6 Natural Remedies for Dark Spots

Woman with aloe face mask
Trinette Reed/Stocksy United

Natural remedies are often used in an effort to remove dark spots from the skin. Also known as sun spots, liver spots, or age spots, dark spots typically form as a result of years of exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Dark spots are caused by hyperpigmentation, which occurs when cumulative exposure to ultraviolet light leads to overproduction of melanin (the pigment responsible for giving your skin its natural color).

 Dark spots are especially common in people with fair skin. They usually appear on the parts of your skin most frequently exposed to the sun, such as your face, hands, and arms.

Although they sometimes resemble moles and other growths associated with skin cancer, dark spots are harmless and don't need to be treated. If you do want to get them removed, conventional treatment usually involves removal of the spots or use of skin-lightening products. Strategies such as chemical peels and laser therapy are also occasionally used for dark spot removal.

Popular Natural Remedies for Dark Spots

A number of natural remedies are often promoted as alternative approaches to removing dark spots. However, there's currently a lack of scientific support for their effectiveness. Generally applied directly to the skin, these remedies include:

1) Papaya Juice

Proponents suggest that the alpha-hydroxy acids found in papaya juice can eliminate dark spots by exfoliating the skin.

Malic acid is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid found in many fruits and is said to offer a variety of benefits.

2) Buttermilk & Yogurt

Buttermilk and yogurt are both rich in lactic acid, another compound touted for its exfoliating effects. In some cases, buttermilk and yogurt are blended with honey when used as remedies for dark spots.

3) Aloe Vera

A plant used for a variety of skin conditions (including sunburn), aloe vera is said to treat dark spots by speeding up skin regeneration. 

4) Lemon Juice

High in vitamin C, lemon juice is thought to remove dark spots by producing a bleaching effect.

5) Vitamin E Oil

Vitamin E oil is an antioxidant-rich substance said to offer anti-aging benefits. Although there's some evidence that applying vitamin E to the skin may help reduce sun-induced damage, there's a lack of scientific support for the claim that vitamin E oil can treat dark spots.

6) Sandalwood Oil

An essential oil popular in aromatherapy, sandalwood is used as a remedy for a wide range of skin problems, including dark spots. Proponents suggest that sandalwood oil may have an anti-aging effect on skin.

While these substances aren't known to be effective as natural remedies for dark spots, such remedies aren't likely to cause harm when applied to your skin.

Tips for Preventing Dark Spots

To prevent dark spots, it's important to limit your sun exposure and to use sunscreen whenever you spend time outdoors in daylight hours.

It's particularly important to keep out of the sun when its rays are strongest, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Strategies such as dressing in clothing made of tightly woven fabrics, wearing sunglasses, and shielding your face and scalp with a wide-brimmed hat can also help stave off dark spots.

When selecting a sunscreen, opt for a broad-spectrum sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. To ensure optimal protection, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying the equivalent of a shot glass (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to the exposed areas of the face and body. This includes applying a nickel-sized dollop to the face alone.

When Should Dark Spots Be Seen by a Doctor?

Since dark spots are sometimes similar in appearance to cancerous growths, it's crucial to consult your physician if you experience any changes in your skin (such as an increase in the size of the dark spot). You should also seek medical attention if a dark spot has a jagged or otherwise irregular border.

Other causes for concern include dark spots with a combination of colors, as well as dark spots accompanied by such symptoms as bleeding, itching, and/or redness.

Sources:

Habif TM. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 19.

National Institutes of Health. Sun protection. 2015.

Schagen SK1, Zampeli VA, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1;4(3):298-307.

Skin Cancer Foundation. Ask the Expert: How much sunscreen should I be using on my face and body?

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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