Beauty 101

Help! Why Is My Body Darker Than My Face?

Dr.Ingky Dermatologist
Help! Why Is My Body Darker Than My Face?

What is body pigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a medical term used to describe darker patches of skin. These patches result from an unhealthy or higher production of a pigment called Melanin. There are number of factors cause pigmentation, but the main culprit is the sunlight. Sunlight has the potential to stimulate melanocytes, the pigment-making cells in the skin, to make a surplus of pigment. Another bad news about the sun is, sun damage penetrating deeper layers of the skin.

Therefore, a section of the skin that’s been consistently exposed to harmful UV rays without the proper protection will be harder to diminish.

Factors behind body pigmentation

1. Sun exposure

As highlighted, prolonged or constant exposure to sunlight is one leading cause of hyperpigmentation. UV rays from the sun stimulate the production of melanin in your skin to protect you from the harmful effects of UV exposure, which is what happens when you are sun-tanning. But when the production of melanin occurs unevenly, it results in the appearance of dark patches.

2. Hormones

Hormonal changes in the body that are natural or induced by medications can also be a trigger for hyperpigmentation. Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that appears as brownish discoloured patches on the face and is commonly caused by hormonal changes. It is most common in women, often showing up during pregnancy or those on hormonal therapies.

3. Skin inflammation

Hyperpigmentation can occur due to an injury to the skin. Whether it is an injury, surgical scar, or acne, the inflammation often triggers melanin deposition as a natural response. This leads to the formation of a darker patch of skin after the area has healed.

4. Reaction to drugs

Some drugs are causes of skin pigmentation. These are some NSAIDs, antimalarial medication, antipsychotic drugs, and those containing heavy metals, amongst others. Certain ingredients may accumulate and cause changes in skin colour or react with melanin to cause darkening of skin. Most drug-related hyperpigmentation is cumulative, meaning they worsen the more the drug is taken.

5. Medical conditions

Certain health conditions also contribute to pigmentation irregularities. For example, people suffering from autoimmune diseases, metabolic issues, and gastrointestinal problems are more prone to hyperpigmentation.

6. Genetics

Some people get hyperpigmentation more easily than others, even if they were exposed to sunlight for shorter durations. Birthmarks are also a form of pigmentation that is considered genetic in nature.

 What rumours have you heard about pigmentation treatments? Don’t be tricked by these FIVE common myths on body pigmentation treatments

 Let’s discover all these myths so you can avoid wasting money, time and effort on “treatments” that don’t work. And hopefully, go for the ones that actually do. Pigmentation is very treatable in most cases, but only under the correct diagnosis and suitable treatment strategies devised by experienced doctors.

Myth 1: You NEED lasers to treat pigmentation

No, you don’t, at least not all the time. Very often, alternative treatment methods like topical medicated creams can treat conditions such as melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and sometimes even freckles and solar lentigos very well. Coupled with adequate sun protection measures, you’ll be surprised to find how effective this simple combination is in treating light pigmentations. What this means is that you can possibly avoid the hassle of lasers and instead see results from the more affordable medicated creams.

Myth 2: Pigmentations WILL recur after you stop laser treatments

Pigmentations sometimes do recur even after successful treatments. But it has nothing to do with finishing your laser treatments. Constant exposure to the sun and hormones can cause pigmentations to recur but you can prevent this from happening. Ensure you maintain with sunscreen and adopting sun protection measures, in order to have long-term sustainable results. 

Myth 3: Latest Laser Technology GUARANTEES results

Having the latest laser technology does NOT guarantee results. Of course, new technology can be very helpful but to see success in treatments, these factors are even more important:

  • Getting to the correct diagnosis
  • Using the correct power and settings of the laser
  • Performing the treatment at the correct intervals
  • Knowing well the strengths and limitations of the laser equipment to minimize side effects

All these can only be achieved with the vast clinical experience in treating pigmentations.

Myth 4: OTC creams and oral supplements are CHEAPER and BETTER options

Some over-the-counter products (OTC) can be very useful for pigmentation prevention (especially sunscreen) and skincare maintenance. However, OTC products should not be confused with medical-grade creams which are formulated scientifically to treat pigmentations, which are essentially diseases of the skin.

For instance, the medicated cream Hydroquinone, is scientifically known to inhibit pigmentation production in the skin. Medical creams have to undergo rigorous clinical studies to prove its efficacy to TREAT pigmentations. They are also ONLY allowed to be prescribed by a certified doctor. OTC products are meant to be sold to the mass market, so they cannot be made too potent, unlike medicated creams.         

Myth 5: Medical treatments by doctors are so EXPENSIVE!

Now here’s the reality. Patients do not actually have to spend so much money on seeing an experienced doctor in Malaysia for pigmentation treatments to see good results. In fact, most pigmentation patients only spend about RM 200 to RM 300 for topical creams and, if required, RM 1000 to RM 3000 for medical lasers at a clinic, depending on the type and severity of pigmentations.

How to treat your skin like a pro?

FIVE home remedies to get rid of dark knees and elbow

Home remedies are the most desirable for lightening dark elbows. For one, they’re relatively inexpensive. They also don’t pose side effects like medicated products can. Try one or more of the following remedies:

Aloe vera

One study in 2012 suggested that aloe vera can lighten the skin. This is because of a process called alpha adrenergic receptor stimulation, which occurs when you apply the product to your skin. Look for gels or lotions with aloe vera and apply up to twice per day.

Baking soda

Baking soda has both exfoliating and skin lightening properties that may help treat dark elbows. Start by adding a teaspoon at a time with water to a bowl. Keep adding and mixing well until you have a desired amount of product. Then, apply directly to your elbows. Treat the process as a face mask, where you leave the product on for about 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse off. Repeat twice per week. 

Citrus fruits

A study in 2014 suggested that oral supplements containing citrus fruit extracts were especially helpful in lightening dark skin patches due to sun exposure. However, you can potentially reap some of the benefits by using lemons or other citrus fruits from your own kitchen without having to use supplements.

Simply squeeze the juices out of the citrus fruit into a cup. Then, use a cotton ball or wash cloth to apply the juice directly to your elbow. You may repeat this process daily.

Oatmeal and yogurt

Both oatmeal and yogurt have soothing qualities that can add extra moisture to dry skin. Like baking soda, these two ingredients work best as a mask. Combine equal parts oatmeal and yogurt until mixed well, then apply to your elbows. Leave on for up to 20 minutes at a time.


This ingredient comes from an Indian root plant that’s like ginger. Turmeric powder helps a variety of skin conditions when used as a paste. Mix the powder with water, and then apply directly to the elbows. Leave on for up to 10 minutes and then rinse off.

Check these superstar ingredients for pigmentation issues, especially if you have dark elbows and knees 

All skincare should be safe, but truth be told, skin-lightening ingredients don’t have the best safety record. For this, we have mercury to be blamed. Any skincare products that can make you fair in such a short time are always associated with mercury. Mercury is inexpensive, effectively removes dark spots, and lightens your skin. But mercury is very harmful to your health, and our government has banned few products that contain mercury. But do not worry. There are many safe skin-lightening ingredients available to you, and here are 5 ingredients recommended by our dermatologist.

  1. Kojic Acid

Kojic Acid is a somewhat under-the-radar acid that deserves some time in the skincare spotlight, particularly if your goal is a brighter and more even complexion. It is excellent at fading hyperpigmentation and discoloration or which means good for lightening dark spots. Kojic acid does have a few other standout qualities and they are:

  • Inhibits the production of melanin in the skin: The pathway that leads to excess melanin or pigment is complex, but at the heart of the matter is an enzyme known as tyrosinase. Kojic acid blocks tyrosinase, in turn, inhibiting the production of excess pigment. This means it can help lighten existing sunspots and photo-damage, fade the dark marks left over from acne scarring and even improve melisma. 
  • Acts as an antioxidant: Kojic acid can help scavenge and counteract skin-damaging free radicals caused by exposure to things such as UV damage and pollution. This not only helps improve overall skin tone as well but also makes it a good general anti-aging ingredient.
  • Has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties: Unlike many other acids, it also has these unique characteristics, though they're secondary to the skin-lightening benefits.
  1. Vitamin C

For brightening up a dull complexion and erasing sun spots, vitamin C is the gold standard of ingredients. As such, getting familiar with the powerhouse antioxidant is essential for any strong and healthy skincare strategy. Vitamin C neutralizes free radical damage and protects the skin against UV light and other environmental aggressors, such as pollution and cigarette smoke. Vitamin C also playing an important role in blocking abnormal production of pigmentation to even skin tone and fade dark spots. Vitamin C is a much-loved, multi-tasking skincare ingredient. Just look at this list of activities:

  • Antioxidant
  • Collagen builder
  • Anti-aging active
  • Lightens skin
  • Skin brightening
  • Builds skin’s strength
  • Helps shield skin against pollution

Vitamin C is a necessary skincare antioxidant. Since your skin naturally makes vitamin C, therefore, it is one of the safest skincare actives you could use.

  1. Alpha-arbutin

Alpha-arbutin is another natural active skin lightening. Alpha-arbutin’s made by Mother Nature and found in the leaves of the bearberry plant. Used in skincare at a 1 to 2% concentration, alpha-arbutin can rival even the most effective skin brighteners. Similarly, to Kojic acid, alpha-arbutin works by inhibiting the skin’s tyrosinase enzymes.

  1. Hydroquinone

Also known as tocopheryl acetate, hydroquinone is found in skin-lightening creams, serums, cleansers, and moisturizers. Hydroquinone is a topical skin treatment for melasma, freckles, age and sunspots, and even acne scars. However, our dermatologist has advised that hydroquinone only can be prescribed by a doctor. Therefore, you should avoid buying hydroquinone on your own for your safety. 

  1. Azelaic acid

Don’t let acid scare you, azelaic acid is the same pH level as your skin, 5.5pH which is also slightly acidic. Azelaic acid is most commonly known for its ability to help calm rosacea, which is a chronic redness accompanied by irritation and scaling. Azelaic acid is also an effective skin-lightening ingredient. Used in skincare azelaic acid will not only help even your skin tone, but it will also help keep your skin clear.

Getting brighter skin could be a difficult journey. Although all of these ingredients may help lighten your skin, for hydroquinone and azelaic acid, you need a doctor`s prescription and you are advised to not buy them online. You should check with your dermatologist before use, especially if you have sensitive skin or a medium-to-dark skin tone. They can advise you on how you should use this ingredient, if at all. Meanwhile, for the rest, they are safe for you to use.

Would you like to know more? We are here to help you! SkynFyx is a platform that provides completely free skincare education. Feel free to contact us if you have any inquiries concerning skincare.


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