In people with dark elbows, the skin surrounding the elbow is darker than that on the rest of the arm.
People who have naturally darker skin tones are more likely to develop dark elbows.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a condition or substance that triggers the skin to create additional melanin can cause dark spots and patches on the skin. Melanin is the substance responsible for giving skin its color.
Dark elbows do not require treatment, and there is no cure. However, treatments and home remedies may temporarily reduce the appearance of dark elbows.
Following treatment recommendations for underlying conditions can also help reduce the appearance of dark skin patches.
In this article, we examine the causes of dark elbows. We also look at potential home remedies and treatments and suggest when to contact a dermatologist.
Many factors may contribute to the development of dark patches or spots on the elbows or other areas of the body.
Some common causes of dark elbows include:
- certain medications, such as birth control pills
- a scar from a healed insect bite, cut, burn, or other injury
- some skin conditions
- skin care products
- hormone fluctuations from pregnancy or other conditions
- a buildup of dead skin
- sun exposure
- age spots
People with dark skin tones have a higher chance of developing dark skin patches on the elbows and other parts of the body.
Home remedies may help with lightening dark skin around the elbows. The following are some home remedy options that have scientific research to back them.
People make colloidal oatmeal by grinding oatmeal into a powder. Combining it with bathwater or other liquids will help it absorb into the skin.
Research suggests that colloidal oatmeal has several potential benefits for the skin. Colloidal oatmeal may:
- protect the skin from the sun
- moisturize the skin
- treat conditions that affect the skin, such as psoriasis
These benefits may help prevent skin from darkening.
Citrus fruit may provide some protection from sun exposure and help lighten the skin.
Researchers tested citrus extracts in vitro in a 2010 study. They found that citrus extracts improved skin tone and brightness with minimal side effects.
Another study examined the effects of red orange extract in preventing skin damage from sun exposure. The researchers concluded that red orange extract could help prevent skin damage from ultraviolet (UV) exposure and keep skin pigmentation even.
A person may be able to reduce the appearance of dark elbows by consuming citrus fruits or using products that contain their extracts.
Aloesin is a chemical in aloe vera. According to a review of studies, aloesin extract in vitro helped reduce skin pigmentation. It was particularly effective in combination with a chemical called arbutin.
The study states that although the results were promising, additional research is necessary to show how effective aloesin is in lightening dark patches of skin.
Green tea might help with lightening skin tone, according to a review article. However, the authors indicate that there is a need for further research as the study in question was limited and did not feature in a peer reviewed journal.
Initial findings suggest that green tea may help with reducing skin pigmentation, though.
Soy may also help reduce the appearance of dark skin around the elbows.
Several studies support the idea that soy may reduce the appearance of dark patches or spots on a person’s skin. Soy has several potential health benefits as it has properties that are anti-aging, photoprotective, and antioxidative.
People often use turmeric as a spice in foods, but it also has some potential health benefits.
According to a review of studies, two different studies examining turmeric’s effect on the skin showed that it was effective in reducing fine lines and wrinkles and may help with the appearance of dark spots on the skin.
However, the review indicated that the study on skin lightening is not conclusive and that further research is necessary.
Although treatment is not typically necessary for dark elbows, some options are available. The options can vary among individuals depending on the cause.
For example, if a condition such as psoriasis is causing dark elbows, treating the condition should reduce the symptoms.
Some over-the-counter (OTC) creams and ointments that contain ingredients such as hydroquinone may be effective for some people. However, it might take time for these to have an effect.
Also, creams that lighten skin can sometimes cause skin irritation. If a rash, redness, or itchiness occurs, a person should discontinue the use of the product.
If OTC or home remedies do not work, a person can talk to their doctor about prescription strength creams and ointments.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend laser therapy. However, laser therapy may cause additional skin irritation, which can make dark skin worse.
Sometimes, triggers of dark elbows may be preventable with proper skin care, such as:
- using sunblock
- taking care of wounds on the skin
- avoiding harsh cleaning and skin care products
A person should also manage skin-related conditions, such as psoriasis, with regular treatment.
A person can also take steps such as:
- keeping the elbows clean and moist
- using exfoliating soaps to remove the dead skin around the elbows
- applying sunblock before going into the sun and reapplying it regularly when in the sun
A person does not necessarily need to see their dermatologist for dark patches on their elbows or other areas of their body.
However, a person should visit their dermatologist if:
- the cause of their dark elbows is unknown
- they have additional symptoms
- they require stronger treatment methods to treat their dark elbows
The dermatologist will likely examine the person and ask about the products that the person uses and any underlying conditions.
A dermatologist may be able to identify an underlying condition and recommend an appropriate treatment regimen.
Dark elbows are usually a harmless condition that results from extra skin pigmentation due to:
- a reaction to chemicals or products
A person can take steps at home to prevent and treat their dark elbows with natural products that are widely available.
If home remedies do not work, OTC or prescription creams may help reduce the appearance of dark elbows. However, treatments are unlikely to cure dark elbows or prevent them from coming back.