Dark Knees and Elbows

I have dark knees and elbows, I’ve tried almost everything I know of like using lemon, but they don’t go away. I can’t wear shorts or skirts and tanks and short sleeve tops. Is there anything I can do like a cream or lotion? Or any natural remedy? Or am I stuck with horrible looking knees forever. Also, I don’t think  its because they aren’t moisturized since I put lotion on them every day. If it helps, I have brown skin (Indian).



This is very common, if not universal, in patients with an increased amount of skin pigment. Dark armpits, elbows, and knees in patients with darker skin color should be considered normal. Rarely, the pigment can be caused by a skin thickening process called acanthosis nigricans. A dermatologist can usually rule this out quite quickly. Should you desire therapy for the pigmentation, options are limited and effects are minimal to non-existent. Use of a daily moisturizer is recommended to keep the skin hydrated and smooth. Rough, dry skin can exacerbate the dark appearance. A sunscreen should be used which is 30 or greater and blocks UVA and UVB rays; sun exposure can sometimes make the dark areas darker. Moisturizers containing, aloesin, soy, or niacinamide may lighten the skin and are not irritating. More potent skin lighteners such as vitamin A derivatives, Kojic acid, azelaic acid, glycolic acid, or hydroquinone, can also be irritating and potentially make the pigment worse. Similarly, aggressive exfoliation with a brush (or equivalent) can also induce irritation, leading to more pigment. Dermatologists may sometimes attempt treatment with varying combinations of the above creams, and may also add laser or light devices in an attempt to reduce the pigment. Unfortunately, in most cases results are still less then optimal. You can discuss with your dermatologist whether these options would be suitable for you.

Dr. David Zloty
Dermatologist, Vancouver (British Columbia)

One thought on “Dark Knees and Elbows

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