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What Causes Brown Spots?

Dark spots, also known as brown spots, sun spots, age spots, liver spots, are the effects of over exposure to the sun or sun damage of the skin. UV radiation can cause oxidation of lipids in cellular membranes, leading to production of free radicals and inflammation, which could promote melanocytes to make melanin via activation of tyrosinase. The melanin pigment is made to absorb sunlight and help protect our skin from the sun's UV radiation. However when melanocytes produce excess melanin in the epidermis (top layer of the skin), we see the occurrence of dark spots.

Other Common Causes Of Hyperpigmentation


Melasma presents large, irregular brown patches on sun-exposed skin such as cheeks, forehead, upper lip, nose, and chin. The precise cause of melasma is unknown, but multiple factors are indicated, i.e., genetic influences, exposure to solar radiation, pregnancy, birth control pills, hormonal therapy, thyroid dysfunction, ovarian dysfunction, a number of cosmetics, drugs or procedures (laser treatments and chemical peels).

Inflammatory Skin Conditions

Various inflammatory skin disorders (acne, eczema, and dermatitis etc.) can trigger hyperpigmentation. Inflammatory cells produce prostanoids, cytokines, chemokines, and reactive oxygen species. These inflammatory mediators fuel melanocytes and activate tyrosinase. As a result, hyper-reactive melanocytes produce extra melanin and cause coloring in surrounding keratinocytes, predominant cell type in the epidermis.

When inflammation subsides, melanocytes can return to normal, or remain hyper reactive. Every so often, there is either excess melanin production or an abnormal distribution of melanin pigment deposited in the epidermis, hyperpigmentation occurs.

Long-term or lapsing inflammation can worsen skin discoloration and often result in a higher degree of hyperpigmentation. Without treatment, hyperpigmentation may take months to years to fade and sometimes become permanent.

Brown Spot Remover

Lightening of brown spots or hyperpigmentation involves a lot of patience and understanding of a variety of treatment selections. The typical treatments include:

–Avoiding sun exposure

–Use of sunscreen

–Treating the underlying inflammatory conditions

–Preventing scratching, rubbing, picking

–Stopping medications such as tetracyclines, which can intensify hyperpigmentation

–Putting on topical agents such as skin-lightening products, bleaching or fading creams

–Cosmetic procedures such as chemical peels or laser treatments

Concerns On Long-Term Use Of Skin Whitening Products

Skin whitening products are capable to whiten the dark spot and turn it back to normal or close to normal skin color. The effectiveness depends on how deep and how old the blemishes are. Deeper and older discoloration may take much longer to lighten.

Skin-lightening products contain a mixture of active ingredients, which are often unfamiliar to the users. Many of these products include topical corticosteroids, hydroquinone, tretinoin and mercury salts that can have undesirable effects on long-term users. Common side effects include:

–patchy hyper- or hypo-pigmentation

–thinning of the skin

–stretch marks

–skin irritation

–hypersensitivity to the sun


–delayed wound healing.

Natural Plant Extract As Brown Spots Lightener

To avoid adverse effects, many natural plant extracts have been investigated as alternative skin lightening agents. The following natural plant extracts have shown promising benefits in removing brown spots.

Green Tea Extract

Green tea extract comprises potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumoral polyphenols recognized as catechins. These naturally occurring polyphenols are shown to prevent, reverse or retard UV radiation-induced inflammation, oxidative stress, DNA damage and suppression of immune responses.

Studies suggest that green tea extract possesses antioxidant properties by eliminating reactive oxygen species, reducing various enzymes that are promoting oxidative stress, and enhancing antioxidant defense enzymes. Green tea's anti-inflammatory activities are demonstrated by inhibition of the infiltration of inflammatory cells and decrease of inflammatory mediators.

Finally, green tea extract is anti-carcinogenic by blocking carcinogen-DNA binding and later tumorigenesis.

Licorice Extract

The licorice extract has been broadly used in skin lightening products. The ingredient that is responsible for the skin whitening aspect of the plant is identified as glabridin. Glabridin stops pigmentation by blocking tyrosinase activation. Studies have shown that it can provide a substantial skin lightening effect while remaining harmless to the melanin-producing cells.

Licorice's anti-inflammatory properties (due to inhibition of superoxide anion production and cyclooxygenase activity) also make it a very suitable ingredient in treating inflammation-induced hyperpigmentation.

Bearberry Extract

Bearberry extract is obtained from the Uva Ursi plant and is a natural alternative to synthetic hydroquinone. Bearberry extract offers a skin lightening effect by reducing tyrosinase activity and melanosome maturation. Though arbutin is a natural derivative of hydroquinone, it does not have the similar risks or side effects. Natural arbutin has been shown to be a very safe ingredient and does not break down into hydroquionone very quickly.

Topical Vitamins

Many vitamins possess powerful antioxidant capabilities and may perform a role in processes involved in skin growth and repair. There is solid evidence that vitamin B3 (niacinamide) and vitamin C are involved in modifying the process of hyperpigmentation. The antioxidant properties of these vitamins in topical preparations have proven to be effective in protecting the skin from UV-induced injuries and diminish dark spots.

Vitamin B3 is an effective skin lightening ingredient that succeeds by inhibiting melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes, lacking of reducing tyrosinase activity or cell proliferation. Vitamin B3 performs best when combined with other skin lightening treatments. Vitamin B3 is also proven to reduce inflammation, improve skin barrier function, decrease sebum production, and diminish wrinkles.

Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that appears in stable and unstable forms. Several types of vitamin C have been shown to reduce melanin production and exert a skin whitening effect when applied topically. They include l-ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and sodium ascorbyl phosphate. They have been shown to inhibit hyperactive melanocytes and slow down hyperpigmentation process.

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