Because the skin tends to produce more melanin -- the natural pigment that lends skin and hair its color -- in areas such as the knees, elbows and knuckles, these regions sometimes appear a bit darker than other parts of the body. While darker toe joints are typically harmless, they may detract a bit from that new pair of sandals you've been dying to break out this summer. To lighten the situation up a bit, turn to a combination of natural home remedies that help you moisturize, exfoliate and lighten.
Moisturize your feet daily with a light application of a natural moisturizer such as extra-virgin olive oil, vitamin E liquid, coconut oil or cocoa butter. Massage the moisturizer into your feet each night before bed, focusing on the toe joints to help prevent and reduce darkened skin.
Slice a cool potato into discs. Apply the fleshy side of a potato disc to the knuckle of your toe, rapidly buffing each joint for about one minute. In addition to gently exfoliating via the scrubbing motion, this widespread home remedy may help lighten the skin -- Cara Hart, director of Corbu Spa & Salon in Cambridge, Massachusetts, tells "Shape" magazine that potatoes are a "powerhouse" for evening out skin tone. Perform this technique twice weekly, before your foot exfoliation.
Exfoliate your feet twice weekly to slough away dead skin, which may be thicker and darker than healthy skin. Create an exfoliating scrub from household ingredients such as brown sugar and olive oil or sea salt and almond oil, forming a pastelike consistency. Soak your feet in hot water for about 10 minutes, then apply the paste into your soles and toe knuckles with a pumice stone, massaging the feet for about two minutes. Rinse your feet and towel them dry.
Rub a few drops of pure lemon juice, which contains potentially skin-lightening citric acid, into each toe joint after you exfoliate. Allow the juice -- a home skin-brightening remedy recommended by dermatologist Marina Peredo in "Women's Health Magazine" -- to penetrate the skin for a few minutes, then rinse your toes with cold water and apply the moisturizer of your choice.
To prevent discolored toe joints, protect your feet from too much sun exposure. Before going barefoot or sporting open-toed footwear, lather up with sunscreen rated SPF 30 or higher.
As an alternative to lemon juice, a pulp of papaya and carrot or a paste of turmeric powder and heavy cream may also do the trick.
Drugstores also offer over-the-counter creams for skin lightening. If you turn to one of these remedies, always read and follow any warnings or application instructions provided by the manufacturer. For your safety, avoid using any skin-lightening treatment for more than three weeks at a time.