Dark spots, which are also known as hyperpigmentation or age spots, are common and grow increasingly common with age. They can be frustrating to deal with as they seemingly appear out of nowhere, and they can also be a somewhat embarrassing indicator of age.

What are the causes?

Dark spots are the result of the overproduction of melanin (skin pigment). It's not fully understood why dark spots develop, but aging and UV light exposure even exposure to artificial UV light, like the kind used in tanning beds are major causes.

Dark spots can develop anywhere, but they are most likely to appear on the parts of the body that receive the most sun exposure, including: the face, back of the hands, shoulders, arms, and the back.

How to treat dark spots?

Dark spots don't hurt and they have the same texture as the rest of your skin. They're generally harmless, but there is a possibility that a dark spot could be cancerous. Visit your dermatologist annually for a skin checkup. If the dermatologist sees a potentially harmful dark spot, he or she can perform a biopsy to check the skin for cancer and other abnormalities.

Typically, however, dark spots don't pose any health risks, so you don't have to get rid of them, although many people choose to for cosmetic purposes. Dark spots can be diminished or removed completely through prescribed medication, medical procedures, and at-home treatments.

Prescription bleaching creams gradually diminish the appearance of dark spots, usually over a period of several months. However, they contain abrasive ingredients that make the skin extremely sensitive to UV exposure, so it's very important to wear SPF consistently throughout treatment.

There are also a number of over-the-counter products that treat dark spots. In fact, you probably can't make it through a TV commercial break without seeing an ad for one. These products aren't as immediately effective as a medical procedure. They might diminish the appearance of dark spots, but they might not completely remove them.

Look for creams that contain ingredients like alpha hydroxyl acid, glycolic acid, hydroquinone, deoxyarbutin, and kojic acid.