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Dark Spots on Legs: What’s the Cause and How To Treat Them

legs with hyperpigmentation

When summer rolls around, and you want to start transitioning from jeans and midi skirts to your favorite summer shorts and sundresses, there’s very little that can put a damper on your outfit plans, like blemishes on your legs.

Whether you struggle with razor bumps, so-called strawberry legs, or frustrating hyperpigmentation on your legs, we get the desire to make sure everything is smooth and glowing before slipping into your favorite LBD.

To improve the appearance of your skin, however, you have to figure out what’s going wrong in the first place. So many different things can affect and change the appearance of your skin; you may not know where to start. But, lucky for you, you have us to help guide you on your lifelong journey toward complexion perfection.

What Causes Dark Spots on Your Legs?

There are quite a few things that can lead to hyperpigmentation on your legs. It’s important to try and get to the root of your issue before deciding how to handle it.

Most of the time, hyperpigmentation has no negative impact on your health and isn’t typically indicative of any more severe conditions. However, we recommend seeing your doctor or dermatologist anytime your complexion undergoes a sudden change, just to make sure everything is okay before you get started.

Considering that sun damage is a leading cause of dark spots on your legs, it’s critical to get it checked out to ensure it’s just a cosmetic issue. And most of the time, that’s all it will be. When you spend a lot of time in the sun, your skin produces more melanin. So if you get too much sun, or if you already have a sensitive area on your legs brewing, you can end up with dark spots and discoloration as a result.

While hyperpigmentation, in general, is more common in people with deeper skin tones, when it comes to your legs, sun damage is the number one cause of dark spots on fairer skin, too.

However, there is the — much rarer, so don’t panic — flipside to that, which might be more than just superficial sun damage.

Another common cause of dark spots anywhere on your body, but maybe even more so on your legs, is Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH). PIH is a prevalent condition that happens after you’ve inflamed, injured, or otherwise bothered your skin. Blemishes, eczema, blisters and even insect bites can trigger this reaction. As a result of this damage, your skin might end up producing extra melanin around where the problem was — leaving a dark spot like a scar where the irritant used to be.

Because your legs get so much play throughout the day, you’ve likely gotten some bumps and bruises without even realizing it — or is it just us constantly bumping into the coffee table? And even if you don’t think your legs are getting beat up during the day, things like shaving and waxing can also leave you with micro-cuts or otherwise irritate your skin in a way that leaves you with PIH.

There are a couple of other conditions that could be connected to dark spots on your legs, too. Addison’s Disease is a rare disorder linked to hyperpigmentation. This Addison’s-induced hyperpigmentation is often linked to sun exposure, so dark spots on your legs could be due to this disorder if it’s something you have.

Another potential instigator of your dark spots is Diabetes. If you develop insulin resistance, that insulin can build up in your bloodstream and potentially darken your skin areas.

What Can You Do About Dark Spots on Your Legs?

Once you’ve narrowed down the culprit when it comes to the hyperpigmentation on your legs, you might be wondering what you can do about it. Luckily, there are many treatments you can pursue to try to get your even-looking, clear complexion back in time for bikini season. If you’ve struggled with hyperpigmentation in other areas of your body, your marching orders aren’t all that different.

The first thing you’ll want to introduce into your routine is exfoliation to help reduce any dead skin that’s holding you back from your fullest, most glowing potential. Our Clear and Even Tone Body Cleansing Bar and Exfoliating Pouch is a great product to work into your daily routine to help combat your hyperpigmentation. You don’t need to add another step because it cleanses as it exfoliates.

It’s also packed with Kojic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, and Niacinamide, all of which are superheroes when it comes to brightening the appearance of your skin. By making sure your skin is going into overdrive when it comes to refreshing itself, you’ll hopefully be able to reduce the appearance of dark spots effectively.

Speaking of crucial ingredients, the next thing you’ll want to work into your skincare regimen is a serum, cream, or polish that contains Alpha Hydroxy Acids. If you have any blemishes or just want a more even-looking complexion, AHAs are going to be your new best friend. They remove the top layers of skin cells and help renew your skin. Our Brighterdays™ Dark Spot 8% AHA Polish is a crucial companion to physical exfoliation if you want to get clearer, more even-looking skin.

The other ingredient you’ll want in your regimen is Tranexamic Acid or other brightening agents, such as Hydroquinone or Cysteamine. Tranexamic Acid boasts similar effects to those other, slightly more well-known ingredients, but it’s more natural and doesn’t come with any of the potential adverse side effects. So it’s both safe and effective. You can’t beat that! Tranexamic Acid is a gentle, effective ingredient for fading the look of several types of skin discolorations. This cutting-edge ingredient visibly fades hyperpigmentation, dark spots, acne scars and damage from sun exposure. So if the dark spots on your legs are due to PIH, this one's for you. Our Advanced Even Tone Day & Night Treatment has a robust three percent solution of Tranexamic Acid to help you fight off dark spots so that next time you want to slip into something short and slinky, you’re proud to show your legs off.

If you’re looking for something a little more substantial and potentially faster-acting than at-home skincare, you can speak to your dermatologist about professional treatments.

Laser Therapy can help improve the appearance of dark spots. It works by using tiny beams of light to slowly remove layers of your skin — basically doing what exfoliators do but on a much more efficient level. That said, while it tends to be effective, laser therapy can be irritating to your skin. It poses even more of a risk if you have a darker skin tone and can cause PIH.

So if you’re going to pursue laser therapy, make sure you’re speaking to a trusted professional and do the appropriate patch testing necessary to ensure you don’t accidentally make the problem worse.

There are also prescription creams available from your doctor or dermatologist that offer prescription-grade brightening ingredients. Often these ingredients are familiar — things like Retinoids or Hydroquinone — but just available in stronger, more effective doses behind the counter instead of over it. If your at-home skincare solutions don’t seem to be having the desired effect, speak to your dermatologist about prescribing something new.

How Do You Prevent Dark Spots?

You might be wondering how you can prevent dark spots from developing in the first place — or how to keep them from coming back once you’ve finally said goodbye to your hyperpigmentation.

While some factors are outside of your control, the best thing you can do to maintain a consistent skincare routine is to keep your glow going. Exfoliating regularly, moisturizing regularly and adequately using beneficial ingredients like AHAs can go a long way toward keeping your complexion looking even.

The other crucial thing is sunscreen! It’s easy to forget to apply sunscreen to areas like your legs because we don’t often think about how much “face” time they get with the sun. But, especially if you live somewhere warm and spend most of your time in shorts or dresses, SPF is non-negotiable if you’re trying to protect your skin from sun damage and the resulting dark spots. Our Complexion Protection Moisturizer has SPF 30, so it’s a great way to keep your skin hydrated and healthy while also offering a shield from the sun’s harmful rays.

In Conclusion

Dark spots on your legs can be a real downer, particularly when the weather is warm and you don’t want to cover up. Of course, many different things can cause dark spots, but once you figure out what’s causing your blemishes, there are many options available to help reduce the appearance of dark spots and leave you with the clear, even skin you deserve.
By: Ivey Rogers Aesthetician Educator & Community
Engagement Manager