Improve Blotchy Skin Medical Course
Why Does My Skin Get Blotchy?
Patchy, spotty, uneven skin doesn't have to darken your complexion any longer - read this expert guide to keeping your skin tone even and erasing dark spots for good.
By Bora Chang
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Taking care of your skin can be a challenge when it’s marred by dark spots of hyperpigmentation. “It’s one of the most common reasons that people of color visit a dermatologist,” says Mona Gohara, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University. Find out what causes these blotches and what you can do to ensure that uneven pigmentation doesn’t persist.
Why am I getting dark patches on my skin?
Dark patches can surface on anyone’s skin. However, people with dark skin tones tend to get more dark spots than people with light skin tones because darker skin produces more melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, says Dr. Gohara. You're likely to get dark spots as a dark-skinned person if you have one of these two skin conditions:
- Melasma:Commonly known as pregnancy mask, melasma causes your face to appear as if you’re wearing a dark, blotchy veil. “It’s generally the result of the combination of hormone fluctuations from birth control or pregnancy, and sun exposure,” explains Gohara.
- Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation:If your skin undergoes any trauma, including pimples, a rash, cuts, scrapes, or bruises, the affected area can become discolored because the body increases pigment production in an injured area.Dark spots on elbows and knees may also result from the buildup of layers of dead skin cells, says Jessica Wu, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at University of Southern California medical school, and Daily Glow's dermatology expert. Dark patches in the underarm area may be caused by friction, or by irritation from shaving or waxing.
How should I treat dark spots?
If you suspect that dark patches are the result of the buildup of dead skin cells, try exfoliating the patches with a gentle scrub, advises Dr. Wu. For sensitive areas such as the underarms, skin creams that contain urea and a low percentage of glycolic acid can help remove excess dead skin.
It always helps to talk to your dermatologist, too. Consult him or her about the benefits of a cream containing hydroquinone, which blocks melanin synthesis and helps fade existing dark spots. Also, enlist a retinol, such as Retin-A, because it works well with hydroquinone, says Gohara. Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, helps turn over skin cells and can help reverse small signs of sun damage. In addition, emphasize antioxidants such as soy and licorice root in your daily skin regimen — these ingredients help calm inflammation.
How do I prevent dark spots from recurring?
Start with sun protection. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher will help maintain an even skin tone because it will prevent sunlight from triggering more melanin production.
Small changes in your habits can also help, especially in preventing more trauma to the skin. If you have problems such as acne, cuts, or bruises, it’s best to keep your hands away. “Don’t rub, don’t touch, don’t scratch, don’t pick,” says Doris Day, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical School. “These are no-nos because you’ll traumatize the skin even more.”
Additionally, speak to your dermatologist about treating the underlying causes of dark spots. For instance, if you have acne, it’s best to treat the acne before pimples surface on the skin, because they'll eventually lead to dark spots.
And be sure to discuss with your dermatologist adjustments you might make in your skin care routine to account for any sensitivities or allergies. Because allergies and acne can trigger reactions, such as a rash, that can eventually turn into discoloration, any ingredients that can provoke a reaction should be avoided. These might include essential oils, alcohol, fragrances, dyes, and preservatives, or anything else that you suspect your skin might be allergic to.
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