Freckles, solar lentigos, pimple marks, or age spots… they’re all dark marks caused by different things. But deep within your skin’s layers, the underlying process that causes dark marks on the outside is the same — melanin production.
No matter what they are called, dark marks are a result of melanin production.
Melanin is what gives our skin its color. Our skin produces melanin as a defense mechanism against cell damage triggered by harmful UV rays or as a result of inflammation. This melanin production in the skin’s deeper layers is what causes darkening on the outside, which manifests as dark spots on the surface of skin.
The dark marks on our skin can be categorized into four main groups — melasma, freckles, sun spots and post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation (PIH).
Dark marks can be categorized into four main groups, based on what cause them.
Dark marks due to hereditary or external factors
These dark marks occur due to the effects of the sun, hormones, skin color type and hereditary factors. These develop deep within our skin’s layers and forms on the surface as:
The four main categories are freckles, lentigos, melasma and post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation (PIH).
Small flat brown or dark yellow spots that can appear alone or in a cluster. They are usually hereditary.
The main cause of these types of spots is the sun’s rays, also known as sun spots or aged spots. Lentigos would be increased with age as the sun exposure accumulates over time.
Extended pigmentation that can cover a whole area of your face. It comes in patches and can vary in color, from dark brown to light yellow. Melasma can be induced by sun exposure and also hormonal changes.
Melasma, freckles and sun marks can be caused by the sun, hormones and hereditary factors.
Dark marks are due to post-inflammatory discoloration
Dark marks are due to post-inflammatory discoloration are flat and can range from pink to red, to dark greyish brown, depending on your skin. They are a little lighter than spots caused by hyper-pigmentation and can look more like blemishes.
Post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation develops from acne marks and wounds.
These marks can develop from:
When acne causes skin to become inflamed, the inflamed skin will further trigger additional melanin production. This leads to dark marks known as acne marks on the surface of your skin. Learn more about dark marks and acne scars here.
Another sign of our skin’s stress response mechanism, wound marks are lodged melanin production due to inflammation in the skin. When we develop a wound, the body produces melanin as a concreted response of cell damage, resulting in dark marks on the surface of the skin.
Read more for solutions on how you can reduce the appearance of dark marks on your face.