Acne, psoriasis, scrapes, scratches and other skin wounds can all cause what’s known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation — aka dark spots on the skin. Unlike “age spots,” which are related to UV exposure, or melasma, another skin darkening condition related to hormones estrogen and progesterone, dark spots caused by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation will fade over time and respond well to natural treatments.
Doctors may recommend topical steroid creams for hyperpigmented spots, and there’s no shortage of skin spot brightening and lightening creams on the market (many containing toxic ingredients). But there are milder and more natural (not to mention less expensive) ways you can speed up skin healing and lightening. To deal with dark spots, try:
1. Exfoliating regularly. Sloughing off dead skin cells can help reveal healthy skin underneath. According to skin care expert Renée Rouleau, “the more you remove the surface damaged skin tissue, the more you are ridding the skin of the dark marks and encouraging the formation of new healthy (non-scarred) skin tissue. The result is more even-toned skin with less scarring.”
2. Aloe vera gel. Not just for burns, aloe vera gel can also help treat hyperpigmentation. Pure gel from the stem of the aloe vera plant is rich in vitamins E and C, collagen, and exfoliating enzymes. Apply it directly to scarred skin.
3. Avoiding more UV rays. Avoid excessive sun exposure and don’t let your skin spots see the sun without heavy sunscreen. It’s tempting to think a tan might camouflage spots and scarring, but UV exposure will only make dark spots worse.
4. Vitamin E oil. I’ve been plagued with post-inflammatory scars often in my life, leftover from bug bites and cat scratches and all sorts of things that I have a bad habit of unconsciously scratching at (thereby slowing the wound healing process and encouraging scarring). Of all the things I’ve tried — including special dark spot treatment creams — I’ve had the most luck with pure vitamin E oil, which is ultra-moisturizing and anti-inflammatory.
5. A chemical peel. As long as your skin isn’t irritated or dry, you may want to try a chemical peel on spotted areas. Chemical peels are sometiemes known as ‘chemexfoliation’ or ‘derma-peeling because they’re designed to exfoliate skin. Common ingredients such as glycolic and lactic acids can help even skin tone, lighten pigmentation, stimulate collagen production and promote cell turnover.