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  5. How To Prevent and Treat Dark Knees And Elbows

Having darker skin on the knees and elbows is quite common, irrespective of gender or age. But do your dark elbows or knees bother you?

If you feel uncomfortable flaunting your short dresses because of dark knees and elbows, it is time you knew a bit more about the causes. Also learn what you can do to prevent or reduce darkening.

Are Dark Knees And Elbows Normal?

Darker patches of skin around knees and elbows is an absolutely normal phenomenon, as these regions are more prone to friction and pressure. Darkening of these joints is more common in people with darker skin tones, as they tend to produce more melanin. This natural pigment produced by your skin protects you from the UV rays of the sun. [1]

Even though darkening of knees and elbows is mostly harmless, in rare cases it might indicate an underlying skin disorder which needs to be treated by a dermatologist.

Causes Of Dark Knees And Elbows

Several factors might be responsible for the overproduction of melanin which causes hyperpigmentation or darkening of knees and elbows.

1. Constant rubbing or pressing of knees or elbows can make the skin thicker and darker in colour, than the surrounding regions.

2. Excessive exposure to sunlight can stimulate overproduction of melanin.

3. Build-up of dead skin cells or dirt can make your knees and elbows darker.

4. Hormonal imbalances such as in case of diabetes [2], polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) [3], etc.

5. Melasma or chloasma, which refer to hyperpigmentation or discoloration of patches of skin are common after pregnancy. Men can also suffer from melasma.

6. Inflammatory skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis or psoriasis.

7. Side-effects of certain medicines such as contraceptive pills.

8. Hyperpigmentation due to a previous wound or inflammation.

Remedies For Dark Elbows And Knees

Young woman with jar of body lotion


First and foremost, ensure that you clean, exfoliate and moisturise your knees and elbows regularly. Exfoliation removes the dead skin layer from your skin’s surface and promotes growth of new cells. This helps remove the darker skin patches leading to a more even and brighter complexion. Excessive exfoliation can however be counterproductive and worsen your skin darkening.

You can use a physical exfoliator such as a loofah or an exfoliating glove. Alternatively, you can opt for a gentle chemical exfoliator containing AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), that are usually well tolerated by most people. Do not forget to consult a dermatologist and perform a patch test before starting to use a new skin care product.

Over The Counter (OTC) Products

You can choose from a number of different OTC products available in the market. These can effectively brighten up your knees and elbows.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests to look for the following ingredients in your skin lightening products for effective results [4]:

  • Glycolic acid
  • Kojic acid
  • Azelaic acid
  • 2% hydroquinone
  • Retinoid
  • Vitamin C

Word of caution :

Avoid using bleaching creams or products containing mercury. Bleaching creams can actually worsen the darkening of your skin by causing irritation or inflammation. Mercury can cause serious health problems.

You can try SkinKraft’s knee and elbow brightening cream, which is free from harsh chemicals. It has mandelic acid which gently exfoliates the skin, along with sunflower oil and Mauritia flexuosa oil for skin nourishment and UV protection.

Home Remedies

You can choose from a number of ingredients readily available at your home for lightening the dark patches on your elbows and knees. These are gentle and usually free from adverse side effects. Here are a few remedies that you can try at home:

1. Turmeric

Due to its multiple beneficial properties, turmeric has been used in skin care since ages. Curcumin, the active ingredient in tumeric, not only reduces hyperpigmentation, it also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

How to use

  • Make a paste of turmeric powder in milk or water and massage it on your knees and elbows.
  • Leave it on for a few minutes, before washing off with lukewarm water.
  • You can finish off with a few drops of honey for moisturisation.

2. Gram flour and milk

This might be your grandma’s favorite remedy for a brighter skin at home. The gram flour removes the dead skin cells, and milk moisturizes the skin to brighten it up.

How to use

  • Mix the required amount of gram flour with milk to make a thick paste.
  • Apply the paste on your darkened skin and allow it to dry completely before washing off.

3. Cucumber

This is another skin care ingredient which is popular for its brightening and soothing properties. Vitamin C present in cucumbers aids in removal of dark patches. Being gentle in nature, this can be used on a daily basis.

How to use

  • Rub slices of cucumber on your knees and elbows.
  • You can also apply a thick cucumber paste to make your knees and elbows, soft and glowing.

4. Potato

Potatoes have an enzyme called catecholase, which can lighten the hyperpigmentation of your skin.

How to use

  • Rub thinly-sliced potatoes on your knees and elbows for 5- 10 minutes.
  • Alternatively, squeeze the juice out of grated potatoes, and massage it on your skin for 10 -15 minutes.
  • Leave it on for a few minutes before washing off with warm water.

5. Aloe vera gel

Aloe vera gel has aloesin which inhibits tyrosinase activity and is thus effective in reducing hyperpigmentation. The gel from the aloe vera leaf can be directly applied on to darkened skin areas to reduce pigmentation within a few days.

How to use

  • For best results apply aloe gel on your knees and elbows before going to bed and leave it overnight.

6. Coconut oil

It is rich in good fatty acids such as lauric acid, palmitic acid, vitamins and proteins that can help repair and hydrate damaged skin, thereby reducing darkening.

How to use

  • It is best to apply coconut oil on wet skin for better absorption.
  • Massage a few drops of oil on the knees and elbows for 2 - 3 minutes regularly after shower to get visible effects.

7. Sugar and olive oil

Sugar exfoliates your skin. Olive oil packs in the goodness of vitamin E and helps to moisturise and brighten the skin.

How to use

  • Make a pack of sugar and olive oil by mixing them in equal amounts.
  • Gently rub it on your knees and elbows for a couple of minutes and wash it off with warm water.
  • Use this once a week for best results.

8. Apple cider vinegar (ACV)

ACV has acetic acid which helps in reducing hyperpigmentation.

How to use

  • Mix equal volume of ACV in water and apply on your knees and elbows using a cotton ball.
  • Allow it to sit for 15 minutes and then wash off with water.
  • Apply 3 to 4 times a week for effective lightening of your knees and elbows.

9. Baking soda

The whitening effect of baking soda will help remove the hyperpigmentation of your skin within a few days.

How to use

  • Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a teaspoon of milk and apply it on your knees and elbows for 2 - 3 minutes.
  • Allow it to dry and rinse off with water.

10. Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges are rich in Vitamin C which can effectively lighten dark areas on the skin.

How to use

  • Apply the juices of these fruits on your skin.
  • Even rubbing their peels can help you get a brighter and smoother complexion on your knees and elbows..

11. Green tea

Green tea has ECGC (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) which reduces melanin by the inhibition of tyrosine kinase, an enzyme essential for melanin production.

How to use

  • Brew green tea in warm water and apply it on your dark knees and elbows to brighten them up.
  • You can use this on a daily basis and even a couple of times in a day.

12. Oatmeal

Not only are oats rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals, they have excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well. Oatmeal scrubs are great exfoliating agents that remove dead cells to brighten up your skin.

How to use

  • Make an oatmeal scrub by mixing yoghurt with crushed oats.
  • Apply this mixture on darkened skin using circular motions.
  • Allow it to dry before rinsing off with water.

Prevention From Darkening Of Knees And Elbows

Although darkening of knees and elbows is unavoidable sometimes, you can consider a few simple things to prevent it:

1. Apply a high SPF sunscreen on your skin before stepping out into the sun. Exposure to sunlight is one of the biggest triggers of hyperpigmentation, and sunscreens can help.

2. Avoid putting pressure on your knees and elbows for an extended period of time.

3. Treat wounds and injuries with care while they are healing.

4. Check for harsh ingredients in your skin care products and stop using them if they are causing irritation or rashes.

5. Your laundry detergents or body soap can also cause inflammation and skin darkening. Opt for gentler cleansers to prevent darkening of knees and elbows.

6. Lack of vitamin A and vitamin E in your diet can also adversely affect your skin and cause dark patches. You can include vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, etc. in your diet to get sufficient vitamin A.[5] Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and greens like spinach are a rich source of vitamin E.

Wrapping Up

Darkening of elbows and knees is a common phenomenon, especially among people with darker skin tones. It is usually not a major reason for alarm, except in rare cases where darkening of these joints may be due to some disease or hormonal disorders. If you are concerned about your appearance due to dark knees and elbows, opt for one of the OTC or home remedies to brighten them up.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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