Uneven skin tone a dark spots

In dermatology, hyperpigmentation is the darkening of an area of skin or nails caused by increased melanin production that develops during one's life time.

Melanin is our dark skin pigment, and it's produced in the deepest layer of the epidermis. Hyperpigmentation occurs when the tyrosinase enzyme triggers the melanocyte cells to produce an excess of melanin in localized areas.

Melanin occurs in all humans and determines skin and hair colour and even the shade of one's eyes. Levels of melanin fluctuate among ethnic groups; African-Americans and those of Asian descent have higher levels of melanin than caucasians.

There is also an inherited progressive hyperpigmentation where patches of hyperpigmentation, present at birth and increase in size and number with age. This is a genetic disease, however the gene that accounts for this spotty darkening of the skin has yet to be discovered. Although rare, the congenital disease is most prevalent among populations originating from China

Hyperpigmentation is different from other skin blemishes that include acne scars and birth marks or other forms of skin damage. Skin blemishes are the result of excessive melanin levels and they can be caused by sunburn, ageing, poor lifestyle and malnutrition.  Such blemishes are primarily cosmetic and rarely cause any health problems although if caused by sunburn, there may be an elevated risk of skin cancer.

While birth marks are produced at birth, hyperpigmentation, and the skin blemishes that develop as a result, can be triggered by factors including:

  • Acne
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy.  Considering that some forms of HRT are linked to heightened risk of breast cancer, it may be advisable to avoid this treatment completely.
  • Sun exposure is one of  the most common reasons why we develop age spots and blotchy patches, and left unchecked they can morph into melanoma and skin cancer.
  • Surgery

Skin blemishes tend to form in concentrated patches, as a result of these factors, and can make once smooth complexion look uneven and blotchy. It's one of life's paradoxes that beauty often has a limited shelf life. When we're young, skin is thick and plump. It's usually free of blemishes and it radiates health and fertility.  Then it ages, and we develop wrinkles.  With sun damage and visible aging, skin gets older and we notably develop blemishes and scars that we'd like to hide.

How to Treat Skin Blemishes

A healthy lifestyle and avoidance of getting sunburned and the other factors as above may help to not get any blemishes. Sun screens with an SPF of at least 30, can reduce the possibility of skin damage.

How to Treat Skin Blemishes

Once you have them, sometimes camouflage is the simplest temporary option.

Skin Brighteners

A skin brightener is designed to inhibit the tyrosinase enzyme that triggers hyperpigmentation. In addition, it's made to exfoliate dark, dead skin cells from the epidermis to coincide with the skin's 28-day renewal process.

Many women make a skin brightening product part of their daily skin ritual.. Conventional skin brighteners are a popular treatment for dark spots, however they present health risks that warrant a closer inspection as they are known to  cause:

  • Premature skin aging.
  • Increased risk of skin cancer, because the lower melanin production increases the negative effects from UV radiation during sun exposure.
  • Unwarranted and untreatable skin discoloration.
  • Skin irritation or allergic reaction to the active ingredients.

Many skin brighteners, however, are formulated with hydroquinone and steroids. Worse, roughly one in four skin brightening products sold in the United States contain mercury, often labelled as calomel, mercuric, mercurous or mercurio.

Mercury is linked to a variety of psychological and neurological issues and can cause kidney problems. In some cases, such skin brighteners can cause mercury poisoning that, in pregnant women, can be passed from mother to her fetus.

As a safer alternative, many consumers pursue natural skin brightening, with a lightening product formulated with gentle exfoliants, plant-based sun filters and natural ingredients, including niacinamide and beta glucan.


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