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Dark Blotches on Skin

Dark Blotches on Skin Dark Blotches on Skin

Overview

Dark blotches on the skin are also called hyperpigmentation or liver spots. Patches of skin become darker in color because of skin pigment changes. These spots usually occur on the face, hands or other areas frequently exposed to the sun. They occur more frequently as you age. Although liver spots aren't usually harmful, treatment can minimize the appearance of these dark blotches.

Causes

Pigment changes are usually the cause of liver spots. Exposure to ultraviolet light increases the production of melanin. Dark spots become common as you age. It can take years of exposure to ultraviolet rays before dark skin blotches appear. Genetics also play a role in age spot development. If your parents experienced these pigment changes, you're at a higher risk too.

Nonprescription Treatments

Treat dark blotches on the skin with over-the-counter products containing the ingredients hydroquinone, glycolic acid or kojic acid, recommends MayoClinic.com. You need to use products for several weeks before noticing results. Some of these products cause skin irritation. If you experience irritation, discontinue use of the product, and consult your dermatologist.

Prescription Options

Dark spots that don't respond to over-the-counter treatment may benefit from a prescription treatment. Prescription strength topical creams, such as hydroquinone or retinoid creams, can fade liver spots over several weeks. Topical creams increase sun sensitivity, so apply sunscreen when using these products.

Your dermatologist also offers in-office procedures to fade dark blotches on the skin, including laser therapy, dermabrasion and chemical peels. Insurance companies usually will not cover these procedures. Consult your doctor about procedure prices.

Prevention

Prevent pigment changes by avoiding the sun during the hours when its most intense, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you spend time outdoors, wear a sunscreen containing an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outdoors. This allows the sunscreen to effectively absorb into the skin, resulting in better protection. Protective clothing, such as long pants and hats, also protects your skin from harmful rays.

Warnings

Consult a dermatologist about skin pigmentation changes. She can offer additional treatment methods and rule out other causes. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays increases your risk of skin cancer. A dermatologist can examine your skin and ensure that you don't have any other factors causing pigment changes.

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