Have you ever had red, blotchy skin that appeared out of nowhere? You weren’t sure if it was because of the detergent used on your clothes, or probably that perfume you’ve just sprayed? Blotchy skin is just one of the many skin conditions that can affect your skin that can occur due to many possible reasons. In this article we will take a closer look at blotchy skin – a common problem that most people don’t understand. First you need to know what it is, recognize the symptoms, and the probable causes of this skin condition before you can do anything about it.
What Is Blotchy Skin?
In a nutshell, blotchy skin is simply a problem wherein the skin often turns red, but in other instances, skin can turn brown or gray. Basically, blotchy skin refers to any dark patches that develop on certain skin areas. Blotchy skin usually affects the face or other parts of the body that are most exposed to sunlight (i.e. neck, arms and hands). Generally, this condition is a result of the unprotected exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, which causes hyperpigmentation. The UV rays cause melanin production in the skin to increase, resulting in the darkening of certain areas.
Causes of Blotchy Skin
If you look in the mirror and found those disturbing splotches, don’t panic. Blotchy skin may look unsightly, but depending on the cause and severity of your skin condition, it can be soothed quickly, and may sometimes go away on its own. The best first step is to identify what’s causing your skin’s blotchiness or unevenly-toned skin. The sooner you are diagnosed, the better and sooner you can start your treatment. Here are the reasons why skin discoloration can develop on your skin.
1. Aging – It plays a significant role in the development of aging signs, including wrinkles and dark spots. Exposure to sunlight, especially when unprotected, causes more melanin to be produced so the skin color darkens. Remember that some people are genetically inclined to develop blotchy skin more easily.
2. Genetics – Some skin disorders that cause blotchy skin are hereditary. One example is acne, which is one of the top causes of blotchiness.
3. Skin irritation – The most common cause of red blotchy skin on the face is contact dermatitis – a red, itchy rash (severe cases may also include bumps and blisters) that occurs as a reaction to something you’ve come in contact with. Different factors can trigger symptoms of contact dermatitis, such as sensitivity to:
- *Using Harsh Topical Products – Certain chemicals can cause dark spots on the skin as well. This is why you should be very careful with the products that you apply on your skin. Before buying a skin care formulation, check its active ingredients carefully and make sure they are all safe aside from being effective.
- * Bar Soaps With Strong Ingredients – When the soap you use contains harsh ingredients, your skin can be left defenseless against irritants and germs. It strips your skin of its natural oils, healthy fatty acids and ceramides, which compose your skin’s moisture barrier. To avoid drying and irritating your skin (which are a set up for skin blotchiness), a popular recommendation of skin care specialists is to avoid using ordinary soaps, particularly on your face, so you don’t weaken your skin’s barrier. Rather, use a cleanser suitable for your skin type. Make sure it is pH-neutral and hydrating so that dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells will be removed without causing skin irritation.
- * Irritants In Topical Formulations – Fragrance used in your skin care products may be the reason for your blotchy skin. Studies have found that fragrances are among the top irritants in these products, so make sure that all products that you apply on your skin are fragrance free. Watch out for skin-irritating dyes and look for hypoallergenic as well. So, all in all it’s pretty simple: the lesser ingredients the better.
- *Drinking Red Wine – If your face turns red after drinking red wine or other alcoholic beverages, you may be suffering from rosacea. Spicy foods, citrus fruits and caffeine may have the same effect as well because blood rushes to your skin’s surface. To stop the splotches fast, sip water in between cocktails and stick with milder versions of foods that have this effect.
- *Inclement Weather – Extreme temperatures can cause ‘seasonal blotchy skin,’ which is manifested by a heat rash that causes red splotches to appear on the face, neck and chest. High winds – particularly on days that are dry – can also cause skin to develop blotchy red patches and chapping of the cheeks and neck. Some people suffer from seasonal blotchy skin in the spring because of skin-irritating allergens in the air.
4. Physical Activity – A regular work out is fine, but sometimes this can be a trigger for red splotches on your skin. As your heart rate and body temperature increase, a higher amount of blood is pumped to your vital organs, which include the skin. To prevent this from causing problems, make sure to cool down immediately – wipe your face and body with a cool towel.
5. Over-Exfoliating – Proper exfoliation is an important part of managing blotchy face skin – or any skin type for that matter. After all, we need to shed approximately 50 million skin cells a day. However, many people are what we call “exfoliation junkie.” They exfoliate too often or too harsh that rubs skin the wrong way, causing inflammation and skin blotchiness. For this reason, you need t:
- *Exfoliate according to your skin type; people with oilier skin need to do it more often. As a general rule, exfoliating two to three times a week is fine
- *Avoid gritty scrubs that contain rough skin-sloughing ingredients like grains, salt and sugar, as well as facial brushes as much as possible
- *Steer clear of harsh peels
- *If your skin is inflamed, skip exfoliating altogether
6. Increase In Body Heat – When your environment is too hot or too dry, or during times of intense stress and anxiety, your body heat rises, which releases histamine. Histamine is an immune system chemical that is released in response to allergic reactions, causing smooth muscles to contract and capillaries to dilate. Hives, which often manifest as itchy, red blotches on skin, develop as histamine rises to the skin’s surface.
7. Skin Conditions And Injuries – Take acne for example, which can cause redness and scarring (especially when not treated properly). Rosacea, psoriasis, allergies and eczema are other disorders that can cause your skin color to change. Scratches and wounds can also cause the skin to darken due to a change in the number of melanin.
8. Not Protecting Your Skin From The Sun – According to experts, about 90 percent of skin aging signs are caused by unprotected UV light exposure. As much as possible, avoid sun exposure especially when its harmful rays are at their strongest (9 AM to 4 PM). ALWAYS use sunscreen every time you go out and add an antioxidant serum to your regimen like Ace-Ferulic, an advanced rejuvenating serum by Solvaderm. It nourishes skin, protects it from free radical damage caused by sun exposure and environmental stressors, and locks in moisture to improve skin’s elasticity, texture and tone. Ace-Ferulic is also Vitamin-packed, paraben-free and fragrance-free.
Be warned though – if your skin is unusually blotchy, dry, red, irritated or bumpy, and it’s not going away (or getting worse) over time, add a trip to your doctor’s office to your priority list.
How Is Blotchy Skin Diagnosed?
This skin condition can be easily diagnosed by dermatologists just through visual examination. If reddish, brownish or other discolorations start to appear, or your skin’s structure becomes different, it would be best to consult a skin care specialist. There are some tests that can be performed to check for an underlying condition that may be causing this problem. A Wood’s lamp is often used during examination of the affected areas to get a better look. A biopsy may be ordered if the splotches look alarming (a small piece of the skin is removed for examination).
What are the Treatments for Blotchy Skin?
Because blotchy skin can range from mild to severe, treatments can also vary on a case to case basis. For instance, blotchy skin due to a physical activity can go away without treatment but some people can struggle with it for years, which may require long-term or recurrent treatment, like in eczema. These are the different ways you can get rid of the discolorations on your skin:
- Change Your Diet Or Lifestyle – If your blotchy skin is food-based (i.e. from nuts, chocolate or spicy food), alcohol-based or triggered by a certain activity (excessive physical activity), look at your lifestyle and the triggers that you can possibly cut back on, recommends associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine and top skincare expert Dr. Mona Gohara.
- Eliminate Fragrances – It was mentioned earlier how fragrances can dry, irritate and/or inflame skin, causing blotchiness. If you have sensitive skin or have allergic reaction to fragrances, use only fragrance-free products. When it’s tempting to slather on that sweet-smelling lotion, think about the nasty patches and skin irritation that can take weeks to clear up!
- Moisturizer– If you have rosacea-induced or eczema-induced redness, do not skip moisturizing your skin to help strengthen your skin’s barrier and combat allergy-causing external irritants. Choose a moisturizer that has ceramides and glycerine in them. Right after cleansing or bathing, pat your skin dry and immediately moisturize as it helps lock in the moisture.
- Suck On An Ice Cube – Did you know that when you have minor skin irritation and blotchy skin on your face due to your blood vessels dilating, pressing an ice cube against your hard palate tells blood vessels in your face to behave? “Our temperature regulators for our face are at the back of our throat. So sucking on an ice cube can actually decrease the core temperature of your body and can really bring down the redness a lot,” says Gohara.
- Non-Prescription Topical Formulations – Tons of non-prescription products for addressing blotchy skin are available. However, you need to be very careful with these as they can cause side effects, especially when used improperly. To prevent adverse effects, look for products that only use natural ingredients that are proven to be safe and effective. Here are such ingredients you should look for:
- Glycolic Acid – It is a botanical extract that is categorized as an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which is well-known as an amazing exfoliator. This ingredient can improve the appearance and texture of the skin by getting rid of damaged and dull cells from the outermost layer.
- Lactic Acid – Another potent exfoliator, this is derived from plants and it has been shown to accelerate skin renewal by removing epidermal cells. Experts recommend this ingredient for its collagen enhancing effects as well, which can help reduce the visibility of aging signs like fine lines and wrinkles.
- Kojic Acid – This plant sourced complex is among the most popular natural skin brighteners today. It has been shown to inhibit melanin production safely to fade and reduce the appearance of dark spots.
- Pyruvic Acid – It has deep exfoliating effects and can improve skin tone and luminosity to address the different signs of skin aging.
- Cortisone Ointments – These are often recommended for facial skin rashes to reduce irritation and swelling triggered by unprotected sun exposure, allergies and other factors. Cortisone ointments can be purchased over-the-counter, which usually contain 3 to 5% cortisone.
- Hydroquinone – Topical formulations that use this ingredient as the primary active ingredient are the most popular treatment for dark spots on the skin. They come in cream, lotion and gel form, and can be purchased through a prescription. There are products with lower concentrations that are being sold over-the-counter as well. The main problem with hydroquinone products is the risk of developing light spots.
- Corticosteroids And Tretinoin – Like hydroquinone, they also lighten the skin quickly but also come with risk of side effects. There are formulations that use hydroquinone, corticosteroids and tretinoin, which are only used for severe cases of dark spots.
Other treatments to blotchy skin include skin procedures performed by skin professionals. These procedures vary depending on the source of skin blotchiness.
Chemical peel – A simple procedure that removes the outermost layer of the skin to stimulate the production of new, healthy skin cells. Aside from the recovery period, which can last a few days to weeks, there is also a high risk of adverse effects that can even lead to worse skin problems.
- Microdermabrasion – This is another procedure that stimulates the growth of new, healthy cells. It simply exfoliates the skin but some risk of side effects is still involved with this type of treatment. Currently, this is one of the most popular options not just for addressing dark spots and blotchy skin, but for fighting aging signs as well.
- Intense Pulsed Light Therapy – With this treatment, a special xenon lamp is used to resolve pigmentation problems. Make sure to deal with an experienced skin care professional when undergoing this procedure in order to reduce risk of adverse effects.
- Laser Skin Resurfacing – Another popular anti-aging treatment, this procedure uses wavelength laser beam to dissolve the molecular bonds of the skin and vaporize its outer layer. This procedure is a little risky and it is expensive but there are many positive reviews saying it is effective for treating blotchy skin.
How to Prevent Dark Spots on Your Skin
Blotchy skin is definitely unappealing and it is often difficult to eliminate. For this reason, you should make its prevention a major part of your skin care regimen. Follow these rules if you want to prevent dark spots:
1. Protect Your Skin from the Sun
The importance of wearing sunscreen can’t be overemphasized; it should be the foundation of any skin care regimen. Remember that they UV rays of the sun can still cause damage even during cloudy days or wintertime. Don’t forget to apply an antioxidant serum with proven ingredients like Vitamins C and E before heading outdoors – this will ensure optimal sun protection.
2. Exfoliate Regularly
Everyone needs to add exfoliation to their skin care routine because dead skin cells can accumulate and cause dark spots. Remember to be very careful in choosing an exfoliating product; look for those that only contain gentle, natural and proven ingredients. Also, make sure to follow the product directions carefully so that you don’t end up using it too often.
3. Avoid Touching Your Face
If you notice that you regularly touch, scratch or pick on your skin, you are committing one of the biggest sins in skin care. This is a sure way to transmit germs to your skin, and what’s worse is when you also pick on pimples as this can lead to infection.
4. Be Smart in Fighting Acne
In the case of blotchy skin because of breakouts, you need to change your cleanser. First, clear up your skin by using a spot treatment – look for products with salicylic acid, colloidal sulfur or other proven anti-acne compounds. Then, you need to switch to a clarifying cleanser – this will prevent acne from returning and finally put an end to your battle against breakouts.
Remember that not all anti-acne cleansers are effective. These are the ingredients you should look for in a clarifying cleanser if you want to stop breakouts from occurring:
- Salicylic acid – It has been shown to offer remarkable cleansing and clarifying results. This ingredient is oil-soluble, which allows it to dissolve sebum deep inside pores. It is also a great exfoliator that helps get rid of dead skin cells that are stuck on your skin.
- Lactic acid – A revitalizing alpha hydroxy acid, this naturally-derived ingredient is perfect for preventing acne since it gently exfoliates the skin. It also has the added benefit of accelerating the renewal process of the skin and restoring its youthful glow by stimulating collagen synthesis.
- Glycolic acid – Another alpha hydroxy acid derived from plants, this offers skin-balancing effects while gently cleansing the skin and enhancing cellular turnover. It unclogs pores and treats skin dullness to prevent dullness and blotchiness.
5. Address Dark Spots Immediately
Most cases of blotchy skin will just worsen over time when it is left untreated. Find a good skin lightening product with gentle and effective ingredients to treat it before it worsens. Make sure to avoid formulations that are too harsh so that you can avoid side effects.
6. Update Your Skin Care Regimen
As you get older, your skin changes (becoming thinner and less elastic). Dark spots also become more common, which is a result of years and years of damage from the sun and other factors. You can prevent dark spots and other aging issues by updating your skin care routine every few years. There are many anti-aging products that can help keep your skin clear and smooth as you get older. For example, stem cell serums that boost skin rejuvenation can help prevent and even treat wrinkles, blemishes and dark spots.
7. Consult a Dermatologist
Changes on your skin can occur quickly so if you have tried different treatments without any success, you should consult with a dermatologist. This way, the root of the problem can be pinpointed and the appropriate treatment will be given.
Blotchy Skin Dos and Don’ts
- Do exfoliate your skin accordingly – You should remove dead skin cells from your skin if you want to prevent dark spots. Again, it is very important to choose a product carefully because many formulations have harmful ingredients that can cause side effects, and some can even result in serious skin conditions.
- Don’t rub your skin after cleansing or taking a shower – You should pat your skin gently instead so that it won’t get irritated or damaged.
- Do use mineral-based makeup since there is a much slimmer chance of adverse effects (including dark spots).
- Don’t use skin care products that contain a high level of alcohol – These can dry out your skin and cause problems like redness and inflammation.
- Do scrutinize a product very carefully before buying – All the things you need to find the best skin care product are at your disposal. You can check feedback online and look at research behind active ingredients. In case it causes side effects, you can easily find out from other people who have tried the product you’re considering.
- Don’t use too much retinol – Your skin is a little sensitive if it tends to develop splotches often. The problem with retinol is that it can irritate the skin and this can worsen or even cause dark spots. Consider other potent antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients like peptides – some can even match the effects of expensive treatments like Botox injections. These are not as irritating as retinol.
- Do treat the actual cause of blotchy skin – In many cases, you can’t determine its actual cause, which is the reason you should visit your dermatologist. Wrong treatments can worsen the problem or even cause other issues that will make treatment more difficult.
- Don’t rely on creams alone – There are serums that offer more nourishment but it all comes down to the formulation of the product and the active ingredients it contains.
- Do wash with the right cleanser – If foaming cleansers tend to irritate your skin and cause redness, you should turn to a sulfate-free formulation. This won’t dry out your skin and the best products also contain intense hydrating ingredients.
- Don’t forget to protect your skin – Aside from using sunscreen daily and adding an antioxidant serum to your regimen, you should also focus on repairing your skin’s barrier. The best products contain ceramides, which help repair the skin, and there are also formulations that offer soothing effects to calm irritation.
- Do choose natural options if possible – Common ingredients, such as chemical sunscreens, are known toxins that can cause a variety of adverse effects. Whenever possible, choose natural options that are gentler but as effective. Of course, just because something is natural doesn’t make it safer, and there are also formulations that are not really effective so you should be very careful.
- Don’t treat dark spots by tanning – A major mistake you can make is to address blotchy skin by trying to mask its appearance. This will only darken your overall skin tone but the darker spots will still be there. Instead, you should treat the specific areas with hyperpigmentation.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What Does Blotchy Skin Look Like?
This condition can cause dark, red or light patches on the skin that often become more visible when the skin is not cleansed and exfoliated accordingly. Skin irritation can also trigger red blotches on skin.
2. What Is The Medical Term For Blotchy Skin?
There are different medical terms for the condition depending on its appearance. For instance, melasma is the medical term for blotchy, darker patches that appear on the skin. On the other hand, redness can be due to acne rosacea or many other skin disorders.
3. Is There a Connection Between Diet And Blotchy Skin?
The food you consume has a considerably effect on the condition of your skin. As a matter of fact, in many skin conditions, flare-ups can be triggered by certain foods. For example, rosacea can be worsened by drinking red wine, and eczema flare-ups can be triggered by eggs, peanuts and dairy products. Keep a food diary to determine the food items you are sensitive or allergic to, and be extra vigilant when your skin tends to turn pink and scaly patches develop – these are signs of eczema.
4. Why Do Dark Patches Develop?
There are many possible reasons behind developing dark spots but sun damage takes the top spot. Medications, chemicals and other causes should also be taken into consideration when you develop this condition. Remember that dark patches are more common in people with a darker skin tone since their skin produces a higher amount of melanin.
5. Can a Moisturizer Help Treat Blotchy Skin?
Yes but it really depends on your overall skin care regimen, which moisturizing is just a part of. Look for a moisturizer that also helps strengthen your skin’s protective barrier. Formulations that offer SPF protection can also help treat and prevent dark spots.
6. Are Chemical Peels Beneficial For Blotchy Skin?
Chemical peels have become popular for their anti-aging effects, but these can also help treat blotchy skin. However, chemical peels may not be necessary as there are safe and more affordable options available.
7. Why Is Blotchy Skin Common During Pregnancy?
Experts believe this is because of the fluctuating hormone levels during this time. During pregnancy, this condition is called melasma/chloasma or “the mask of pregnancy;” however, women who aren’t pregnant and men can develop the condition as well due to medical conditions, medication intake or sun damage.
8. What’s The Best Treatment For Blotchy Skin?
Treating blotchy skin depends on the specific condition that is causing it. For example, melasma goes away on its own after pregnancy, but topical treatments are also available (prescription and non-prescription). For redness due to rosacea, there is no cure but flare-ups can be prevented by avoiding triggers.
Blotchy skin is a common skin condition that can manifest in different ways. There are many possible causes like sun damage, genetics and diseases. Fortunately, most cases can be treated and prevented with proper skin care. Remember the tips in this article and this problematic condition will stop bothering you soon.