Here’s How to Lighten Your Dark Elbows and Knees

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Are you afraid of the dark?

We’re not talking about ghost stories or horror flicks. We’re talking about the dark spots found on your elbows and knees. Yes, that dark area that is giving an unflattering contrast to your fair or ebony skin. And that’s probably the same area that’s causing you to skip sleeveless shirts or mini dresses because you don’t want to make it any more obvious that your elbows and knees are dark.

To add insult to injury, the spots are not only dark but also dry and rough to the touch. Lucky for you if it’s cold you can wear sweaters or long sleeve tops. At least you have another three to five months to hide!

But what if you have been invited to a party, specifically a pool party? The thought of showing up in a swimsuit makes you want to cringe, right? And if you would show up in a rash guard, then it would kind of look silly, right? It’s a pool party after all!

Anyway, having dark knees and dark elbows is not all that bad. Almost everyone has them. Even that woman with fair skin you always ride the elevator with has them. Some models have them too. Yes even though it’s natural and normal to have darkened elbows and knees, they certainly look unsightly, especially if you wear a mini skirt or a strapless dress. They would just ruin your image. So if there is a way to lighten them, it would certainly do you a huge favor, right? We thought so too!

That’s why we’ve researched about different and effective ways to lighten them. But first, let’s talk about what dark spots on your elbows and knees are. This way, you’ll be able to minimize the development of dark elbows and knees again.


What is that dark coloration in the elbows and knees?

You’ll be surprised to know that those dark spots actually have a name. It is called acanthosis nigricans. According to Mayo Clinic, this is a “skin condition characterized by areas of dark, velvety discoloration in body folds and creases. The affected skin can become thickened. Most often, acanthaosis nigricans affects your armpits, groin and neck.”

The simple explanation for such an occurrence in the knees and elbows is too much sun exposure. And because these areas do not have any oil glands, they dry up easily. Accumulated dead skins cells are also the culprit as to why there is there is darkening and thickening of the skin.

Interestingly enough, and it is worthy to note, that studies have shown that acanthosis nigricans can be a sign of underlying problems. People who have diabetes or are obese are most likely to get these skin changes. Moreover, children who develop acanthosis nigricans are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Having said that, if you develop this condition even though you don’t brand yourself as a sun worshipper or you haven’t been excessively exposed from the sun lately, then it’s best to pay attention to them.


What are the common symptoms and most likely cause of acanthosis nigricans?

With this kind of skin condition, there is no other symptom to look out for except skin darkening or discoloration. Along with the darkening of the area, you will notice thickened folds and creases.

If the darkening is caused by being exposed to the sun too much, then there is nothing to worry about as it usually goes away all on its own or through natural treatments. However, if you notice changes and you know for yourself that you haven’t been sun bathing lately, then there’s another reason for that.

Acanthosis nigricans are known to be caused by the following health conditions:


  • Hormonal Disorders

Hormonal Disorders

Skin darkening typically appears in individuals who have disruptions in the normal function of their hormones, causing underactive thyroids, ovarian cysts or hormonal problems with the adrenal glands.

  • Supplements and Drugs

Skin darkening is sometimes caused by side effects of some drugs and supplements. Birth control pills, high dose of niacin, corticosteroids and prednisone often lead to acanthosis nigricans.


  • Insulin Resistance

Studies have found that there is a correlation between this skin condition and insulin resistance. It has been found that those who have this condition have also developed this hormonal disorder. Insulin is a type of hormone released by the pancreas to help the body process sugar. When left uncontrolled, insulin resistance could lead to type 2 diabetes.


  • Cancer

Acanthosis nigricans can develop when there is lymphoma or any other cancerous tumor that starts in the internal organs, like the liver, stomach or colon.

Although skin darkening as associated with these medical conditions, it’s not always the case. As explained earlier, it could be caused by over exposing yourself in the sun or you skin dryness that led to skin patches and accumulation of dead skin cells.


How can I remove lighten the dark spots found on my elbows and knees?

There is no specific treatment for acanthosis nigricans. Usually, they just go away on their own when you start protecting yourself from the sun, like putting on sun block or wearing pants or long sleeves to protect the elbows and knees.

Despite for the lack of dermatologic treatment for skin darkening, there are several natural remedies you can try to lighten your dark elbows and knees. Below are just some of the things you can try along with some instructions on how to do them correctly. Enjoy!


  • Coconut Oil

Aside from being used as a hair conditioner or for oil pulling, coconut oil is also useful in lightening dark areas in your knees and elbows. Coconut oil is rich in vitamin, which is an essential vitamin to promote skin health. It’s also the kind of vitamin you need to lighten your elbows’ and knees’ skin tones as well as keep it moisturize to prevent dryness. And if the skin area is dark due to damage, vitamin E can help repair it.

To use coconut oil as a remedy, here are some things you can do:

  • Apply coconut oil, the virgin coconut oil variety, on the elbows and knees soon after you take a shower or bath. Massage the oil gently for one to two minutes. If the area gets dry during the day, reapply oil.
  • Mix one teaspoon of virgin coconut oil with one-half teaspoon of lemon juice. Apply the solution on the dark spots and rub it gently. Let the mixture sit on your skin and elbows for 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure that it doesn’t come into contact with anything. After 20 minutes, wipe it off with a dry washcloth or a piece of paper towel. Do this only once a day. The lemon juice is acidic, so this will help remove dead skin cells.
  • To use virgin coconut oil as an exfoliation cream, mix it with one tablespoon walnut powder until it forms into a thick paste. Apply on the dark patches on your elbows and knees two to three times a week. Rub it gently so as not to damage your skin and further darken it.


  • Sugar

Although you should limit your sugar intake because of the risk of diabetes, which is one of the causes of skin darkening, it’s totally okay if you use it for lightening dark spots. You just don’t eat it. Sugar can be used as a gentle scrub because of its granules, which can act as exfoliating beads to remove dead skin cells so your skin will feel soft to the touch.

To make your own homemade sugar scrub, here’s what you do:

  • Make a paste by combining sugar and olive oil in equal parts. The texture should be thick.
  • Apply the thick paste on your dark elbows and knees and gently rub the area using a circulation for at least five minutes.
  • Let the scrub mixture sit in on the applied areas for at least 10 minutes.
  • Use warm water and mild soap to wash away the residue.
  • Exfoliate your elbows and knees once a day until the areas show signs of lightening. This should be safe to use when doing on a weekly basis.

What you’ll like about this mixture is that it also helps improve dry skin so your elbows and knees feel smooth and well moisturized.


  • Apricots


Don’t you just love apricots? They’re sweet, tasty and are just loaded with vitamins A and C. They’re also rich in minerals, like copper and potassium. They also contain high levels of fiber and carotenoids which is really excellent for the body.

Another reason you will love apricots is that they contain skin lightening properties. This explains why it’s a popular ingredient for many skin and beauty products, like exfoliating creams, scrubs, soap and lotion. Therefore, the use of raw apricots can really help you in ridding your elbows and knees with unsightly dark spots.

To use apricots as a lightening agent, here’s what you should do:

  • Slice a piece of apricot into two. Remove the pits.
  • Put a slice of apricot on each elbow and knee with the insides touching the skin. Tape them on to your knee using a packaging tape or bandage to hold them in place for 30 minutes. You may look silly and may not be able to do anything for 30 minutes so take this time to relax and enjoy a good book.
  • After giving your knees and elbows a good soak, remove the apricots and rinse residue off using warm water.
  • Alternatively, you can mash your apricots into tiny bits and use them as mask to be applied on the affected area. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  • Get better results by using this remedy at least three to four times a week until your elbows and knees lighten.


  • Hydrogen Peroxide

Growing up, you’ve probably noticed your mom reaching out for a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to clean a wound you sustained after falling off a tree or hitting the slides down on your knees. That’s because hydrogen peroxide contains disinfectant agents that help kill germs.

You probably remember back when you were in middle school, you and your friend would use hydrogen peroxide to turn your hair blonde because your allowance couldn’t afford a box of L’Oreal hair dye, and you were teased mercilessly for being dubbed as the ‘peroxide blondes’ but you didn’t care because you thought it was cool.

Anyway, the point of this is that because hydrogen peroxide contains bleaching and disinfectant agents, this substance can be used to lighten dark elbows and knees. It can also help even out your skin tone so the color contrast will be less noticeable.

To use hydrogen peroxide, simply:

  • Take a cotton ball and dip into hydrogen peroxide.
  • Apply the moistened cotton ball onto your elbows and knees and any other areas of the skin that you want lightened.
  • Let the substance sit for 15 minutes before washing it off with warm water.

Using hydrogen peroxide is effective in lightening dark spots and patches. However, you should use this with caution as this won’t work for everyone.

Hydrogen peroxide is a strong substance that can cause inflammation and irritation so you should not use this if you have sensitive skin. It’s better that you use this as a last result in order to prevent damaging your skin.

  • Baking Soda

This popular ingredient for baking isn’t just for the kitchen. You may have noticed that many cleaning and personal hygiene products include baking soda in their ingredients. For instance, whitening toothpastes and toilet bowl cleaners. That’s because baking soda contains whitening properties. So it makes real sense to use it to lighten your dark elbows and knees.

Baking soda also contains natural cleansing agents to help remove dirt and dead skin cells. To use this, here’s what you need to do:

  • Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with one-fourth cup milk or water. Stir until they ingredients form into thick paste.
  • Apply the paste on to the knees and elbows that you want to lighten up. Rub it gently in circular motions for a few minutes for the mixture to be absorbed. Let the substance dry.
  • Wash off using warm water.
  • Apply moisturizing lotion on the areas to prevent skin dryness.

Baking soda has active ingredients that can cause skin dryness so this may not work for everyone. Use only two times a week. As soon as the skin lightens, reduce to once a week.


What can I do to prevent further skin darkening of the elbows and knees?

The natural remedies mentioned above are some of the things that you can to lighten up dark spots. Of course, just like any illnesses, prevention is better than cure. So to prevent the skin from darkening, always keep these in mind:

  • Apply sunscreen on your knees, elbows and other parts of your body that are constantly exposed to the skin-damaging UV rays of the sun. These could include your neck, arm pits and the face. Do this regularly.
  • In addition to applying sunscreen lotion, it also helps to wear an extra layer of clothes to protect your skin. This is especially useful if you’re going to be out most of the day gardening or barbecuing.
  • Exfoliate the knees and elbows regularly using a pumice stone. You may also use a medium- to hard-bristled brush to exfoliate the skin.
  • Skin dryness is one of the culprits of skin darkening so apply moisturizer regularly. Bear in mind that the elbows and knees are the areas that dry up quickly so it’s best to lather more moisturizing cream in that area to keep them from dehydrating.
  • Moisturize your knees and elbows with petroleum jelly as this greasy substance tend to lock in moisture.
  • When you scrub your knees and elbows, never do it hard or frequently as this can damage your skin and cause further darkening. Scrubbing once or twice a week will suffice.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar you eat or drink. As you know, acanthosis negricans is sometimes caused by insulin resistance. When there’s too much sugar in the blood, diabetes can develop. So it’s best to limit your intake of sugary foods like breads, cereals, candies, carbonated drinks, etc. Instead, drink more water to help your body flush out the toxins.
  • Avoid using creams, lotions and other products that contains ingredients that can trigger your allergies.
  • Use skin products that contain shea butter, cocoa butter, jojoba oil and other natural oils to lock in moisture in your skin, especially in the elbows and knees.
  • Skin bleaching is possible but only as a last resort because of the chemicals bleach contain. Also, it would be best to try this under the supervision of a dermatologist. So consider using these natural remedies first before seeing a dermatologist.


Final Thoughts

These natural remedies are known to work effectively. However, if you don’t see any improvements after a few months and only seems to get worse, the skin darkening could be caused by an underlying health problem. That’s when you should see a doctor.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.