How to Get Rid of Dark Spots on the Face

dark spot on face ( photo: )

Many factors, such as freckles, age spots, and scarring, can make your skin appear uneven. Although this is not harmful, some people may seek to improve their skin's appearance by using skin lightening products. However, not all of these products are safe and effective. To ensure the safety of your skin, it is important to be knowledgeable about the ingredients and effects of skin lightening products before choosing one.

According to David E. Bank, MD of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, dark spots, also known as hyperpigmentation, can be caused by acne scars, too much sun exposure, or hormonal changes.

Dr. Bank stated that there are various creams and serums available to help reduce and brighten dark spots over time. However, it is important to note that each of these treatments carry some potential risks. To determine the best option for you, it is recommended to read further information and considerations.

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Hydroquinone creams and serums


The most widely used method for spot-specific skin lightening is topical solutions that contain hydroquinone.

According to a 2013 study, there are potential benefits for treating facial melasma, a condition that causes discolored patches on the skin. However, further research is required to determine the full range of its effectiveness.

Due to recent changes made by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2021, hydroquinone is no longer available over-the-counter (OTC) and can only be obtained through a prescription.

Although hydroquinone is considered safe for use in cosmetic products, its concentration is regulated as higher concentrations pose increased risks.

In South Africa, the use of hydroquinone is prohibited altogether. In Canada, it is classified as "expected to be toxic or harmful."

There have been concerns that hydroquinone may cause cancer, but the current research is limited.

It is recommended that people use hydroquinone-containing products only for a short period of time, if at all. If you experience any irritation, darkening of the skin, or other side effects, it is advised to discontinue its use immediately.

Retinoid solutions


Retin-A and Renova are alternative options that contain retinoic acid, which helps increase skin cell renewal, accelerate exfoliation, and encourage the growth of new, healthy skin.

Clinical research has linked retinoids to improvements in skin photoaging, including on Black skin.

It is important to note that retinoids can have a drying effect on the skin and increase its sensitivity to the sun. If you decide to use these products, be aware that they may take several months or more to show results. It is crucial to use sunscreen daily when using these solutions.

Laser treatments and peels


Laser treatment is a more intensive solution for lightening dark spots. It involves the use of concentrated light energy. Some laser treatments target the pigment directly, while others remove skin layer by layer.

This method works by burning off the darkened layers of skin.

There are several different types of laser treatments available. It is faster acting than topical products, but it also comes with potential risks.

Possible side effects of laser skin lightening include swelling, redness, tightness, scarring, infection, and changes in skin texture.

Chemical exfoliators


Chemical exfoliating products use different types of mild acids to dissolve dead skin cells and the top layer of skin. This helps reveal a healthier and more evenly toned complexion.

While chemical exfoliants are generally less irritating than physical exfoliators, such as sugar scrubs, they still have the potential to cause skin irritation.

Chemical exfoliants contain ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), azelaic acid, beta hydroxy acid (BHA), glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and salicylic acid.

Chemical exfoliants can be purchased over-the-counter or in stronger forms from a doctor or dermatologist.

It is crucial to use chemical exfoliants in moderation as your skin needs time to heal and regenerate. Overusing a product can cause irritation or inflammation.

Every skin type reacts differently to different chemical products. If you experience any negative effects, stop using that product.

Injectable skin lightening or bleaching products have been declared both dangerous and ineffective by the FDA. They have the possibility of containing harmful ingredients or contaminants.

If you have experienced any negative consequences from using injectable skin lightening products, seek medical attention promptly.

Other solutions

Over-the-counter skin lightening products that promote natural ingredients can be found in the market. According to David E. Bank, MD, of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, these products often contain ingredients such as vitamin C, azelaic acid, pomegranate extract, beta carotene, and licorice extract. However, even these natural ingredients can cause skin sensitivity or allergic reactions, so one should be cautious when using these products.

Preventing dark spots

For the majority of individuals, the outcomes of skin lightening products are insignificant when compared to the dangers involved.

Preventing skin damage is usually the best approach. Caring for your skin even after dark spots appear will help prevent them from getting worse.

"Using strict sun protection is crucial in fading dark spots," according to Bank. "It is important to use products with sun blocking ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, otherwise the spots may reappear even after they have been treated."

Consulting with a dermatologist is advisable to determine the most effective and least risky options.

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How to Treat Skin Hyperpigmentation Naturally


Pigmentation refers to the coloring of the skin, and skin pigmentation disorders can result in changes to the skin's color. The pigment responsible for skin color is melanin, which is produced by skin cells.

Hyperpigmentation is a condition that causes darkening of the skin, which can occur in patches or on the entire body. Age spots, also known as liver spots, are a common form of hyperpigmentation.

While hyperpigmentation is usually benign, it can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical condition or be caused by certain medications. For most people, it is mostly a cosmetic concern.

Pigmentation treatment at home

There are various methods to treat hyperpigmentation at home. Although some of the methods shared are based on personal experiences, some studies suggest that their active ingredients are effective for skin pigmentation.

- Apple Cider 


Vinegar Apple Cider Vinegar contains acetic acid which, according to research, has the potential to lighten pigmentation.

To utilize this remedy:

Mix equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water in a container. Apply the mixture to the affected areas and leave it on for 2-3 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. Repeat this process twice a day until desired results are achieved.

- Aloe Vera


Aloe Vera is a plant that has a natural depigmenting compound called aloin, which has been proven to lighten skin and treat hyperpigmentation effectively without any toxicity, as demonstrated in a 2012 study.

Instructions for use:

  1. Before bedtime, apply pure Aloe Vera gel to the affected pigmented areas of your skin.
  2. Rinse the gel off with warm water the following morning.
  3. Repeat this process daily until your skin tone improves.
- Red Onion

photo: indiaMART

Red Onion, also known as Allium cepa, is an ingredient found in some skin lightening creams that are available commercially. Studies have shown that the dried skin of red onions can effectively brighten the skin. If you are looking for a cream to treat hyperpigmentation, search for products that contain Allium cepa and use them as directed.

- Green tea extract

photo: LAZADA

Green tea extract has been shown to have a potential skin lightening effect according to some research. You can buy green tea extract and apply it as directed on the product. There is a suggestion that using green tea bags on dark spots can lead to lightening, but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

To try it yourself:

  1. Steep a green tea bag in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the tea bag from the water and let it cool to avoid skin irritation.
  3. Gently rub the tea bag on the dark patches of your skin.
  4. Repeat this process twice a day until you see the desired results.
- Black tea water


A 2011 study published in a scientific journal found that black tea water can lighten dark spots in guinea pigs. The black tea water was applied twice daily, 6 days a week, for 4 weeks.

To attempt this hyperpigmentation treatment at home:

  1. Boil a cup of distilled water and add a tablespoon of fresh black tea leaves.
  2. Steep the mixture for 2 hours, then strain out the leaves.
  3. Soak a cotton ball in the tea water and apply it to the areas of hyperpigmentation, twice daily.
  4. Repeat this process every day, 6 days a week, for 4 weeks.

- Licorice extract


Licorice extract has active compounds that can reduce dark spots caused by melasma and sun exposure. Topical creams with licorice extract can be bought without a prescription. Use according to the instructions on the product packaging.

- Milk

photo: ORAMI

Milk, buttermilk, and sour milk have been demonstrated to successfully lighten skin discoloration. Lactic acid is the key ingredient responsible for this outcome.

To use these to address pigmentation:

  • Soak a cotton ball in the milk
  • Apply it to the affected areas of your skin twice a day
  • Keep repeating this process daily until desired results are achieved.
- Tomato paste

photo: IzzyCooking

A study published in The British Journal of Dermatology in 2011 revealed that tomato paste high in lycopene protected the skin from both short-term and long-term effects of sun damage. Participants in the study consumed 55 grams of tomato paste mixed with olive oil daily for a period of 12 weeks.

- Orchid extract

Orchid extracts are just as effective as vitamin C for treating hyperpigmentation, according to research. Applying orchid-based extracts to the skin for a period of 8 weeks resulted in a reduction in size and improved appearance of dark spots.

Skin care products with orchid extract, such as masks, creams, and scrubs, are available for purchase. To achieve the best results, follow the directions for use provided.

- Masoor dal (red lentils)

Red lentil face masks, commonly known as Masoor dal masks, are widely used as a remedy for hyperpigmentation. Although there is no scientific evidence to support this, red lentils are high in antioxidants that are known to be beneficial for the skin.

To create your own Masoor dal mask:

  • Soak 50 grams of red lentils in a bowl of water overnight.
  • Blend or process the lentils into a smooth paste.
  • Spread the paste evenly over your face and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  • Rinse with cold water and gently dry your skin with a towel.


If home remedies for pigmentation are not effective, there are medical treatments available for hyperpigmentation depending on the cause, which may involve addressing an underlying medical condition or discontinuing a medication. These treatments include:

  • Chemical peels
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Intense pulsed light (IPL)
  • Laser resurfacing
  • Cryotherapy


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