Dark spots on the skin are often linked to aging, with some even calling them “age spots.” But often, brown spots don’t have anything to do with aging. In fact, there are many and varied reasons why you might start to see brown spots emerge on your skin.
Here are five of the most common causes of brown spots.
Any kind of wound or irritation on the skin inflicts damage. This sets off the skin’s immune response, including an increase in melanin production. Melanin is the natural pigment that gives your skin its color.1
So, even a small blemish can leave behind a brown spot.
Those with darker skin tones tend to be more prone to this effect, but anyone can get dark spots.2 The best thing you can do is treat blemishes early and do not squeeze, pick, or over-handle them.
2. Facial Scrubs
Harsh facial scrubs can also cause brown spots. They can also cause skin damage and irritation. Remember: damaged skin can trigger an overproduction of melanin in these areas. So, you’re left with dark spots and discoloration.3
Facial scrubs are designed to have some grit. But overusing them, or scrubbing too aggressively, can easily upset your skin.
Try switching instead to mild chemical exfoliators that contain AHAs or BHAs. Good choices include glycolic acid, lactic acid, or salicylic acid.
Did you know that your hormones may be to blame for brown spots on your skin? Hormonal changes caused by pregnancy or birth control pills can trigger melasma. This skin pigment disorder causes dark patches on the skin. Women are far more likely to get melasma.
But though hormones make you susceptible to melasma, sun exposure makes it flare.
Combat melasma by always using effective sun protection on your face, neck, arms, and hands. These are the areas that often see the most sunlight.4
Make sure you’re applying sunscreen daily, and reapplying every 2 hours if you’re out in the sun or water. Wear a wide-brimmed hat for extra protection on your face.
4. The Sun
Speaking of sunlight, it’s one of the biggest causes of dark, brown spots on the skin. Even if you aren’t dealing with hormonal issues, the sun still has other ways to brand you with dark spots. These are often referred to as sunspots, solar lentigines, age spots, or liver spots.
These spots occur when UV radiation causes cells that produce melanin to multiply. This is why these spots are most common on areas that see sunlight the most – especially the face and arms.5
The term “age spots” is often linked to these kinds of brown spots because they are most common in people over 40. But if you’re tanning a lot, you can get these spots at any age.
Certain medications may be responsible for the appearance of brown spots. These include:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Certain antibiotics (tetracyclines)
- Cytotoxic drugs (such as chemotherapy)
- Drugs used for certain mood disorders6
Much like hormonal changes, these drugs make you susceptible to dark spots. But it’s exposure to sunlight that appears to trigger them, or make them worse. Your dermatologist can determine if medications might be causing your dark spots.
Skin care for Brown Spots
Uneven skin tone caused by dark spots can be frustrating, especially when it’s your face that’s affected. If you think your brown spots may be caused by medication or hormonal issues, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.
A dermatologist can help you understand why you’re getting dark spots, and what you can do to combat them.
The best thing to do: watch your exposure to sunlight at any age. Always wear sunscreen. You need to plant that routine firmly into your lifestyle if you want to avoid brown spots.
Finally, add an antioxidant-rich vitamin C product to your daily beauty regimen and make sure you’re eating a diet high in antioxidants. Antioxidants may help stop skin damage (like brown spots and broken blood vessels) that are caused by free radicals in the environment.