Your skin is the most sensitive organ in the body that undergoes a lot of wear and tear with time. While rashes and pimples are a common occurrence, more visible ones like a type skin pigmentation also called acanthosis nigricans, are easily visible and can make one feel conscious of themselves.
Dermatologist and aesthetic physician Dr Ajay Rana explains that these thick dark skin patches are a symptom of an underlying disorder that takes place when skin cells start reproducing quickly.
“The cause for acanthosis nigricans is still not clearly known, but it appears to be related to insulin resistance. It has been associated with various benign and malignant conditions,” he says.
Based on the pre-disposing conditions, acanthosis nigricans has been broadly divided into seven types, out of which obesity-induced acanthosis nigricans is the most common. It can occur at any age, but is more common in adulthood. Hereditary is one of the important factors for acanthosis nigricans.
According to cosmetic dermatologist and laser specialist Dr Abhijit Desai, the most common reason for extra darkening of elbows or knees is just the accumulation of dead skin over a period of time and skin thickening due to friction while sitting in different postures.
Dr Sunita Dube, Founder and Chairperson of Aryan Hospital, Mumbai, further explains that people with naturally darker skin tones are more likely to develop dark elbows and knees.
“Dark spots on the skin, or hyperpigmentation, occur when more melanin it adds colour to the lips, skin, and hair is formed in some areas of the skin,” she says, adding, “Some common causes include certain drugs like birth control pills, a scar from a healed bite of insects, psoriasis, an allergic reaction, hormonal changes from pregnancy, a build-up of dead skin, exposure to the sun, age spots, bumps, etc. In fact, diabetes can also cause areas of skin to become darker.”
Dr Desai advises moisturising the affected area twice a day to keep it soft and control the dryness. Specifically, he suggests using a moisturiser containing urea as it helps get rid of existing dull and dead skin while simultaneously moisturising it.
Whereas, Dr Rana suggests maintaining a healthy diet as it is the most important factor in the growth of acanthosis nigricans and can often times clear up after weight loss.
“Intake of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish, as a healthy diet can control blood sugar levels of the body. Follow a regular exercise regime for 30 minutes. Exercise can help control your blood sugar level and also help to manage the weight of the body,” lists the dermatologist.
Dr Dube, on the other hand, recommends using sunblock as it protects the skin from the UV rays of the sun. “An individual may also take steps such as keeping the elbows clean and moist, using exfoliating soaps to remove the dead skin around the elbows, and regularly reapplying the sunblock while in the sun,” she says.
Since under lockdown, Dr Dube lists home remedies that may help with lightening the dark patch around the elbows. “Grind oatmeal mix with water, apply on the patch, and leave it till the skin absorbs. Or, rub a lemon on the patch as citrus fruit are known to provide some protection from sun exposure and help lighten the skin. Thirdly, aloe vera has soothing properties that also help in lightening the pigmentation of the skin. Lastly, turmeric paste has medicinal properties and helps in lightening the dark spots,” she says.