What Are Dark Spots? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

26th May 2021

Dark spots produce an uneven skin tone that can age you beyond your years. But what are dark spots, and why do they develop? Dark spots — also known as age spots, liver spots, and sunspots — are hyperpigmentation marks that are caused by an overproduction of melanin in the skin. Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin, hair, and eyes their natural color. 

Dark spots are usually harmless and only cause a cosmetic issue for most people. Many factors, ranging from sun exposure to hormonal changes during pregnancy, can contribute to the development of dark spots as you age. Fortunately, there are many dark spots skin care treatments available that can help you fade or get rid of these discoloration marks quicker. 

In this article, Salameh Plastic Surgery and Skin Care will explain why dark spots develop, help you identify the difference between dark spots vs. acne scars, and provide effective solutions for treating this cosmetic inconvenience.

What Causes Dark Spots?

Now that you have a general understanding of what dark spots are, you need to know how they develop so you can treat their underlying cause. Dark spots develop when your skin’s pigment-making cells — called melanocytes — are triggered to produce more melanin. Many factors can stimulate the melanocytes in your skin to produce extra melanin. Some of the most common causes that trigger extra melanin production include:

Exposure to Ultraviolet Light

The number one cause of dark spots is unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. When exposed to UV light from the sun or tanning beds, melanocytes produce extra melanin to protect your skin from harm. Melanin absorbs harmful UV rays to protect cells from DNA damage and shield your skin from sunburn.

The accumulation and clumping of melanin are what produce dark spots on some parts of your body. The most sun-exposed parts of your body are more likely to develop dark spots as you age. Sunspots are more likely to develop on your:

  • Face
  • Back of the hands
  • Shoulders
  • Forearms

You can use dark spots skin care products and procedures to fade discolorations caused by excessive exposure to sunlight. Sunspots are usually not a cause for concern, but some dark spots on your skin can be a potential sign of cancer. If a dark spot changes shape, color, or size and is itchy or painful to touch, visit a dermatologist as soon as possible to get screened for skin cancer.

Hormonal Changes

What are dark spots? Other than sun damage, dark spots can also be skin discolorations caused by hormonal changes. Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy or while taking contraceptives can cause melasma, a skin condition that produces brown or blue-gray freckle-like spots on the face and forearms. 


Some medications can make your skin hypersensitive to sun exposure, triggering extra melanin production. The additional melanin increases skin pigmentation and produces dark spots on sun-exposed parts of your body. 


Inflammation and hyperpigmentation are what cause dark spots to appear after an acne outbreak. Known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), your skin produces more melanin as it tries to heal from irritation, leaving behind dark marks in inflamed spots like pimples and cysts. Hyperpigmentation marks left behind after an inflammatory skin condition are treatable with dark spots skin care products and procedures.

Dark Spots Symptoms: Dark Spots vs. Acne Scars

Many people can’t distinguish between dark spots and acne scars which results in these two terms being used interchangeably. While both give you an uneven complexion, there are many differences between dark spots vs. acne scars. Now that you know what dark spots are and why they develop, you need to learn how they differ from acne scars.

Acne scars are caused when inflammation from pimples and cysts penetrates deep into the pore, damaging the skin and its underlying tissue. Your skin tries to repair this damage by producing collagen. If too little or too much collagen is produced, you will end up with a pitted or raised acne scar on your skin. While treatments help improve the appearance of acne scars, these damaged skin tissues can leave a permanent mark on the skin.

Dark spots, on the other hand, are small, flat, and light to dark brown marks on your skin that usually appear on sun-exposed body parts. These discoloration marks are not scars and do not cause any damage to the structure of the skin. The biggest difference between dark spots vs. acne scars is that discoloration marks fade over months and leave no trace while scars are permanently visible on your skin. You can use dark spots skin care treatments to speed up the fading of hyperpigmented marks on your face and body. 

Treatments for Fading Dark Spots

After learning what are dark spots, you know that they’re not a health condition, and therefore, do not require medical treatment. Many people, however, prefer to get rid of dark spots to get a clearer and more even skin tone. 

There are many treatment options ranging from medical-grade creams to in-office cosmetic procedures that can help fade your dark spots to varying degrees. In-office procedures are effective and produce quick results. You must consult with a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to find the best treatment option for your skin pigmentation.

Some dark spots skin care treatments that can improve your complexion include:

Medical-Grade Skin-Lightening Creams

Increased melanin production and hyperpigmentation are what cause dark spots to develop on your skin. You can use medical-grade skin-lightening creams — like Dr. Salameh’s Dark Spot Eraser 2.0 — to fade hyperpigmentation and even out your complexion. 

Dr. Salameh’s dark spots treatment contains the active ingredient — hydroquinone — that works to inhibit melanin production. Decreased melanin production leads to reduced hyperpigmentation, resulting in the gradual lightening of dark spots over time.

Laser Treatments

There are different types of laser treatments that use distinct technologies to produce a brighter and more even skin tone. Some lasers, like Halo, remove layers of hyperpigmented skin while Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) technology destroys pigment cells to get rid of dark spots and even out your complexion.

Chemical Peels

A chemical peel is an in-office cosmetic procedure that involves the use of an acidic solution to remove the outermost layers of dead skin. Layers of discolored and sun-damaged skin are peeled away to reveal healthier skin underneath. Melanin discolorations are what cause dark spots to appear on the skin. Therefore, peeling away layers of hyperpigmented skin can gradually lead to a clearer complexion.

Exfoliating Scrubs

Chemical peels are a very effective procedure for lightening dark spots, but they can be irritating for some people. If you need a gentler dark spots skin care treatment option, you can use an exfoliating scrub at home. Dr. Salameh’s Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Scrub uses powerful resurfacing ingredients to slough off hyperpigmented cells from the skin’s surface, helping you get a clearer complexion from the convenience of your home.

Get Rid of Dark Spots with Dr. Salameh’s Skin Care Products

Dark spots are usually not a cause for concern, but they can make you look older and deteriorate your self-esteem. Fortunately, dark spots are only a cosmetic problem that can be treated effectively at home or in a doctor’s clinic. 

If you want to get rid of your hyperpigmentation at home, Dr. Salameh’s medical-grade dark spots skin care products can help. Shop our natural, FDA-regulated skin care products to help you feel and look your best.

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