Lightening Skin Stains

Written by Amy Pusey (last updated February 27, 2019)

Our skin is exposed to countless natural and produced elements it is not uncommon for them to eventually leave their marks behind. The usual desire of individuals to get a summer tan nurtures a love-hate relationship with the sun. While we love the fact that being in the sunshine helps increase the Vitamin D levels in our bodies, we curse the damaging effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays. These alone can leave a footprint as evidence of exposure through sun spots and the development of hyperpigmentation. Of course, sun exposure is not the only source of skin markings. When we dare not to sit in the sun, many of us seek that brownish-golden hue through the use of sunless tanning products. If not applied properly, however, unexpected streaking and dark patches soon become obvious to everyone.

Now, we cannot blame the sun for everything splotchy that appears on our skin over time. There are several natural causes of darkened skin on various parts of our bodies. They may include freckles, age spots, and melasma, which is often referred to as 'pregnancy mask.' In addition, an interesting type of birthmark that originates at birth called a port-wine stain develops into a darkened-purplish mark, usually on the face.

However, thanks to advances in dermatological care there are a number of lightening agents available to help you lighten those unwanted skin stains. Choosing the best product for you depends on three factors: the type of skin stain, the desired results, and the sensitivity of your skin. Here are some possible solutions to consider based upon your particular skin problem. For those of you who have miscalculated the application of your sunless tanning lotion, try the following to make corrections:

  • For minor streaking errors, use a most washcloth, loofah brush, or exfoliating glove with your bath gel and repeatedly exfoliate the stained area until the color evens out with the surrounding skin color.
  • For deeply darkened areas, such as elbows, knees, and ankles (basically anything with a joint,) a more aggressive exfoliating session needs to occur. This may be necessary to perform a few times to lighten the overly-dark spots to an acceptable shade.
  • Use baking soda with a moist washcloth to gently exfoliate those areas that absorbed too much self-tanner. This is also a good method to use to exfoliate your skin before using a self-tanner, which is the best approach for a natural and even-looking tan.

For individuals seeking to lighten natural skin discolorations including freckles and sun spots, the following lightening agents may be suitable to meet your needs. As many are quite potent, generally they are only available by prescription, so you should check with your doctor.

  • Glycolic Acid. A popular alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) used to exfoliate discolored skin cells. It is found in many different skin care product lines available at local shopping venues.
  • Retinoids. Excellent for breaking down the pigments that cause discolorations, they have also been proven to clear acne, reduce the presence of wrinkles, and present a much smoother complexion. Typically, these products require a prescription due to their strength.
  • Hydroquinone. The most successful of the available lightening agents, and can be effectively combined with certain other agents by a pharmacist for a more effective solution.

While port-wine stains are considered permanent by medical experts, many do recommend laser treatments to lighten the stain. This type of procedure is generally recommended to occur at a young age due to the size of the underlying blood vessels, and there is the possibility for the necessary repetition of treatments later on in life. Consult your physician to determine if this is a viable treatment option for you, if you are an adult seeking a professional solution.

Whatever course of lightening treatment you use always be certain to protect your skin with a high SPF sunscreen when venturing outdoors.

Author Bio

Amy Pusey

With over 18 years experience in operations and human-resource management, Amy Pusey uses her skills in her consulting and freelance writing activities. She is a freelance writer for, as well as a resume writer for ...


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