Skin Discoloration on the Legs

Young woman lying on the beach applying suntan lotion on her leg
A young woman is applying sun tan lotion to her legs. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Many people notice irregularities in skin tone, especially in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the skin on your legs. Known as hyperpigmentation, dark splotches of skin often appear near irritated or wounded skin. While skin discoloration is common, not all spots are harmless. Consult your doctor about any unusual changes in your skin’s appearance.

What Causes It

Discolored spots and patches can occur on your legs for a variety of reasons. Hormonal changes and surface damage can lead to hyperpigmentation. Small nicks and scrapes from shaving your legs or walking through shrubs and prickly undergrowth may cause minor skin trauma that increases your risk of developing discolored spots on your legs. Some darkened patches of skin may take months or years to fade completely.

Who's at Risk?

While many individuals experience areas of hyperpigmentation, people with dark skin tones may experience this skin condition more frequently than people with fair skin do, according to Hampton University. Wearing shorts exposes legs to sunlight, which may increase the incidence of uneven skin tones. This is especially true in areas that already have skin damage.

Prevention Tips

Protect your legs from damage by wearing long pants that guard against scratches and scrapes. Shave carefully to avoid nicking or cutting your legs. Use a clean, sharp razor and a shaving gel or lotion to help prevent irritation during shaving. Shave in the direction of your hair growth, rather than shaving against the growth. Apply a sunscreen before going outdoors to prevent additional darkening in areas of hyperpigmentation.

Fade Cream Fix

Non-prescription fade creams that contain 2 percent hydroquinone may help fade and reduce the appearance of areas of hyperpigmentation. Prescription-strength creams usually contain twice the amount of hydroquinone as over-the-counter creams, and may produce better results. You may need to continue using hydroquinone creams for several weeks before you notice any skin lightening.

Therapies

Stubborn or large discolored areas on your legs may require professional treatment. Your dermatologist may recommend chemical peels or microdermabrasion. For stubborn hyperpigmentation spots that don’t respond to other treatment, your doctor may recommend laser treatment to help minimize the appearance of discoloration on your legs.

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