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How to Get Rid of Dark Spots on Your Face

Four Parts:Finding the CauseUsing Proven TreatmentsTrying Home RemediesPreventing More Dark Spots from Forming

The chemical that gives human skin its color is called melanin, and the production of too much in one area leads to freckles, liver spots, and other patches of darker skin. These dark spots on your face, which are also called hyper-pigmentation. These can be caused by sun exposure, hormonal fluctuations, or as a side effect of certain drugs. It's not a serious medical condition, but if you have dark spots you're probably ready for brighter, clearer skin. Treating the underlying cause, using chemical peels and other treatments, and trying natural skin lightening methods are all ways you can deal with the problem. See Step 1 to learn more about what's causing your dark spots and how to get rid of them.

Part 1
Finding the Cause

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    Learn about the different types of dark spots. Since dark spots can be caused by a number of different factors, learning about the different types will give you a head start when it comes to figuring out how to get rid of them. Here are the three different types of hyperpigmentation:[1]
    • Lentigines. These are dark spots caused by exposure to UV rays from the sun. 90 percent of people over the age of 60 have them, but many much younger men and women have sun-related dark spots as well. The spots appear scattered in no particular pattern.
    • Melasma. This type of dark spots are caused by hormonal fluctuations. Women might see darker splotches appear on their cheeks during times when their hormones are in flux, like during pregnancy or menopause. It's also a side effect of birth control pills and hormone therapy treatments. Melasma can also occur as a result of thyroid dysfunction .
    • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). These are dark spots that occur as a result of trauma to the skin, which can be caused by psoriasis, burns, acne, and certain skin care treatments that are hard on the skin.
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    Figure out what's causing yours. Once you know what you're dealing with, you'll be able to choose a course of treatment and start making lifestyle changes to prevent more dark spots from showing up. Ask yourself these questions to determine what's behind your dark spots:
    • Do you frequently use a tanning bed or go tanning in the sun? If you tend to get high sun exposure and you don't wear much sunscreen, you might have valentines. Topical treatments and avoidance of sun exposure are the best way to get rid of this type of hyperpigmentation.
    • Do you have a current medical condition for which you're on medication? Are you pregnant, on birth control, or taking hormone therapy? It's possible you have melanoma. This can be difficult to treat, but there are certainly methods that can make a difference.
    • Have you had severe acne, plastic surgery, or other long-term skin conditions? You could have PIH, which responds well to topical treatments and may go away with time.
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    See a dermatologist for a diagnosis. The dermatologist will have a special magnifying lamp he or she can use to take a close look at your skin to determine what's behind your dark spots. In addition to conducting a physical examination, the doctor will also ask you a series of questions about your lifestyle to help figure out what's going on. The dermatologist will advise the best course of action for treating your existing dark spots and preventing more from showing up.
    • Since hyperpigmentation is a common condition for which many people seek treatment, there are a lot of products and treatments on the market promising to make the dark spots go away, fast. Seeing a dermatologist will help you sort through what ingredients work and which ones don't.[2]
    • Some of the best treatments for dark spots are available by prescription only, which is another good reason to see a dermatologist for further treatment.
    • Finally, it's important to rule out melanoma or another type of skin cancer as the potential culprit behind one or more of your dark spots. Getting a regular full-body examination every year is an important way to catch skin cancer before it advances.[3]

Part 2
Using Proven Treatments

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    Start with manual exfoliation. If you've only had the dark spots for a month or two, they may be contained within the top few layers of your skin. You might be able to get rid of them by simply exfoliating your face. Exfoliation is the process of removing the top layer of skin, bringing new skin to the surface.
    • Find an exfoliating cleanser that contains tiny particles that gently scrub the skin to take off the top layer. You can also make your own by mixing ground raw almonds or ground oatmeal into your regular cleanser. Apply it to the dark spots in a circular motion.
    • Electric exfoliators such as the clarisonic dig a little deeper than your standard exfoliating cleanser. They work by gently scraping the dead skin cells from your face. You can find them online or in drugstores.
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    Try a topical acid treatment. These are available both by prescription and over the counter. They contain alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids or retinoids. The application of these different acids removes the top layer of dead skin cells, allowing fresh cells to grow so that the skin is rejuvenated. These treatments are used to treat hyperpigmentation of all types.
    • Alpha-hydroxy acids include glycolic acid, mandelic acid, citric acid, lactic acid and others. These acids are often derived from produce and other food products. They exfoliate the skin effectively, but are gentle enough for people with sensitive skin. Alpha-hydroxy acids can be found in serums, creams, moisturizers and peels.
    • Beta-hydroxy acid is also known as salicylic acid. It's a common ingredient in over-the-counter acne medications and skin treatments.[4] Salicylic acid can be applied in a cream, serum, cleanser or peel.
    • Retinoic acid is also known as tretinoin, or Retin-A. Retinoic acid is a form of Vitamin A. It's a very effective treatment for acne and dark spots. It is available in creams and gels, only by prescription in the United States.
    • If you're looking for an over-the-counter product, try to find one that contains a combination of these ingredients: hydroquinone, cucumber, soy, kojic acid, calcium, azelaic acid, or arbutin.[5]
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    Consider a chemical peel. If surface treatments don't sufficiently fade your dark spots, you might consider a chemical peel. Chemical peels literally remove the top layers of your skin. They often contain the acids describe above in high concentrations. They are classified by three levels of strength: light, medium and deep.[6]
    • Light chemical peels usually include alpha-hydroxy acids. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are common ingredients. They're considered the most effective peels for dark spots.
    • Medium chemical peels include TCA, or trichloroacetic acid. Many recommend this peel for dark spots due to sun damage. For best results, it is usually repeated every two weeks until the spots have sufficiently faded. These peels are generally not recommended for people with darker complexions as they can cause more dark spots to appear after the skin has healed.
    • Deep chemical peels contain phenol, or carbolic acid, as their active ingredient. They are often used for deep wrinkles, but also for correcting severe sun damage. Phenol peels are very strong, and are administered under anesthesia. It may take several months for results to show as the skin heals.
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    Try microdermabrasion. Microdermabrasion is a procedure that uses very fine crystals to "sandblast" the dark spots off your skin.[7] A new, fresh layer of skin grows in place of the skin that was removed. Treatments are usually done once a month over several months.
    • Find an experienced practitioner. Abrading the skin can cause irritation, making the discoloration worse. If someone does it wrong, you might end up very disappointed with the results.
    • Microdermabrasion should not be done too often, since your skin needs time to heal between treatments.
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    Look into laser treatment. Laser treatment, also called Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy, uses quick pulses of light to destroy dark-spot causing melanin. The pigmented areas absorb the light and shatter or vaporize. Your body heals the spot by forming a scab and growing new, fresh, unpigmented skin in its place. [8] Laser treatment is highly effective, but expensive, and can be painful.
    • Laser treatment is usually the best option when the spots have been there for a long time. Dark spots you've had for a year or longer are deep within the skin, and topical treatments won't be able to reach them.
    • If you have very light skin, 4 or 5 laser treatments may be needed before the spots are completely gone.[9]

Part 3
Trying Home Remedies

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    Rub your skin with citrus. Citrus fruits contain abundant amounts of Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. Vitamin C helps slough off the top layer of skin without causing damage. Here are some ways to use it.
    • Squeeze some juice and dab it on your skin. Women have used straight lemon juice to lighten their skin for centuries, but you can use an orange, grapefruit or lime if you prefer. Slice the fruit in half and squeeze the juice into a cup or bowl. Using a cotton ball, dab it onto your dark spots. Leave it on for 20 minutes, then rinse off. Repeat once or twice a day.
    • Make a lemon and honey face mask. Combine the juice of half a lemon with 2 teaspoons of honey. Mix well, and apply to your face. Leave it on for 30 minutes, then rinse well.
    • Make a citrus and powdered milk scrub. Combine 1 teaspoon each of water, powdered milk and the juice of your favorite citrus fruit. Mix into a soft paste and massage into your skin. Rinse well.
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    Try Vitamin E. A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E helps repair damaged cells and strengthen new ones. You can use Vitamin E as a topical treatment alone, or boost its benefits by also eating foods high in Vitamin E.
    • Topical application: Massage pure Vitamin E oil directly onto your dark spots. With daily application, your spots will fade.
    • Dietary sources: Add these foods to your diet to get even more Vitamin E power: nuts (almonds, peanuts, pine nuts), sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, and dried apricots.
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    Slice up a papaya. Papaya fruit contains the enzyme papain. Papain helps exfoliate the skin, making way for new skin cells to emerge. Papaya also contains Vitamin C and Vitamin E, so it's a dark spot fading superstar. Papain is most concentrated while the papaya is still green, but you can use riper fruit as well. Peel and remove the seeds from a papaya, and try one of the following treatments:
    • Slice a piece off of the papaya, and lay or hold it on the dark spots that you want to get rid of. Hold it there for 20-30 minutes. Repeat twice a day for best results.
    • Make a papaya facial mask. Cut the papaya into chunks, then use a blender or food processor to blend the fruit into a smooth paste. Apply the mask to your face and neck. Leave it on for about 30 minutes, then rinse well.
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    Reach for aloe vera. The aloe vera plant has many health benefits. It's an excellent moisturizer, and is effective for healing sunburns. It can also help fade dark spots. If you have an aloe plant at home, break off a small piece, squeeze the pulp into your hand and apply it directly to your dark spots. You can also find aloe gel in stores. Pure aloe vera will work best, so make sure you're purchasing a 100% aloe vera product.
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    Try a red onion. Onions have acidic properties that act to lighten dark spots on skin. It's worth a try if you don't have a lemon on hand! Peel a red onion, cut it into chunks, and process it in either a juicer or a blender. Use a cotton ball to dab some of the onion on your dark spots, and let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing it off.[10]

Part 4
Preventing More Dark Spots from Forming

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    Limit your sun exposure. Exposure to UV rays is one of the most common causes of dark spots. No matter what kind of dark spots you have, staying out in the sun too long can make the problem worse. As far as prevention goes, staying away from these harmful rays is the best thing you can do to protect yourself. Take the following measures to keep your skin safe from too much exposure to UV rays:
    • Wear sunscreen. Even in the winter, wear sunscreen on your face with SPF 15 or higher.
    • In strong, direct sun, wear a hat and sunglasses. Cover the rest of your face with strong sunscreen.
    • Don't use tanning beds. The direct exposure to UV rays is harmful to your skin (as well as internal organs).
    • Don't sunbathe. When your tan fads, dark spots will be left behind.
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    Take stock of your medications. If you have melasma that's caused by medications you're on, you might be able to get rid of dark spots by switching to a different medication. Talk with your doctor to discuss your concerns and see if there's something else you could take that doesn't have this side effect.
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    Watch out for professional skin treatments. Hyperpigmentation can result from a skin treatment that wasn't properly administered. Plastic surgery or deep chemical peels can end up leaving dark spots behind. Before you get any kind of skin treatment, do thorough research to make sure the technician or physician has plenty of experience in the area and a good track record.
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    Keep your hands off your face. Whenever you find a pimple on your face, do not try to press, rub or touch it. The more you touch a pimple, the more are the chances of developing a dark spot. Remember, dark spots arise as pimples vanish!


  • Be patient. Dark spots can often be very stubborn, and can take time to fade. Be persistent and consistent with the treatment method you choose.
  • When you're dehydrated, skin cell turnover slows. Drink plenty of water to give your dark spot treatment a little extra boost.
  • Look into what kind of skin you have, for example if you have sensitive skin its probably best to watch what your putting on your skin, as some products on different skin types could result in spots or odd rashes.


  • Don't go out in the sun with citrus juice on your face, as this can cause it to burn.
  • Make sure to use plenty of sunscreen when using any type of skin lightening product.
  • Always follow package directions when using home treatments for dark spot removal.
  • Pregnant or nursing women should not use salicylic acid.
  • If you are allergic to aspirin, do not use products containing salicylic acid.
  • Hydroquinone, a known skin lightening product, has been linked to cancer, pigment cell damage, dermatitis and other skin problems. Most skin care specialists do not recommend its use unless all other options do not show results.
  • If you have a doctor or esthetician, perform dark spot treatment. Follow their post-treatment instructions very carefully.

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