Dark spots, freckles and liver spots can drive you to cosmetic cover-ups. But removal is better, and natural remedies are available to help you avoid caustic creams and surgery. In 2010, Dr. Jean L. Bolognia of New Haven, Conn., published a report for the American Academy of Dermatology describing a particularly troubling sort of dark spot called "the mask of pregnancy," or melasma. But he said most other spots usually result from decades of too much sun.
The Academy of Dermatology says that prevention is the best line of defense. Sun protection factor, or SPF, indicates a lotion's power to block the sun's ultraviolet tanning rays. The Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF 30, even under winter sun. A half hour before going outdoors, rub an ounce on your skin for adequate coverage. Lotions lose their SPF after swimming and sweating, so reapply frequently. For even more protection, wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and slacks.
Ginseng and Gotu Kola
The website PurefectYourSkin recommends a natural remedy based on traditional Chinese herb lore. It is homemade ginsing and gotu kola cream. Mix 1/8 tsp. powdered ginseng root with 1/8 tsp. gotu kola. Moisten the blend with ginseng tea to form a paste. Apply directly on your pigmented spots, then rinse with cool water after 10 to 15 minutes. Use this preparation twice a day. Repeat until you see the degree of lightening you want.
PurefectYourSkin also recommends various citrus remedies. The simplest is applying a lemon slice directly on the spots you want lightened. Apply up to two times every day. Leave in place for five minutes. Rinse thoroughly.
A mixture of 1 tsp. each of orange and lime juice with 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar can be applied and rinsed the same way.
The website FreeBeautyTips say citrus applications can dry and irritate your skin after prolonged use. It recommends a quality skin lotion after each rinse.
Extract of Grape Seed
Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of "Mind Boosters" and "The Stevia Cookbook," says extract of grape seed can lighten dark skin spots. He cites research published in Phytotherapy Research in 2004 that found that orally administered extract of grape seed, rich in the chemical proanthocyanidin, lightens melasma blemishes.
A substance called ellagic acid, found in high concentrations in raspberries, is also effective on dark spots, according to Dr. Sahelian. Ellagic acid is also produced by pomegranates, blackberries, strawberries and cranberries and in the meat of walnuts and pecans.