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  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How to fade dark spots on your chest, according to dermatology experts

Topical lotions and sunscreen can reduce dark spots and help prevent new ones from forming.

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Curology Team
Nov 09, 2022 · 7 min read

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Dark spots on chest
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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When it comes to skincare, the face arguably gets most of the attention. We cleanse, moisturize, and protect it. While this is a great practice, it’s easy to forget about the neck, chest, and décolleté—leaving this area vulnerable when exposed to the sun. And over time, dark spots—aka hyperpigmentation—can take center stage.

Here we'll explain what hyperpigmentation is and common potential contributing factors. We'll also look at how to fade dark spots—on the chest or elsewhere—caused by sun damage and how to help prevent them from happening in the first place.

What can cause dark spots on your chest? 

Hyperpigmentation is synonymous with dark spots on the skin—whether that’s brown spots on the chest of a female or dark spots on the chest of a male. They happen due to an overproduction of melanin or an increase in melanocytes—the cells that tell your body to make more melanin, which gives your skin its color.¹ 

Sun exposure and acne are common causes of dark spots on the body, including the chest, but other factors—like certain medications and medical conditions—can also lead to pigmentation changes. 

  • Sun exposure. Years of gradual UV ray exposure can eventually trigger melanin production resulting in sunspots (liver spots, age spots, and solar lentigines). These generally occur in areas commonly exposed to the sun, like the face, hands, and chest, and are associated with photodamaged skin. Sunspots often show up later in life and are more common in people with fair skin, but that doesn’t mean other skin tones are exempt. 

  • Acne. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is the term used to describe dark spots that happen after inflammation—like a pimple or an insect bite—has healed. Anyone can develop PIH regardless of skin type or tone, but research shows it’s more common among people whose skin has higher melanin levels.²

  • Medication and medical conditions. Tetracyclines and other medications (like those often used during chemotherapy)³ can result in dark spots on the skin or leave your skin extra sensitive to the sun (aka photosensitive). Medical conditions like Addison’s disease can also cause dark spots.

body woman freckles on chest

Are my dark spots dangerous?

Most dark spots are harmless, but if you’re ever concerned, or your spots change shape, size, or color, or are accompanied by pain or a fever, seek medical advice from a licensed medical provider. 

It’s true that certain types of dark spots on the skin can be skin cancer, but not all dark spots are harmful. As far as (generally) harmless dark spots go, here’s what to look for in terms of color and shape: 

  • Color: Sunspots and PIH can be light brown, dark brown, or black. 

  • Shape: Sunspots and PIH are small and flat and have various shapes and sizes. 

If your spots change size, shape, or color, or you experience a new growth on the skin or a sore that won’t heal, it’s time to have it checked by a healthcare expert.⁴ Here’s what to look for in spots that change: the ABCDEs of melanoma:⁵ 

  • A: Asymmetry—half of the spot is not like the other half. 

  • B: Border—irregular or poorly defined. 

  • C: Color—varies from one area to the next.

  • D: Diameter—about the size of a pencil eraser or larger. 

  • E: Evolving—changes in size, shape, or color.

How to help prevent dark spots

There’s no “best cream” for dark spots on the chest, but wearing sunscreen daily will definitely help! Here are some other tips to help prevent dark spots from forming in the first place.

woman on beach using sunscreen
  1. Wear sun protection. Sun protection includes properly applying sunscreen, wearing sun-protective clothing, and limiting your time in the sun. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher,⁶ and seek shade between 10 am and 2 pm. If you have to be outside, opt for clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.

  2. Establish a skincare routine. In other words, take care of your skin! Regularly cleansing, moisturizing, and protecting your skin won’t directly prevent dark spots from developing, but a complete skincare routine is a key to keeping your skin as healthy as possible. We recommend cleansing and moisturizing your face morning and night and showering using warm—not hot—water to prevent your skin from drying. If you’re experiencing body acne, use a product as the Curology acne body wash. After your shower, apply moisturizer and sunscreen before leaving the house–especially on those areas exposed to the sun, like your face, hands, and décolleté. 

  3. Treat and help prevent acne. Since acne inflammation can lead to PIH, treating and helping to prevent acne can go a long way! You may consider a prescription acne treatment, like tretinoin, for your face, neck, and décolleté. (Bonus: Tretinoin also works great as an antiaging cream.) And should you experience pimples, remember, don’t pick or pop—this can also lead to dark spots and scars.  

If you’re a current member, Curology’s licensed dermatology experts can share more personalized advice with you on how to treat your dark spots. Not a member? You can read more expert-approved tips on how to treat hyperpigmentation here.  

How do you even out your skin tone on the chest?

We’ve covered prevention. Now you might be wondering, how do you get rid of brown spots on the chest? Dark spots may fade with time, but there are some skincare ingredients that work to minimize their appearance or speed up the fading process. Here’s a list of some we recommend and how they work: 

  • Glycolic acid chemical peels help fade hyperpigmentation and improve texture and skin tone.⁷ Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that acts as a gentle chemical exfoliant. Just be sure to use as directed and give your skin a chance to ease into using skincare products with glycolic acid. Some chemical exfoliants can cause irritation in sensitive skin.

  • Vitamin C can decrease melanin production to help protect your skin from signs of sun damage. It also boosts collagen production and can work with vitamin E to protect the skin from oxidative damage.⁸ Topical vitamin C is an antioxidant that boosts protection from the sun and is generally considered safe for all skin types. 

  • Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that’s effective in treating dark spots. It works by blocking the pathway between melanocytes and melanin—basically, it shuts down the communication between the two, preventing the body from overproducing melanin.⁹ Niacinamide also improves elasticity and the appearance of fine lines.¹⁰ 

  • Azelaic acid blocks an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is necessary for melanin production.¹¹ It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and is effective in treating acne-induced PIH. Azelaic acid is available over the counter or by prescription (depending on the strength). 

  • Hydroquinone is a prescription-only medication used to prevent excess melanin formation. When used with sunscreen, it can improve hyperpigmentation from melasma, sunspots, and PIH.¹² 

  • Retinol or tretinoin. Retinoic acid (aka tretinoin) speeds up cell turnover to stimulate new, healthy skin growth. Clinical research shows that retinoids can also improve photoaging by promoting collagen production.¹³,¹⁴ Tretinoin is only available by prescription, but you can find over-the-counter retinoids (like retinol) at your local drugstore. At Curology, we use tretinoin in many of our custom formulas.

How can Curology help?

Variety of Curology products - Metronidazole contraindications and precautions you should be aware of

Here at Curology, we can help take the guesswork out of treating hyperpigmentation. A Curology membership includes access to prescription ingredients clinically proven to treat hyperpigmentation and a personalized dermatologist-designed skincare routine—plus ongoing support from a licensed dermatology professional to help achieve your skincare goals. Bonus: you can also try any of our other skincare products, like Curology’s acne body wash or SPF 30 broad spectrum sunscreen.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Subject to consultation. 30-day trial. Just cover $4.95 in S&H.
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To become a member, we ask that you take a simple quiz and snap a few selfies so we can evaluate your skin. You’ll be paired with one of our dermatology providers, who will formulate a personalized prescription formula based on your unique skin and skincare goals. 

Your first month is free.* Just pay $4.95 (plus tax) for shipping and handling.

FAQs

What can cause dark spots on your chest?

Hyperpigmentation is synonymous with dark spots on the skin. They happen due to an overproduction of melanin or an increase in melanocytes—the cells that tell your body to make more melanin, which gives your skin its color. 

Sun exposure and acne are common causes of dark spots on the body, including the chest, but other factors—like certain medications and medical conditions—can also lead to pigmentation changes.

Are my dark spots dangerous?

Most dark spots are harmless, but if you’re ever concerned, or your spots change shape, size, or color, or are accompanied by pain or a fever, seek medical advice from a licensed medical provider. 

It’s true that certain types of dark spots on the skin can be skin cancer, but not all dark spots are harmful.

How do you even out your skin tone on the chest?

Dark spots may fade with time, but there are some skincare ingredients that work to minimize their appearance or speed up the fading process.

  • Glycolic acid chemical peels help fade hyperpigmentation and improve texture and skin tone.

  • Vitamin C can decrease melanin production to help protect your skin from signs of sun damage.

  • Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that’s effective in treating dark spots.

  • Azelaic acid blocks an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is necessary for melanin production.

  • Hydroquinone is a prescription-only medication used to prevent excess melanin formation.

  • Retinol or tretinoin. Retinoic acid (aka tretinoin) speeds up cell turnover to stimulate new, healthy skin growth.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Wang, R.F., et al. Disorders of hyperpigmentation. Part I. Pathogenesis and clinical features of common pigmentary disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2022, February 10).

  2. Wang, R.F., et al. Disorders of hyperpigmentation. Part I. Pathogenesis and clinical features of common pigmentary disorders. Ibid.

  3. National Cancer Institute. Skin and nail changes during cancer treatment. (n.d.).

  4. American Academy of Dermatology. Skin cancer. (n.d.).

  5. American Academy of Dermatology. Skin cancer types: Melanoma signs and symptoms. (n.d.).

  6. American Academy of Dermatology. Sunscreen FAQs. (n.d.).

  7. Houshmand, E.B. Effect of glycolic acid, phytic acid, soothing complex containing emulsion on hyperpigmentation and skin luminosity: A clinical evaluation.Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (March 2021).

  8. Al-Niaimi F., et al. Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (July 2017).

  9. T. Hakozaki, et al.  The Effect Of Niacinamide on Reducing Cutaneous Pigmentation and Suppression of Melanosome Transfer. The British Journal of Dermatology. (July 2002).

  10. Donald L. Bisset, et al. Niacinamide: A B Vitamin That Improves Aging Facial Skin Appearance. Dermatologic Surgery. (July 2005).

  11. Chaowattanapanit S., et al. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: A comprehensive overview.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2017, October 1).

  12. Schwartz, C., et al. Hydroquinone. StatPearls. (2022).

  13. Zasada M, et al. Retinoids: Active Molecules Influencing Skin Structure Formation in Cosmetic and Dermatological Treatments. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology.  (August 2019).

  14. Baldwin HE, et al. 40 Years of Topical Tretinoin Use is Review. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (June 2013).

Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Trial is 30 days. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Meredith Hartle, DO

Meredith Hartle, DO

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