- Hyperpigmentation refers to dark patches or spots on the skin that develop due to excess melanin production
- These dark spots are very common and are caused by multiple factors such as sun exposure, hormonal fluctuations, inflammation and skin injuries
- Face masks that contain exfoliating and brightening agents can help lighten these spots
Hyperpigmentation is a very common condition that describes patches of skin that are darker than the surrounding areas. These patches go by a number of names including age spots, liver spots, freckles, sunspots and solar lentigines. Face masks for dark spots are an effective remedy as they contain specific ingredients to exfoliate, brighten and lighten hyperpigmented areas.
Causes of Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmented spots form due to the overproduction of melanin, the pigment responsible for giving skin its color.
Melanin production ramps up in response to UV sun exposure as a means of protection and as a natural consequence of the skin healing process. This means that any skin injury such as a cut or burn; or inflammation from a skin condition such as acne or melasma will leave behind dark marks, referred to as postinflammatroy hyperpigmentation (PIH).
Other causes include fluctuations in hormones; and as a natural part of aging due to a slow down in skin cell turnover and changes in the distribution of pigments.
Why Use a Face Mask for Dark Spots?
A face mask for dark spots is a cost-effective, simple solution that you can formulate at home using skin-lightening ingredients of your choice. As well, using ingredients compatible with your skin will help support the health of the stratum corneum, your skin’s protective outer layer.
A face mask can be used safely up to three times a week to brighten skin and can be easily and conveniently incorporated into your skin care routine.
While over-the-counter (OTC) skin care options are available—and may provide faster results depending on ingredients and strength—these will be more expensive.
As well, traditional skin-lightening agents such as hydroquinone can be harsh and cause side effects such as redness, burning, stinging or cracked skin. Kojic acid, another agent, is known to cause contact dermatitis.
If you are experiencing mild-to-moderate skin discoloration or have just a few spots, face masks are a smart alternative to in-office treatments; these require multiple visits, are costly and invasive, and have some side effects.
While there is a lack of studies on natural ingredients and their ability to lighten skin, preliminary research does support the claim that some agents can indeed perform in this capacity.
Derived from the flowering Curcuma longa plant, turmeric is a well-known spice known for its many health benefits.
Turmeric has also been shown in in vitro studies to significantly inhibit tyrosinase activity, an enzyme necessary for melanin production. With time, damaged skin cells are replaced by lighter, healthy cells.
Another effective agent is aloe vera gel which is obtained from the aloe vera plant. This gel contains two chemicals, aloin and aloesin, which work in two separate ways to lighten dark spots.
Aloin can break down melanin cells in the skin; aloesin inhibits melanin production. In one clinical study, topical application of aloesin suppressed UV radiation-induced melanin formation by 34%.
In a process known as skin cell turnover old, dead skin cells are regularly replaced with new healthy ones. To support this process and provide additional benefits, exfoliating can slough off dead skin cells, clear pores and smooth the skin’s surface.
Both these actions work to depigment skin and brighten the complexion by encouraging new cells to form.
Honey contains gluconic acid as well as smaller amounts of acetic, formic and citric acids. When used as a face mask, these acids can gently exfoliate and lighten the complexion.
Another effective exfoliant is flaxseed which are a high-fiber plant-based protein and a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids including palmitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic acids. These help balance oil and moisture levels, and smooths and strengthens skin. Fatty acids have also been found to suppress pigmentation.
Flaxseed can also deeply cleanse and purify skin, exfoliate dead skin cells and lighten hyperpigmented skin cells.
Aloe Vera and Brown Sugar Hydrating Face Mask for Dark Spots
In this mask, aloe vera works to suppress pigmentation and deeply hydrate; brown sugar gently exfoliates away flaky and damaged skin cells to reveal soft, smooth skin with a brighter complexion.
Brown sugar is a natural source of glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that can deeply exfoliate and boost skin cell turnover.
The essential oil is optional but can add additional skin-lightening benefits.
- 2 tbsp fresh aloe vera gel (obtained directly from the plant or as a purchased product)
- 1/2 tbsp of brown sugar
- 1 drop of either lemon or carrot seed essential oil (both can inhibit melanin production and prevent absorption of UV rays; lemon also contains a natural skin-lightening agent)
- Combine the gel with the brown sugar to form a smooth paste; add the essential oil
- Gently massage the mixture into your skin for 5 minutes; avoid the eye area
- Allow to rest for 5 minutes; rinse off with warm or cool water
This mask can be used safely for all skin types.
Castor Oil and Flaxseed Lightening Face Mask for Dark Spots
As with flaxseed, castor oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which regulate pigmentation and soften, nourish and strengthen skin. Combining these two ingredients provides gentle exfoliation and infuses the skin with a number of valuable skin-healthy fatty acids.
- 3 tbsp castor oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl
- Gently massage the mixture into your skin for 1–2 minutes; avoid the eye area
- Allow to rest for 10 minutes; rinse off with cool water and pat dry
This mask is best for dry and sensitive skin due to the oily nature of the mask.
Lemon and Apple Brightening Face Mask for Dark Spots
Lemons contain high concentrations of antioxidant vitamin C, which has been shown to lighten the complexion by acting as a reducing agent at several oxidative steps of melanin formation.
Apples contain phloretin, another antioxidant that prevents the formation of dark spots by neutralizing free radicals caused by the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.
- 1 whole apple
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Blend the apple in a food processor and transfer to a bowl
- Add the lemon juice and mix well
- Apply the mixture to your face; avoid the eye area
- Allow to rest for 20 minutes; rinse off with warm water
This mask is ideal for oily skin as both the lemon and apple have astringent qualities.
Licorice Root Brightening Face Mask for Dark Spots
Licorice root is a natural ingredient that can effectively lighten dark spots by inhibiting tyrosinase activity and slowing melanin production in skin cells. Several studies have shown licorice to significantly reduce hyperpigmentation, even at low concentrations.
Sandalwood, another essential oil, is known for its skin-soothing properties; and raw milk contains beta hydroxy acid (BHA), an exfoliating agent
- 1 tbsp powdered licorice root
- 2 tbsp raw milk
- 1 drop sandalwood essential oil
- In a small bowl, combine the licorice root powder and raw milk to form a paste
- Add the essential oil
- Gently massage the mixture into your skin for 5 minutes; avoid the eye area
- Allow to rest for 15 minutes; rinse off with warm or cool water
This mask is ideal for sensitive skin but will be effective for all skin types.
Turmeric and Honey Soothing Face Mask for Dark Spots
Combining turmeric and honey brings greater exfoliative effects. Honey also moisturizes skin and kills bacteria which prevents inflammation and ensuing damage to skin in the form of PIH.
- 1 tbsp powdered turmeric
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- Combine both ingredients in a small bowl
- Apply the mixture to your face; avoid the eye area
- Allow to rest for 10–20 minutes; rinse off with cool water and pat dry
The ingredients in this mask are appropriate for all skin types, especially sensitive.
Alternative Treatments for Dark Spots
There are several effective OTC solutions to treat dark spots such as AHA exfoliants which include glycolic, lactic and mandelic acid.
While they differ slightly in properties, they all work to exfoliate skin-dulling debris and dead skin cells and stimulate skin cell turnover. This results in improved skin quality and a bright, fresh complexion.
For severe cases of hyperpigmentation, there are several effective professional treatments for you to choose from. These include chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser therapy.
Irregularities in skin color is one of the most common skin complaints among patients who visit dermatologists and most often results from sun exposure and PIH.
You can help prevent dark spots from forming by changing some daily habits:
- When outdoors, always protect your skin with broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30; wear a hat to keep the sun off your face and avoid direct sunlight, when possible
- When you incur any skin injury—a cut, scrape, sting or burn—treat it promptly with the correct medicated topical. This also applies to any inflammatory skin conditions such as acne; rapid and effective treatment will reduce inflammation and lower the risk of PIH
- Do not pick at or squeeze any lesions as this can cause scarring and dark marks to remain once they have healed
Hyperpigmentation refers to skin that is darker than the surrounding area, and naturally occurs as part of the skin’s healing process or due to the body’s defense mechanism to protect against sun damage. Other causes include aging and hormonal fluctuations.
This discoloration is identified by several names including age spots, liver spots, sunspots and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Face masks are a simple, inexpensive solution to lighten pigmented areas of skin, and can be personalized based on your skin type and choice of ingredients. These masks contain agents that have been shown to produce results through exfoliation and by inhibiting melanin production.
Not only do face masks address hyperpigmentation, but they can gently slough off dead skin cells and debris, cleanse and purify skin, and balance oils. This helps maintain a strong skin barrier function.
For severe hyperpigmentation, see your dermatologist; there are several effective alternative treatments including microdermabrasion, chemical peels and laser therapy.
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