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Darkening of the elbows and knees occurs mainly due to friction, which causes pigmentation and thickening of the skin over time. For instance, students and people with desk jobs are prone to darkening of the elbows as they constantly lean on their elbows.
In addition, the skin on the elbows and knees is comparatively thicker and has more folds than the skin on other body parts. It is also prone to dryness due to a lack of sebaceous glands. Therefore, the skin can quickly turn dry and dark, becoming a cosmetic problem.
Skin darkness around the elbows and knees can however be prevented with proper skin care and cleanliness. A few natural ingredients and at-home remedies can help lighten the skin in these areas as well.
What Causes Dark Elbows and Knees
Several factors contribute to skin darkness around the elbows and knees, including:
- Constant friction. The skin may turn thick and dark due to prolonged pressure and rubbing against surfaces.
- Injury. Damaged skin may become hyperpigmented in comparison to the surrounding skin, especially on the elbows and knees.
- Obesity. Overweight and obese people have a higher chance of having dark elbows and knees.
- Skin conditions. Certain inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema can cause hyperpigmentation of the skin.
- Environmental exposure. Constant exposure to the sun, pollution, and other atmospheric factors can affect the skin’s health, leading to moisture loss and dullness, which later develops into skin darkness.
- Insulin resistance. In this condition, the body cells, such as those of the muscles, liver, and body fat, resist the insulin signaling to use glucose present in the bloodstream. This can result in a high blood glucose level and various other symptoms, including skin changes such as the darkening of elbows and knees.
Home Remedies for Dark Elbows and Knees
The following at-home remedies can help lighten the skin around the elbows and knees and maintain its health.
Note: Always conduct a patch test before using a remedy to check for sensitivities or allergic reactions.
1. Apply cold-pressed coconut oil
Coconut oil is highly moisturizing and hydrating. It also contains vitamin E, which can help lighten the skin. (1) Therefore, the application of coconut oil can be a great remedy for skin brightening around the knees and elbows.
How to use:
- Massage your darkened knees and elbows with cold-pressed coconut oil for a couple of minutes every day after showering. Reapply the oil multiple times a day to maintain hydration.
- You can also use coconut oil by mixing 1 tsp of it with ½ tsp of lemon juice. Simply rub this mixture on the affected areas for 15–20 minutes and then wipe it off.
- You can also make a thick paste with coconut oil and walnut powder and use it as an exfoliant 2–3 times weekly.
2. Make a lemon and fresh cream mask
Lemon is a natural bleaching agent, while fresh cream helps in mildly exfoliating the skin. Lemon is also rich in vitamin C, which boosts dead skin cell removal and supports skin cell regeneration.
How to use:
- Mix 2 tsp of fresh cream with a few drops of lemon juice.
- Massage the mixture into your elbows and knees for a few minutes.
- Rinse it off with normal-temperature water once dry.
3. Use turmeric and sugar scrub
Curcumin, the active compound of turmeric, is known to aid in skin brightening. (2) Sugar, due to its crystalline texture, helps in skin exfoliation, giving the skin a radiant look.
How to use:
- Mix 1 tbsp each of turmeric powder, sugar, and olive oil to form a paste.
- Apply the paste to your elbows and knees and massage these areas gently.
- Wash the area using lukewarm water after 15 minutes.
4. Prepare a simple sugar scrub
As mentioned above, sugar is a mild exfoliant that removes dead skin cells and also helps lighten skin tone. You can prepare a sugar scrub with olive oil, which is an excellent nourishing and hydrating agent.
How to use:
- Mix sugar and olive oil in a 1:1 ratio to form a thick paste.
- Apply the paste to your elbows and knees and massage it in for 5 minutes in circular motions.
- Wash the area with soap and water.
- Repeat this remedy every day.
5. Apply yogurt
Yogurt is rich in lactic acid, which helps hydrate, exfoliate, and lighten the skin. Therefore, the use of yogurt, along with other ingredients, may be used in treating darkened elbows and knees.
How to use:
- Mix 1 tbsp of yogurt, 1 tbsp of almond oil, and ½ tbsp of gram flour to form a thick paste. Massage the paste onto your elbows and knees for 15 minutes. Allow the mask to dry for 20 minutes, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Alternatively, you can mix 1 tsp each of white vinegar and plain yogurt and apply it to the affected areas. Wash it off once dry, and then apply a moisturizer.
6. Make a glycerin mask
Glycerin is an excellent moisturizing agent. (3) It also mildly exfoliates the skin, contributing to skin brightening.
How to use:
- Mix glycerin, lemon juice, and rose water.
- Apply the mixture to your dark elbows and knees.
- Allow the paste to dry completely, and then wipe it off.
- Repeat this remedy daily.
Lifestyle Changes and Tips
It is vital to take proper care of your skin, both internally and externally, to lighten darkened areas and also improve skin health. This may be done by implementing the following lifestyle changes:
1. Exfoliate periodically
Exfoliate your elbows and knees at least once a week using a sea salt scrub to remove the dead skin cells and boost skin cell regeneration. This remedy removes dry, damaged skin, revealing new, brighter skin.
2. Apply moisturizer regularly
Skin moisturization is essential to prevent dryness and therefore skin damage. Thus, it is a must to apply a moisturizer regularly after showering to maintain skin suppleness.
You can also use shea butter or cocoa butter to massage your elbows and knees before bedtime, allowing the skin to soak in the nutrients throughout the night.
3. Use body lotions containing alpha hydroxy acids
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), such as glycolic acid, help in skin exfoliation by loosening the cell attachments. The use of AHA-based lotions can help make the skin smooth, soft, and bright.
4. Wear elbow and knee pads
Use elbow and knee pads while exercising to prevent injury and friction on the skin, which otherwise lead to skin darkening.
5. Stay hydrated
Maintaining optimum hydration is essential for skin health. Therefore, consume at least 8–10 glasses of water every day.
6. Improve your diet
What you take in has a large influence on your skin health. Thus, it is advised to consume vitamin A-rich foods such as dried apricots, carrots, sweet potatoes, and lettuce. In addition, include almonds and spinach in your diet, which have high vitamin E content.
7. Lose weight
Since dark elbows and knees may develop due to obesity, it is best to lose weight if you are overweight. You may consult a healthcare professional to help you lose weight properly.
The following preventive tips may help prevent skin darkening around the elbows and knees:
1. Apply sunscreen daily
Using sunscreen every day protects your skin from sun damage. It can also help treat hyperpigmentation and prevent new pigmentation from developing. It is suggested to apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day before stepping out.
2. Minimize pressure on the elbows and knees
Excessive pressure on the knees and elbows can cause skin darkening. Therefore, you must prevent unnecessary friction and pressure on the skin in these areas.
3. Let wounds heal properly
Refrain from exfoliating areas with an injury or wound as it can impede skin healing and also increase the risk of infections.
Can Baking Soda Help in Treating Dark Elbows and Knees?
Baking soda is not advised for skin lightening as it does more harm than good.
Applying baking soda to the skin can cause dryness, alter the pH, and even disbalance the skin’s microflora, increasing the risk of infections. It can also cause redness, burning, and skin rashes.
Moreover, there is no scientific evidence that suggests the effectiveness of baking soda in lightening the skin.
It is common to have dark skin around the elbows and knees due to various factors. While this may be a cosmetic issue, it is rarely indicative of a medical problem.
If you want even-toned skin, you can try home remedies and natural ingredients that can help lighten darkened skin. In addition, it is essential to protect your skin from environmental damage and keep it exfoliated and moisturized. You may consult your doctor if your skin doesn’t improve despite proper care for a few months.