Intro to brown spots & treatment

Posted by Céline Founder & Chief Alchemist at Anato ⚘ on

What are brown spots and where do they come from? 

Whatever their origin, brown spots are always connected to an overproduction of melanin [1]. Brown spots can be caused by many endogenous or exogenous factors [2]: 

 Hormonal havoc

caused by, for instance, contraceptive use, a pregnancy (in which case it’s referred to as a ‘pregnancy mask’ otherwise known as melasma or chloasma) [2]. 

Post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation

due to an acne outbreak, a scar, a burn… these scars can darken after sun exposure and lead to those pesky ‘brown spots’ [2]. 

 Exposure to photo-sensitizing molecules

that appear in certain medications [2] or even certain plant essential oils [3] like orange (check out which other essential oils to avoid in the summer).

✦  A heightened sensitivity to the sun

that naturally increases with age, known as ‘age spots’ [4].

✦  Sun exposure that is too long or too frequent

referred to in dermatology as ‘solar lentigo’ [5]

✦ Diet-related phenomenons

such as a liver disorder [6] or glycation that is the result of a diet too high in ‘slow carbs’ (learn more about glycation and how to avoid it here).

Whatever the name: melasma, age spot, sun spot… these brown spots are all linked to skin hyperpigmentation. And they are all the result of excess melanin production by your melanocytes (specialized skin cells) that have been over-solicited by UV rays [2] and thus act in a disorderly manner! 

What to do about brown spots ? 

1. Stay out of the sun when treating 

First and foremost, if you are treating a brown spot with a laser, or with a lightening product: avoid sun exposure [7]! That’s why dermatologists recommended treating brown spots between October and March in the Northern Hemisphere.  

2. Treat brown spots for a long enough time period. 

Many women are disappointed with aesthetician or home treatments for brown spots simply because they are not carried out for long enough. You’ll want to give your skin a ‘resting period’ that’s long enough to allow your melanocytes to pause their disorderly work. Thus, leave brown spots out of the sun AND treat these dark spots for at least 3 skin cycles [8] (aka about 3 months since the skin cycles about every 28 days).  

3. Gentle exfoliation 

I’ve mentioned the usefulness of aloe vera in the summer, but I also encourage its use in the winter, due to its usefulness in treating ‘brown spots’ [8, 9, 10, 11]. Aloe vera naturally contains a small amount of salicylic acid that serves as a gentle ‘peeling’ agent to treat brown spots.
→ Apply a pea sized amount to the spot you are treating
after properly cleansing your skin

Depending on your skin sensitivity, an aloe vera treatment can be done once a night if your skin can handle it — be sure to check with your dermatologist.  

4. Brightening mask 

In addition to aloe vera exfoliation, apply a clay-based mask once a week to help unify your complexion. Our Kelp Forest Mask is particularly well suited for this due to its purifying, regenerating and hydrating properties. 


[1] Jimbow, K., & Minamitsuji, Y. (2001). Topical therapies for melasma and disorders of hyperpigmentation. Dermatologic therapy14(1), 35-45.

[2] Rigopoulos, D., Gregoriou, S., & Katsambas, A. (2007). Hyperpigmentation and melasma. Journal of cosmetic dermatology6(3), 195-202.

[3] Dosoky, N. S., & Setzer, W. N. (2018). Biological activities and safety of Citrus spp. essential oils. International journal of molecular sciences19(7), 1966.

[4] Choi, W., Yin, L., Smuda, C., Batzer, J., Hearing, V. J., & Kolbe, L. (2017). Molecular and histological characterization of age spots. Experimental dermatology26(3), 242-248.

[5] Iriyama, S., Ono, T., Aoki, H., & Amano, S. (2011). Hyperpigmentation in human solar lentigo is promoted by heparanase-induced loss of heparan sulfate chains at the dermal–epidermal junction. Journal of dermatological science64(3), 223-228.

[6] Sayal, S. K., Das, A. L., & Chattwal, P. K. (1997). Study of Cutaneous manifestations in chronic liver disorders. Medical Journal Armed Forces India53(4), 263-266.

[7] Rossi, A. M., & Perez, M. I. (2011). Treatment of hyperpigmentation. Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics19(2), 313-324.

[8] Hollinger, J. C., Angra, K., & Halder, R. M. (2018). Are natural ingredients effective in the management of hyperpigmentation? A systematic review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology11(2), 28.

[9] Rendon, M., & Horwitz, S. (2012, December). Topical treatment of hyperpigmentation disorders. In Annales de Dermatologie et de Vénéréologie (Vol. 139, pp. S153-S158). Elsevier Masson.

[10] Nautiyal, A., & Wairkar, S. (2021). Management of hyperpigmentation: Current treatments and emerging therapies. Pigment cell & melanoma research34(6), 1000-1014.

[11] Tan, L. F., Mogana, R., Chinnappan, S., Venkatalakshmi, R., & Yap, V. L. (2021). Various plants and bioactive constituents for pigmentation control: A review. Research Journal of Pharmacy and Technology14(11), 6106-6112.


This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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