Dark elbows occur when your elbows accumulate darker skin than the rest of your arm. This can be caused by:
- an accumulation of dead skin cells
- hyperpigmentation increased by sun exposure
- birth control pills
- melasma (dark spots) from a recent pregnancy
- freckles and age spots
- certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema
- inflammation from a previous injury
While such causes can affect any part of your skin, your elbows are perhaps more vulnerable due to a lack of attention and care compared with other more prominent parts of your body, such as the face. People with naturally darker skin tones are also at an increased risk for dark elbows.
Despite the numerous causes and risk factors for dark elbows, there are steps you can take at home to minimize the effects right away.
Home remedies are the most desirable for lightening dark elbows. For one, they’re relatively inexpensive. They also don’t pose side effects like medicated products can. Try one or more of the following methods:
One 2012 study suggested that aloe vera can lighten the skin. This is because of a process called alpha adrenergic receptor stimulation, which occurs when you apply the product to your skin. Look for gels or lotions with aloe vera, and apply up to twice per day.
Baking soda has both exfoliating and skin lightening properties that may help treat dark elbows. Start by adding a teaspoon at a time with water to a bowl. Keep adding and mixing well until you have a desired amount of product. Then, apply directly to your elbows.
Treat the process as a face mask, where you leave the product on for about 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse off. Repeat twice per week. But avoid using baking soda on your face.
A 2014 study suggested that oral supplements containing citrus fruit extracts were especially helpful in lightening dark skin patches due to sun exposure. However, you can potentially reap some of the benefits by using lemons or other citrus fruits from your own kitchen without having to worry about supplements.
Simply squeeze the juices out of the citrus fruit into a cup. Then, use a cotton ball or wash cloth to apply the juice directly to your elbow. You may repeat this process daily.
Oatmeal and yogurt
Both oatmeal and yogurt have soothing qualities that can add extra moisture to dry skin. Like baking soda, these two ingredients work best as a mask. Combine equal parts oatmeal and yogurt until mixed well, then apply to your elbows. Leave on for up to 20 minutes at a time.
This ingredient comes from an Indian root plant that’s like ginger. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, turmeric powder may help a variety of skin conditions when used as a paste. Mix the powder with water, and then apply directly to the elbows. Leave on for up to 10 minutes and then rinse off.