr. Schmid says that he often begins seeing dark spots on teenagers and those in their 20s due to hormonal changes or daily sun exposure. Once they appear, 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
There are simple skincare habits you can adopt to help improve the appearance of dark spots. As far as professional treatments go, Dr. Schmid says that chemical peels and microneedling may help improve the clarity of the skin when paired with the right skincare 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 day to protect your skin from UV rays.
How to Prevent Dark Spots on Dark Skin Tones
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. However, applying sunscreen is an absolute must across all skin tones and types. For an option that doesn’t leave a white cast, we like Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30.
Tip 2: Start Your Routine Early
Your best defense (after sunscreen, that is) is starting a solid skincare regimen as early as possible and continuing that routine throughout your lifetime. Vitamin C is known for its brightening properties so it can be beneficial to add a product formulated with the ingredient into your routine. For vitamin C beginners, we recommend the IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Dark Spots Serum. It contains 1% ethyl vitamin C and niacinamide that work together to reduce dark spots and discoloration while improving skin clarity.
Tip 3: Target Acne
If you have acne-prone skin and can reduce the risk of breakouts, you can help prevent hyperpigmentation from forming. In addition to SPF, make sure you’re using gentle yet effective acne-fighting products — like retinol — in your routine when necessary. One of our go-to products is the Kiehl’s Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum.
Photo: Jonet Williamson