Do you have dark skin on your neck? Unsightly dark patches of skin can make you feel self-conscious. The medical term for the development patches of dark skin on the neck is acanthosis nigricans. And if you have this condition, you may also find that you have thicker, darker patches of skin in other areas like your armpits or around the groin. Many healthy people suffer from this condition.
Hormonal imbalances, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and drugs like birth control pills can cause skin to darken on the neck. In rare cases, dark neck patches might indicate cancer.
Underlying medical conditions including those like polycystic ovary syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, acromegaly, and hypothyroidism which are associated with hormonal imbalances can cause acanthosis nigricans.1 Obesity too may result in acanthosis nigricans as it can lead to insulin resistance which may affect skin cells by causing high levels of insulin in your blood. In fact, acanthosis nigricans can be an early indication that you might be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes which can also be caused by insulin resistance. Certain medications like birth control pills and human growth hormone can trigger acanthosis nigricans as well.
Let’s take a look at some measures that can help you deal with dark skin on the neck.
Try Natural Skin-Lightening Agents
A pigment called melanin is responsible for the color of your skin.2 Excess production of this pigment darkens your skin. Conditions like acanthosis nigricans are associated with hyperpigmentation due to excess melanin.3 Certain natural ingredients can be used to tackle this hyperpigmentation:
1. Mash Up Some Avocado
Avocados contain an important antioxidant known as glutathione. Glutathione has been found to lower melanin levels by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase involved in melanin production.4
How To Use:
- Apply a little mashed up avocado to darkened areas of your neck to help lighten it.
2. Apply Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil is a rich source of linoleic acid. According to research, linoleic acid can be effective in treating hyperpigmentation. One study on patients with melasma, a condition where you develop patches of hyperpigmented skin, found that the severity of the condition was reduced more when they applied linoleic acid in combination with conventional medicines (lincomycin and betamethasone valerate) than when they used only medication.5 Another study found that applying linoleic acid lightened skin that was darkened by exposure to ultraviolet rays.6
How To Use:
- Directly apply some grapeseed oil to take care of those dark areas on your neck.
3. Try Arnica-Infused Oil
Researchers have found that a compound present in flowers of Arnica can strongly inhibit the biosynthesis of melanin.7
How To Use:
You can take advantage of this beneficial property of arnica flowers by making some arnica infused oil. Here’s how.8
- Pack some arnica flowers into a clean jar and pour in a carrier oil to top it up. Try using grapeseed oil to get the added benefit of linoleic acid.
- Leave the jar for around 2 to 6 weeks to allow the oil to infuse, but remember to shake the jar once daily to help the process.
- Once the oil is infused, strain it into a clean jar and you’ve got your arnica infused oil.
- Apply this oil to the affected area to get rid of the dark skin.
4. Use A Licorice Mask
Licorice might be able to get rid of those dark patches of skin for you. Animal studies have found that glabridin, a chemical component present in licorice roots, inhibits tyrosinase activity. As we’ve seen, inhibiting this enzyme can reduce melanin production.9
How To Use:
- Try mixing licorice powder with cooked oats to make a creamy paste. Cooking the oats in milk will make a creamier paste that’ll work better on dry skin.
- You can also brew some licorice tea and apply that to lighten your skin.
5. Apply Aloe Vera
You might already know that aloe vera can do wonders for your skin because of its moisturizing and anti-aging properties. But did you know that it can also help you deal with hyperpigmentation?10 Aloesin, a compound found in aloe vera, can retard melanin production by inhibiting tyrosinase activity.11
How To Use:
- Cut into an aloe vera leaf and scoop out the gel inside. Apply this gel to your neck for around 30 minutes, twice a day and you should see an improvement in about 2 weeks. 12
6. Combine Lemon Juice And Baking Soda
A common remedy for getting rid of dark skin involves two readily available ingredients – lemon juice and baking soda. Lemon juice is a rich source of vitamin C which can inhibit melanin formation.13 Meanwhile, baking soda can gently exfoliate your skin to remove the layer of dark skin that’s present.
How To Use:
- Mix some baking soda with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a few drops of olive oil and apply it to your neck. Leave it on for about ten minutes and rinse off.14
7. Try Unpasteurized Soy Milk
Soybeans contain two proteins – Bowman Birk inhibitor and soybean trypsin inhibitor. These proteins can cause depigmentation by interfering with a biological pathway (protease-activated receptor-2 pathway) which reduces the transfer of melanin.15 Do keep in mind that only unpasteurized soy milk has this effect.16
How To Use:
- Directly apply fresh, unpasteurized soymilk to darkened parts of your neck to lighten your skin.
Handle Underlying Medical Conditions
As we have established, a range of medical conditions can cause the skin on your neck to get darker. Dealing with the underlying cause can cure acanthosis nigricans or considerably improve your complexion. Your doctor may either change the medications youre on that may be darkening your skin or recommend hormone-balancing drugs if you have conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome, or hypothyroidism. For cancer, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or surgery may be considered as alternatives. Meanwhile, a healthy diet and regular exercise can improve conditions like diabetes and obesity.17
- Manage Your Diet
A healthy, balanced diet can help manage your blood sugar levels. Limit the amount of sugar, fat, salt, and alcohol that you consume. Having a variety of fruits and vegetables as well whole grain foods and eating smaller meals that are spread out rather than large meals can also be useful.18
- Get Moving
Physical activity can be helpful in dealing with conditions like diabetes too. If you haven’t been active for a while, remember to start slowly by getting in 5 or 10 minutes of exercise a day. You can gradually increase your physical activity till you get in about 30 minutes of aerobic activity in a day – activity that makes you breathe faster than usual. You can also try strength training to build your muscles or stretching exercises to improve your flexibility.
Caution: If you’re taking insulin you need to make sure that your sugar levels don’t drop too low when you exercise since exercise can lower your blood sugar levels too. In fact, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.19
|↑1, ↑17||Acanthosis nigricans. National Health Service.|
|↑2||Skin Pigmentation Disorders. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Cestari, Tania Ferreira, Lia Pinheiro Dantas, and Juliana Catucci Boza. “Acquired hyperpigmentations.” Anais brasileiros de dermatologia 89, no. 1 (2014): 11-25.|
|↑4||Sonthalia, Sidharth, Deepashree Daulatabad, and Rashmi Sarkar. “Glutathione as a skin whitening agent: Facts, myths, evidence and controversies.” Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology 82, no. 3 (2016): 262.|
|↑5||Lee, Mu-Hyoung, Hyun-Jin Kim, Dong-Ju Ha, Jong-Hyun Paik, and Hong-Yong Kim. “Therapeutic effect of topical application of linoleic acid and lincomycin in combination with betamethasone valerate in melasma patients.” Journal of Korean medical science 17, no. 4 (2002): 518.|
|↑6||Ando, Hideya, Atsuko Ryu, Akira Hashimoto, Masahiro Oka, and Masamitsu Ichihashi. “Linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid lightens ultraviolet-induced hyperpigmentation of the skin.” Archives of dermatological research 290, no. 7 (1998): 375-381.|
|↑7||Maeda, Kazuhisa, Tomoko Naitou, Kenichi Umishio, Tadao Fukuhara, and Akira Motoyama. “A novel melanin inhibitor: hydroperoxy traxastane-type triterpene from flowers of Arnica montana.” Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 30, no. 5 (2007): 873-879.|
|↑8||DK. Neal’s Yard Beauty Book. Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 2015.|
|↑9||Yokota, Tomohiro, Hiroyuki Nishio, Yasuo Kubota, and Masako Mizoguchi. “The inhibitory effect of glabridin from licorice extracts on melanogenesis and inflammation.” Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research 11, no. 6 (1998): 355-361.|
|↑10||Surjushe, Amar, Resham Vasani, and D. G. Saple. “Aloe vera: a short review.” Indian journal of dermatology 53, no. 4 (2008): 163.|
|↑11||Jones, Ken, Jennifer Hughes, Mei Hong, Q. I. Jia, and Steve Orndorff. “Modulation of melanogenesis by aloesin: a competitive inhibitor of tyrosinase.” Pigment cell research 15, no. 5 (2002): 335-340.|
|↑12||Olumide and Yetunde Mercy. The Vanishing Black African Woman: Volume One: A Compendium of the Global Skin-Lightening Practice. Langaa RPCIG, 2016.|
|↑13||Huh, C-H., K-I. Seo, J-Y. Park, J-G. Lim, H-C. Eun, and K-C. Park. “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of vitamin C iontophoresis in melasma.” Dermatology 206, no. 4 (2003): 316-320.|
|↑14||Blues, Rubynnia. Baking Soda Wonders!: Amazing Uses in Home Remedies, Household Hacks, Beauty and Health, Cooking, Personal Hygiene and More. PublishDrive, 2014.|
|↑15||Paine, Christine, Elizabeth Sharlow, Frank Liebel, Magdalena Eisinger, Stanley Shapiro, and Miri Seiberg. “An alternative approach to depigmentation by soybean extracts via inhibition of the PAR-2 pathway.” Journal of investigative dermatology 116, no. 4 (2001): 587-595.|
|↑16||Parvez, Shoukat, Moonkyu Kang, Hwan‐Suck Chung, Chongwoon Cho, Moo‐Chang Hong, Min‐Kyu Shin, and Hyunsu Bae. “Survey and mechanism of skin depigmenting and lightening agents.” Phytotherapy Research 20, no. 11 (2006): 921-934.|
|↑18||Diabetic Diet. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑19||Diabetes Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity. National Institutes of Health.|