Dark spots

What they are, what causes them and how to treat them


Dark spots are caused by an excessive production of melanin.

Skin discolourations are areas of skin that are differently pigmented. The most common are darker than the surrounding area and are therefore defined as hyperpigmented discolourations or dark spots, a growing concern for many, especially women.

Melanin and how dark spots are formed

Natural skin colour is mainly given by melanin, a pigment made by specific cells - melanocytes - found in the basal layer of the epidermis.

The process that leads to skin pigmentation (melanogenesis) is very complex and involves the transformation of an amino acid, L-Tyrosine, into melanin and its subsequent distribution, in the form of small granules, from melanocytes to the surrounding epidermal cells in a horizontal direction. This process ensures that melanin spreads evenly, giving you a complexion.

The processi s continuous and the pigmentation (colour) it gives can be referred to as:

  • constitutional, which gives a person’s “complexion”
  • induced, better known as a tan, caused by sun exposure, since UV radiation triggers the activity of melanocytes.

When there is an over-production of melanin and it is distributed vertically into skin rather than horizontally, melanin will build up in a localised manner, thereby forming dark spots or hyperpigmented discolourations.

Regardless of age and skin tone, dark spots are a growing concern which can make people feel very uneasy, especially because dark spots usually occur in the face.

Dark spots are not all the same

Dark spots can be classified in two types:

LOCALISED: sun spots, age spots, post-acne spots, which usually:

  • are round or oval in shape
  • have a well demarcated edge
  • are one that is isolated or are in small clusters of a few spots
  • occur in the face, back of hands and décolletage area

PATCHES OF DARK SPOTS: melasma, mask of pregnancy, which usually:

  • have an irregular shape
  • have less demarcated edges
  • are widespread over larger skin areas (so-called “map pattern”)
  • occur in cheeks, skin above the upper lip and in the forehead

What causes dark spots?

Dark spots can be hereditary, like moles and freckles, or acquired.

With acquired spots, that is spots that occur some time in our life, the excessive production of melanin can be triggered by a number of factors:

  • expiosure to UV radiation (either sun or artificial radiation) 
  • hormonal alterations, such as occurs through pregnancy, when using birth-control pills, due to hormonal therapy in menopause
  • use of photosensitising substances, such as certain drugs or topical products
  • acne scarring
  • skin ageing

If you wish further information, please read the following articles:

Sensitive and acne-prone skin in the sun 
Pregnancy 
Skin ageing 

How can dark spots be treated effectively?

Il trattamento delle discromie o macchie brune deve essere modulato in base al tipo di macchia, localizzata o diffusa, ed è bene sapere che richiede sempre tempi lunghi perché gli effetti sono visibili dopo il completamento del normale processo di rinnovamento cutaneo, ovvero circa dopo 4 settimane. Inoltre, qualsiasi trattamento deve essere abbinato a una adeguata protezione della pelle nei confronti dei raggi UV.

E’ possibile ricorrere a trattamenti dermoestetici come laser, peeling, luce pulsata, che devono sempre essere consigliati da uno specialista e che comunque non sempre riescono ad eliminare completamente il problema. L’obiettivo più realistico è dunque quello della sensibile attenuazione della visibilità della macchia e di un incarnato più uniforme e luminoso.

Per ottenere questo obiettivo il consiglio è quello di seguire un programma quotidiano specifico, dalla detersione al trattamento, che combini diversi effetti:

  • stimolare il ricambio cellulare per rinnovare gli strati più superficiali della pelle
  • proteggere efficacemente dai raggi UV
  • inibire la produzione di melanina e la sua distribuzione.

How to treat dark spots?

The way dark spots are treated changes according to the type of dark spots, localised or widespread patches, and you must bear in mind that it takes time to be effective because result can be seen after skin has completed a normal skin renewal cycle, which is about 4 weeks. In addition, any treatment must be combined with adequate sun protection.

Sometimes, dermatological aesthetic treatments like laser, peels, pulsed light may help to fade dark spots, yet they must be performed under medical advice and supervision, and they don’t really always solve the problem . A more realistic objective is to achieve a significant reduction of the visibility of the spots and turn your complexion more even and brighter.

Reducing dark spots can be achieved by following a daily specific programme that offers cleansers and treatments, and combines a number of actions:

  • inhibit the production and distribution of melanin
  • stimulate cell renewal to eliminate the most superficial skin layers
  •  effectively protect against UV rays 

While in the process of treating dark spots, the inconvenience caused by these blemishes can also be solved by covering them up with camouflage makeup.

To learn more on how to get rid of dark spots, please read our article: How to get rid of dark spots

For further information on camouflage makeup, please read the article: Camouflage makeup: what it is and how to apply it. 


Want to learn more?

Ask a question to our experts

All BioNike products of the TRIDERM, DEFENCE and PROXERA ranges are developed to reduce the risks of intolerance and are suitable for sensitive skin. Such products are, in fact nickel-tested, preservatives-free, perfume-free (or having an allergen-free perfume), gluten-free and manufactured ​​with carefully selected and controlled ingredients.

In any case, we recommend that you consult your pharmacist and/or dermatologist, who will be able to recommend what is best for your skin.

Did you know it?

DEFENCE B-LUCENT is BioNike’s range for hyperpigmentation. It provides a programme of treatments to reduce the appearance ofdark spots, prevent the worsening of existing ones  and give skin a radiant, even tone.

DEFENCE B-LUCENT is based on a multi-active strategy:

  • inhibiting the production of melanin (Methyl Gentisate)
  • hindering distribution of melanin, thus build-up in certain skin areas (Lipo-amino acid)
  • stimulating cell turnover (Alpha- and Poly-hydroxy acids)

Un daily-use, three-step programme that includes:

1. cleansing skin while exfoliating it 

2. a treatment to protect from UVA and UVB radiation 

3. an intensive treatment that varies according to dark spot type. When dark spots are spread over skin (patches of dark spots), we recommend the skin-evening concentrate , while single or few spots are best treated with a product for single-spot, targeted application