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Is skin darkening related to aging?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2005
Answered : 2308 Questions
I am a man aged 25 of middle eastern origin, my reason for referring to such ethnicityis as my query being based on health relation to skin, I feel my be of important relevance as well as a possible influencing factor over the nature of my problem. Generally throughout my teenage years and upon entering adulthood around 18 or so, my skin remained a light brown complexion, however since around the age of 21 up until now, I've noticed quite a significant darkening of different areas of skin on my body and face. Areas of my arms and hands which a fw years ago were of light brown or olive tone, have rabidly darkened and this has consumed such areas of my skin to know show a general medium brown tone. As I realize that skin tone changes gradually with age, I'm concerned of such a rapid change of a shor time. I wonder if stress as a cause of againg, is also possible for a rapid darkening of skin, as I have had much family related stress for the past 7 years, which has affected the health of my body, energy and have also taken anti depressants following the passing of my mother. I wonder if there is a health related reason for this skin change. Different skin types I believe are affected in different ways and being of light brown tone naturally, I think this might be more of an ethnic skin type that may deal badly with age anyway. Could I please have some idea of this situation.
Posted Tue, 17 Dec 2013 in Skin Hair and Nails
Answered by Dr. Prasad 5 hours later
Brief Answer: Environmental effects... Detailed Answer: Hi, I understand your concern. Stress has effects on skin. It can affect skin texture and process of aging. However complexion is more the effects of environmental factors and localised skin condition. Melanin secretion is stimulated with exposure to sun and UV rays. Similarly they tend to get deposited in area where skin lesions appeared. I was unable to appreciate any serious skin problems on the picture submitted; but I am sure the darkening areas especially on the forehead, checks, face, upper chest and neck would be the effects of sun exposure and not stress. As far as medication is concerned, antidepressant is not known to cause skin darkening. But there are other medications which can cause it. I would recommend you to use good sun screen with SPF more than 26 along with moisturizer for couple of months. You will appreciate the changes for yourself. Dealing stress will give you added skin benefits - improve skin texture, clear wrinkles and so on. Hope this information suffices. Let me know if you need clarifications. Regards
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Follow-up: Is skin darkening related to aging? 25 days later
I understand and appreciate the factors which can have potential effects on skin as mentioned, as well as the general causes of melanin secretion based on environmental issues. However though I realize that the picture submitted did not show any major signs of skin problem, I feel possibly this is due to a combination of the lack of personal 1 to 1 analysis posed by a digitally uploaded photo, as well as the possibility of not detailing the issues of change over the short period of time as well the effects of skin on the whole body. Though the darkened areas shown on the photo would suggest exposure to sun when compared with other areas. I didn't mention that the unexposed areas such as arms, legs as well as hand skin tone has changed quite a bit over a short period of time such as over the last 3 years. The tone of my hands was generally a light brown, with areas around thumb bordering with palm being whitish. However I've noticed a rapid change of this over the past couple of years to become a yellowish tone of this thumb and palm area, as well as the darkened hand from a light brown, to a more orange undertone and medium redish/brown colour. Also a light yellow/white tone of unexposed areas and legs now shows a darkened yellowish brown in just this small time. Thus I wonder what could have caused this in such short time, which has affect the whole body, I feel is a process from inside rather than environment. I relate or correlate it with stress, due to such parallel during this short time, and assumed it could be due to the mentioned affects of stress on the skin's aging process as a possibility. Could I please ask for what has been causing this, as I know very much there has been a change as on my own body and skin, which is seen everyday, I would notice a change it it were to change in tone.
Answered by Dr. Prasad 13 hours later
Brief Answer: Color changes may or may not be normal... Detailed Answer: Hi, Apologies for the late reply. In brief, the color of the skin is influenced by amount of melanin produced, vascular supply and hemoglobin level. Apart from these presence of jaundice and certain drugs impart color changes to the skin. Besides these, in some children colored stains are present since birth. From your history, I understand the changes you noticed are not from birth and you aren't on regular medicines including antibiotics and vitamin supplements. Accordingly, few possibilities to explain those changes include: 1. You might have a low hemoglobin level. Anemia makes skin pale. Paleness at some areas such as palm, nails and sole can appear with an yellow tone. 2. Thinning of skin and increased vascularity might impart a reddish/pinkish tone to the skin. Increased vascularity is associated with inflammatory response or allergic conditions. 3. Presence of jaundice leads to yellowish discoloration. 4. Lastly skin color appears altered under various light source - broad day light, under artificial lights and other sources; especially when it is observed closely. At this point of time, as you rightly pointed out without an opportunity to closely examine the affected skin I am unable to appreciate and relate the color tone changes that you described. If they changes are not spreading and you do not have other symptoms, may be they are not abnormal. However I would urge you to get this checked by a dermatologist to confirm if any of the aforementioned possibilities are the reason for those changes. In short, the changes that you notice may be normal. Please visit a dermatologist for close skin examination. Hope it is clear. Write back for clarifications. Regards
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Follow-up: Is skin darkening related to aging? 13 hours later
Thank you for the informative insight into possible changes of the skin based on an introspective causation rather than more common effects associated with environment influence on simple melanin production. With regard to the equal possibility of it being normal or abnormal, though I'm aware skin tone can change with age, in my skin which I have noticed, it has been over a short period of time indeed. I've noticed much change, in short 1. originally lighter areas such as thumb border with palm tone has been stable up until 2009 at a white tone. This has progressed gradually since that time to now appear yellowish. 2. Back of hand appeared a light brown/yellow tone, which now has become a darker shade of brown mixed with a darkish orange/red, which wasn't present amongst the brown previously (new undertone). 3. Whitish fore arm and upper arm has now become a more stained yellow/brownish tone. Based on the above emergence which seems o be a spread of the whole body, I feel that it seems to be an ultimate darkening or tanning process which naturally when darkened, would lead such original colors to become what I have mentioned above, therefore I don't feel it could be jaundice. There is also a barrier to make any clear diagnosis, I worry based on a progressive change over a period of time, leaving any physician unable to compare or have monitored from the past of such change, therefore feel that even a 1 to 1 examination from a dermatologist could be made difficult to decipher what type of issue it is. I notice very much of the hands in particular, when engaged in practical tasks, hat the skn appears as a new ticker layer of a seemingly natural skin tone possessed by others who have always been this way, however in my case it is a darker shade which has appeared on the surface. I wonder if certain foods/vitamins or the lack of, could have had an impact too.
Answered by Dr. Prasad 12 hours later
Brief Answer: Food and vitamin may not be related.... Detailed Answer: Vitamins and food can affect your skin tone. However the effects are not abrupt. We notice skin changes gradually. Further I wouldn't label vitamin or food related conditions to be the cause of your skin troubles in the first place - skin tone changes secondary to food and vitamin disturbances are not that common. I understand you are slightly bothered with what's happening to your skin. However not all skin tone changes are considered alarming. The darkening effects is either the effect of sun exposure or post inflammatory condition. Redness is a feature of active inflammation. And yellow stains are due to paleness or jaundice or carotenosis (xanthema). I agree with you that you may not be suffering with jaundice. But it is likely that these changes may be due to sun radiation +/- some inflammation +/- carotenosis. I understand the barrier that you talk about. However an experienced dermatologist should be able to pick out abnormal from normal. Once we do that you can be able to explore in the right direction to find the cause and correct it. Hope my view is clear to you. Write back for clarifications. Regards
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Follow-up: Is skin darkening related to aging? 8 hours later
Thank you again for clarification of possible causes, However as detailed in your previous message, the 3 mentioned causes not being due to sun exposure, Idon't understand how in this current message the idea of this is back at the fore of the main cause, after I detailed how the overall body has darkened over this short time, including unexposed areas of sun or uv rays , such as arms and legs etc. My conviction that it could not be jaundice is based on having monitored the change of overall skin tone of the body noticing that original tone having changed in areas to have progressed to a darker color, suggesting an overall darkening process rather than jaundice, due to light brown areas progressing to a darker stage which would follow to be a darker brown but with a more prominent orange/red undertone, likewise a white area of thumb border with palm progressing to its next stage of which would follow to be yellow/olive. Thus certainly in my opinion a darkening process rather than jaundice. I feel due to the entire body having undergone some change, it can't be related to sun exposure but rather a health related process from inside affecting the out.
Answered by Dr. Prasad 14 hours later
Brief Answer: It would be worthwhile to see a doctor... Detailed Answer: Hi, I do not mean to say that all those colour changes documented are the results of sun exposure. However as some of the darkening is over exposed area of hand (back of the hand), unless proved by skin examination it is hard to rule out the effects of sun on these areas. Besides we always recommend sun protecting agents to treat darkening due to other reasons on exposed areas even if the primary cause isn't sun radiation. So don't feel that I am ignoring your condition, I only mean that it is essential to check with the doctor if any of the aforementioned cause of your symptoms. May be it's a combination of all the exposure, carotenosis and inflammation. I do not go with the concept of underlying systemic illness because the changes aren't uniform throughout the body. As you described while some areas are dark, a few have yellow tone, reddish orange tone, while some parts appear normal. Uniformity of skin lesion is more often what we see when a cause is singular and systemic. Multifactorial cause can have varied symptoms of skin. Hope you agree with me this time. Regards
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