What Causes Dark Spots on Face

Many people suffer from the appearance of dark spots on face skin.  There are several different types of spots that are common.  It’s essential to know what type you have and what causes them to find a good treatment.  Most of the times, dark spots can be eliminated, often without the help of a professional.

Dark spots are usually a form of hyperpigmentation.  For some reason, that area of skin has begun producing more melanin that the skin around it, causing a dark brown or black spot to form.  Melanin is the pigment produced by certain skin cells in the epidermis called melanocytes.  When these cells become damaged they start over producing melanin, leading to a blotchy appearance.  It’s most common and more noticeable in light skinned people, whose skin doesn’t produce much melanin in the first place.

You can often remove dark spots on the face by treating the area with lightening creams that contain hydroquinone.  Vitamin C skin care products like a serum or cream can also be very helpful.  Sometimes brown spots can be removed with a series of chemical peels containing glycolic or lactic acid.   Laser therapy is also very effective.  Be sure to identify the type of spot you have before you try to treat it at home, especially if you think it may be cancerous.

Acne Spots

Sometimes when a pimple heals, a dark spot is left where it was.  This is more likely to happen when you pick at the blemish and cause a scab.  It’s also seen more often in people with medium or darker skin tones than in fair skin.  Some people think of these spots as acne scars, but they aren’t really scars. When left alone, these spots will usually fade, but it may take 6 months of more.

Age Spots

Age spots are also known as liver spots and sun spots.  They actually don’t appear because of age and can occur on younger individuals.  Age spots are a form of hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage.  They often show up on aged skin because it has been exposed to the sun for a long time.  This type of sun damage is very common in people with fair skin.


Melasma causes dark irregular patches to form on the skin.  These stains are larger than sun spots.   It is often seen on the face, but can also occur on the hands and forearms.  Hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone, typically cause them by stimulating melanocytes to produce too much melanain.  It’s common in pregnant women and is sometimes called the mask of pregnancy.  They are worsened by sun exposure and more common in people with olive skin tones.

Sun Damage

Sun damage is the leading cause of dark spots on the face.  You can help prevent them by using a sun block daily.  If you already have them, using a sun block can keep them from worsening.  If you are using chemical peels to remove sun damage, sun block is absolutely essential.  The acids in peels cause your skin to become very sensitive to the sun, leading to sunburns and further sun damage.  Sometimes this damage can be extreme.  People have experienced severe discoloration from even mild sun exposure following a chemical peel.

Sometimes dark spots on face skin can be cancerous.  You should see a dermatologist to evaluate your skin if you have a spot with irregular borders.  If it changes shape, spreads, is very dark, or has different colors within the spot, you should get it checked out immediately.  Dark spots with those characteristics are most likely to be problematic.