How to Treat Hyperpigmentation Spots on Arms & Legs

Age spots, liver spots and freckles are just some of the names given to the areas on your arms and legs that have increased levels of melanin, or pigment. Most types of hyperpigmentation do not require treatment; unless the spots are a sign of melanoma (skin cancer), they do not interfere with your health. Many people do not like the way their age spots look and use topical preparations to hide the imperfections. More invasive treatments are also available to treat hyperpigmentation of your extremities.

Mature woman with freckles leaning against rocks. (Image: berpin/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Apply a hydroquinone-based bleaching cream to the hyperpigmented spots on your arms or legs. Over-the-counter and prescription-strength hydroquinone creams range from 2 to 4 percent concentration; the chemical causes the discoloration on your limbs to fade. Your doctor will tell you how often to use the topical medication; hyrdoquinone may cause skin irritation in some people according to University of British Columbia Division of Dermatology researchers.

Step 2

Apply topical retinoids to treat severe discolorations on your arms and legs. Retinoids reduce the concentration of melanin in the hyperpigmented area of your skin, but in some people can lead to further irritation, called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Many people do not see results for at least three months when using 0.05 to 0.1 percent ointments.

Step 3

Wear sunscreen, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms and legs from sun exposure while you are using retinoids or bleaching agents. Your skin can become more sensitive to sunlight, hampering the effects of the medications.

Things You'll Need

  • Hydroquinone creams

  • Retinoid medications

  • Sunscreen

  • Long-sleeved shirt

  • Long pants

  • Laser therapy


Dark spots on your arms or legs that are a cosmetic concern may be covered with makeup in the event that your clothing cannot hide the discoloration. Ask your doctor about advanced technologies used to remove hyperpigmentation on your arms or legs. The National Institutes of Health reports that cryosurgery--freezing the darkened spots with liquid nitrogen--and laser treatments can help lighten the discolored patches.Check with your insurance company about coverage for these treatments; because the condition does not pose a health threat, treatment may be considered elective and not be eligible for medical claims.

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