Causes and Treatment of Black Spots on Skin

" Dark or black spots on skin are usually harmless and merely a sign of excessive exposure to the sun or increased pigmentation. Black skin spots can also be caused by moles. However, less common skin conditions that may manifest as dark or black spots on skin include melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Except for the latter, these harmless skin discolorations often do not pose any danger to one’s health but may need treatment in order to improve one’s appearance." 


Dark brown to brown-black spots are commonly associated with aging and excessive exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. These are common in people over the age of 40, and may occur in all races, although they are more pronounced among fair-skinned people.

Hyperpigmentation or overproduction of dark skin pigments called melanin can cause black spots to appear. This may occur after some inflammation such as acne heals, or after improper shaving. Nevi or moles may also appear black sometimes, and may be either flat or raised.

black spots on skni caused by tinea versicolor
TineaVersacolor (also called sun spots) is the result of a skin yeast infection. The color is caused by a chemical reaction in the fungus that blocks natural skin pigment. The problem is harmless if your immune system is functioning normally. It is not cancerous. Treatment involves curing the infection with a product such as Naturasil TineaVersicolor. The condition is not contagious and may require multiple treatments.

Antibiotics and other drugs like tetracycline, sulfonamides, amiodarone, phenothiazine, and phenytoin commonly cause such spots on the skin.

Black Skin Moles

Every adult has moles. They are either congenital (present at birth) or acquired, which means that they appeared after a person is born, If an individual has more than 50 moles they are considered to be at higher risk for a skin melanoma (skin cancer). A mole can be black, red, tan, pink or without olor. They are round and slightly raised or flat.

Melanoma (skin cancer)

An important cause of black spot on the skin is melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.It is caused by abnormal changes in the melanocytes, or cells which produce the skin pigment called melanin. If you see any skin condition such as a mole changing in shape, color (or has multiple colors in one mole), size, and has an irregular border, or is bleeding, be sure to bring it to the attention of a Doctor. Common practice is for the Dermatologist to remove the mole so that it can be sent to a lab for testing. If a melanoma, and if caught early, an Oncologist will remove the skin area surrounding the mole until they are sure that the cancer has been completely removed. More advanced cases will require additional treatment.

black skin spots melanoma

Pictures of Black Skin Spots that are a Melanoma. Have any mole that changes in appearance or size checked by a Dermatologist.
Source: American Academy of Dermatology

Moles are not treated unless they pose a medical risk, if they rub against clothing or for cosmetic reasons. If you have 100 or more moles be extra careful and consult a dermatologist, particularly if you have a family history of familial atypical multiple-mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome.

Less Common Causes of Black Skin Spots

Other less common conditions that can cause dark brown to black spots include:

  • Riehl melanosis: brown pigment condition on the neck and face
  • Poikiloderma of Civattea: dry and scaly patches on the neck and face
  • Erythromelanosisfollicularis
  • Lineafusca: long skin markings


Black spots on skin that are caused by sun exposure and related to aging can easily be identified even without laboratory tests. Other types of non-cancerous dark discolorations in the skin may also be identified by their history and physical features. To rule out any disease that may be related to skin changes, blood tests may be done.

To diagnose skin cancer, a skin biopsy needs to be done for confirmation. Other features like a history of abnormal changes in size, color, and texture of the lesion, bleeding, or a sore that does not heal give clue to the diagnosis.

black skin spots moles
Black spots on skin can be caused by moles. The are growths that may appear during childhood or later. Most people have 15 to 20. It is caused by genetics and are harmless. If the mole changes in color and appearance be sure to have it checked by a dermatologist. Black skin spots caused by moles can be removed for cosmetic reasons.


Dark brown or black spots on skin usually do not have accompanying symptoms if they are related to changes in aging. Hyperpigmentation due to inflammation, drug intake, or hormonal changes may be accompanied by symptoms related to the cause.

If black spots appear asymmetrical and rapidly change in size, shape, and color, they may be symptomatic of melanoma. These spots may bleed, and the borders may become irregular.


To reduce the appearance of dark or black spots on skin, dermatologists recommend using sunscreen. Black spots may be lightened by using over-the-counter bleaching creams and lotions such as elure. Lightening cosmetics may also be used to cover black spots such as Clinque Dark Sport Corrector or Pro-X from Oil of Olay. One is further advised to use more protective coverings like hats, long sleeves, or umbrellas to avoid not only sunburn or skin aging, but skin cancer as well.

Dermatologists may also prescribe creams that contain hydroquinone which are used to bleach darkened skin. Severe cases may also be treated with tretinoin and cortisone cream. These treatments may need a few months to show improvements.

Other options include chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser treatment, or other cosmetic procedures.

For abnormal skin changes that are suspicious, one should seek immediate diagnosis and medical treatment. Skin cancer involves surgical treatment to remove the tumor, and depending on the stage of the disease, may also include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.

References for Black Spots on Skin:

Medline Plus Skin - abnormally dark or light.

American Academy of Dermatology

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Melanoma.


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