What to know about dark elbows

What to know about dark elbows

The skin surrounding the elbow is darker in people with dark elbows than that on the rest of the arm.

People who have darker skin tones of course are more likely to develop dark elbows.

A condition or substance which triggers the skin to create additional melanin can cause dark spots and patches on the skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Melanin is the substance which gives the skin its color.

Dark elbows need no treatment and there is no cure. But treatments and home remedies can temporarily diminish the appearance of dark elbows.

As well as helping to reduce the appearance of dark skin patches, following treatment recommendations for underlying conditions.

In this article we look at the causes of dark elbows. We also look at possible home remedies and therapies and recommend calling a dermatologist when to do so.


Certain medications may cause dark elbows.
Certain medications may cause dark elbows.

Many factors may contribute to the development of dark patches or spots on the elbows or other body areas.

Some common causes include dark elbows:

  • certain medications, such as birth control pills
  • a scar from a healed insect bite, cut, burn, or other injury
  • psoriasis
  • some skin conditions
  • skin care products
  • hormone fluctuations from pregnancy or other conditions
  • a buildup of dead skin
  • sun exposure
  • age spots
  • freckles

Persons with dark skin tones are more likely to grow dark skin patches on the elbows and other areas of the body.

Home remedies

Home remedies may help lighten dark skin around the elbows. The following are some choices for home remedies with scientific research to back them up.

Colloidal oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal is made by grinding oatmeal into a powder. It can be combined with bathwater or other liquids to help it absorb into the skin.

Research suggests colloidal oatmeal has several potential skin benefits. Colloidal oatmeal may:

  • protect the skin from the sun
  • moisturize the skin
  • treat conditions that affect the skin, such as psoriasis

These benefits may help prevent skin from darkening.

Citrus extracts

Citrus fruit can provide some protection against exposure to the sun and help to lighten the skin.

In a study carried out in 2010, researchers tested citrus extracts in vitro. They found that citrus extracts, with limited side effects, improved skin tone and brightness.

Another study looked at the effects of red orange extract in preventing sun exposure damage to the skin. The researchers concluded that red orange extract has the ability to help prevent skin damage from ultraviolet ( UV) exposure and even preserve skin pigmentation.

A person may reduce the appearance of dark elbows by eating citrus fruits or by using products containing their extracts.


Aloesin is a chemical in aloe vera. The aloesin extract in vitro helped reduce skin pigmentation, according to a study review. It has been especially effective when combined with a chemical called arbutin.

The study notes that although the findings have been positive, more work is needed to show how effective aloesin is in lightening dark patches of skin.

Green tea

According to a review article, green tea could help in lightening skin tone. The authors, however, indicate that further research is needed, as the study in question was limited and did not feature in a peer reviewed journal.

However, initial findings indicate green tea can help to reduce skin pigmentation.


Soy may also help to reduce dark skin around the elbows.

Several studies support the idea of soy being able to reduce the appearance of dark patches or spots on the skin of a person. Soy has several potential health benefits, as it has anti-aging, photoprotective, and antioxidant properties.


People commonly use turmeric as food spice but it also has some possible health benefits.

Two different studies examining the effect of turmeric on the skin have shown that it has been effective in reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and can help with the appearance of dark spots on the skin, according to a study review.

The review, however, indicated that the skin lightening study is not conclusive, and further research is required.

Treatment options

Though treatment for dark elbows is not typically necessary, there are some options available. Depending on the cause the choices will differ between individuals.

For example, if a condition such as psoriasis causes dark elbows, symptoms can be that by treatment of the condition.

For some people some over-the-counter ( OTC) creams and ointments containing ingredients such as hydroquinone may be safe. It might take some time for these to have an effect, though.

Creams that lighten the skin can also sometimes cause skin irritation. If there is a rash, redness, or itchiness a person should stop using the product.

If OTC or home remedies don’t work, a person should discuss prescription strength creams and ointments with their doctor.

In some cases , a doctor may recommend laser therapy. Laser therapy, however, can cause additional inflammation of the skin which can make the dark skin worse.


Sometimes, triggers of dark elbows may be preventable with proper skin care, such as:

  • using sunblock
  • taking care of wounds on the skin
  • avoiding harsh cleaning and skin care products

A person should also manage skin-related conditions, such as psoriasis, with regular treatment.

A person can also take steps such as:

  • keeping the elbows clean and moist
  • using exfoliating soaps to remove the dead skin around the elbows
  • applying sunblock before going into the sun and reapplying it regularly when in the sun

When to see a dermatologist

A person should not necessarily see their dermatologist on their elbows or other parts of their body for dark patches.

A person should however visit the dermatologist if:

  • the cause of their dark elbows is unknown
  • they have additional symptoms
  • they require stronger treatment methods to treat their dark elbows

The dermatologist will probably evaluate the patient and ask about the products the person uses and any underlying conditions.

A dermatologist may identify an underlying condition and recommend a suitable treatment regimen.


Dark elbows are typically a harmless condition arising from extra pigmentation of the skin because of:

  • scars
  • freckles
  • psoriasis
  • a reaction to chemicals or products

A person can take steps at home to avoid and treat their dark elbows with the widely available natural products.

If home remedies aren’t working, OTC or prescription creams may help reduce dark elbow appearance. However, therapies are unlikely to heal, or discourage, the dark elbows from returning.