- No matter what they are called, dark spots are a result of melanin production.
- Dark spots can be categorized into four main groups, based on what cause them.
- The four main categories are melasma, freckles, lentigos and post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation (PIH).
- Melasma, freckles and sun spots can be caused by the sun, hormones and hereditary factors.
- Post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation develops from acne marks and wounds.
Freckles, solar lentigos, acne marks, or age spots… they’re all dark spots caused by different things. But deep within your skin’s layers, the underlying process that causes dark spots on the outside is the same — melanin production.
Melanin is what gives our skin its color. Our skin produces melanin as a defense mechanism against cell damage triggered by harmful UV rays or as a result of inflammation. This melanin production in the skin’s deeper layers is what causes darkening on the outside, which manifests as dark spots on the surface of skin.
The dark spots on our skin can be categorized into four main groups — melasma, freckles, sun spots and post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation (PIH).
Dark spots due to hereditary or external factors
These dark spots occur due to the effects of the sun, hormones, skin color type and hereditary factors. These develop deep within our skin’s layers and forms on the surface as:
Small flat brown or dark yellow spots that can appear alone or in a cluster. They are usually hereditary.
The main cause of these types of spots is the sun’s rays, also known as sun spots or aged spots. Lentigos would be increased with age as the sun exposure accumulates over time.
Extended pigmentation that can cover a whole area of your face. It comes in patches and can vary in color, from dark brown to light yellow. Melasma can be induced by sun exposure and also hormonal changes.
Dark spots due to post-inflammatory discoloration
Dark spots due to post-inflammatory discoloration are flat and can range from pink to red, to dark greyish brown, depending on your skin. They are a little lighter than spots caused by hyper-pigmentation and can look more like blemishes. These spots can develop from:
When acne causes skin to become inflamed, the inflamed skin will further trigger additional melanin production. This leads to dark spots known as acne marks on the surface of your skin. Learn more about dark spots and acne scars here.
Another sign of our skin’s stress response mechanism, wound marks are lodged melanin production due to inflammation in the skin. When we develop a wound, the body produces melanin as a concreted response of cell damage, resulting in dark spots on the surface of the skin.
Read more for solutions on how you can reduce the appearance of dark spots on your face or learn more about what happens beneath the skin, when dark spots appear.