As I mentioned in my recent article about scalp care, skincare does not stop at our faces. One issue that many have reached out to me about is hyper pigmentation on knees and elbows, and how to diminish it.
The skin on our knees and elbows is thicker than most of the rest of our body’s skin, because our joints are more mobile, and knees and elbows often support more weight than the rest of our bodies. Just think of how often you kneel on the floor, or lean on your elbows on a counter. Over time, dead skin cells collect in these areas, making the skin there appear darker than the rest of our complexion.
Just think of how often you kneel on the floor, or lean on your elbows on a counter.
There are a few different options you can try to brighten those areas and diminish hyper pigmentation. My favorite way is via exfoliation. For this, you can use the same concepts you would to exfoliate anywhere else, but this skin can handle stronger products.
Natural & Chemical Remedies
For a natural remedy with something you have at home, baking soda can be a good physical exfoliant that could be too harsh on your face, but is perfect for these areas. You can also combine the baking soda with lemon juice, which has natural bleaching qualities. Turmeric, honey, and even milk have great skin health benefits and have been said to correct discoloration (and give other improvements), so creating a paste with these ingredients could be all you need to slough off dead skin and lighten what remains in a safe and natural way.
A more aggressive approach would be to use a chemical exfoliant from the family of hydroxy acids (salicylic acid, glycolic acid), which can do an even more complete job since they penetrate our skin and provide a much deeper exfoliation than simply removing some surface cells. Some favorite products for this are Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 Corps or Mario Badescu’s A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap.
Proceed with Caution (and maybe a physician)
I encourage you to do your research and exercise caution in using products that are marketed as skin lighteners, remaining cognizant of ingredients. There are several toxic actives used in these products that you should be very careful about, especially those that are not subject to FDA guidelines (products sold outside the US) and may not have ingredients on the labels. Mercury, corticosteroids, and hydroquinone (both prescription, which has a higher amount, or over the counter) are effective but potentially harmful ingredients found in lightening products worldwide.
If you feel compelled to use a product wth hydroquinone, since it is toxic, I recommend using it as minimally as possible. Many experts recommend using it in cycles, to give your body a break from encountering the toxin. Most creams with hydroquinone are designed for use for two to three months at a maximum, and should remain effective as long as you continue with good aftercare (SPF, avoiding too much sunlight, and continuing to exfoliate and moisturize those areas). I recommend collaboration with a dermatologist and using their prescription products (which are guaranteed match their labels) as well as the guidance of a professional to ensure your safety.