If you ever experienced pigmentation on your skin that seemed harder to get rid of, chances are that you are seeing the appearance of sun spots. Sun spots are slight discolorations that appear on the face and are incredibly hard to remove, even with repeated efforts. This is something that appears as brown spots on the surface of the skin, and generally only appears after a good amount of sun exposure. There are several misconceptions about this particular kind of appearance on the skin, and it is important to note which of these are facts, and which are just myths that are shared regarding sunspots. There are ways to treat sun spots, and they will be discussed below.
Sun spots – also referred to as age spots, liver spots or dark spots – are flat brown, black or grey spots that typically show up on the back of the hands, neck, face, shoulders and arms – any area most often exposed to the sun.
While sun spots may not appear before age of 40 or so, (hence the other name, age spots) they can appear on younger people. Those with light colored, or fair skin and who have a history of frequent sunburn or exposure to the sun, will most commonly develop sun spots.
True sun spots are nothing to worry about and do not require treatment. However they may look like cancerous growths so it’s always recommended that you have them medically diagnosed so you can rule out a more serious condition.
Sun Spots – What They Really Are
One of the first things that people wonder about sunspots is the names that are commonly associated with it. While sunspots may seem like a common word to use for these, they are also sometimes referred to as liver spots. Even though the name states the word liver in it, it has nothing to do with this particular organ in the body. Sunspots have only one cause, which is the sun itself. The skin, when exposed to the sun tends to experience some amount of heat damage. This works on the internal layers of the skin, thereby causing discoloration and spots from within. Overall, this is something that isn’t dangerous in any way and is simply a cosmetic effect that takes place on the skin.
The pigmentation and melanin of the skin play an essential role in the development of sunspots. As one is exposed to the sun, the ultraviolet rays tend to act on the melanin in the skin. This interaction causes certain parts of the surface to have a more concentrated amount of melanin, thereby showcasing a darker appearance on the skin.
In spite of this information being readily available, certain doctors are not entirely convinced about the appearance of sunspots and its causes. More often than not, people who aren’t exposed to the sun in any manner tend to experience the appearance of sunspots on the skin, which is linked to other light emitting devices that act on the skin in the same manner as the sun.
Sun Spots: Cancerous Or not?
The second kind of misconception that people tend to have is regarding the impact that these sunspots have on the body. Because of their appearance, they are often associated with cancerous spots that appear on the skin, causing skin cancer. Not all sunspots can cause cancer, and generally, a test needs to be conducted to figure out if the blemishes are sun spots or cancerous cells on the skin.
The Age Factor
As a person ages, the skin tends to go through a number of changes, mainly because of its exposure to the surroundings. Age plays a significant role in the appearance of sunspots, which is why these spots are more prominent among women who are above the age of forty. Those who spend a lot more time in the sun may start to see the appearance of sunspots on their skin much earlier than that age.
Sun spots are evidence of sun damage and over exposure to UV rays over many years. The use of tanning beds and sun lamps can also result in the development of sun spots. Exposing the skin to UV light accelerates the production of melanin in our skin, creating a ‘tan’ that helps protect deeper layers of skin from future UV harm. However, as we age, skin’s natural ability to protect itself against UV rays begins to deteriorate – as a result, we see the formation of sun spots.
Spots can range in size from a small freckle-size to a spot that is half inch (1 centimeter) across. These spots can also group together, making them more prominent.
Treating Sun Spots
Sun spots take years to develop, so it’s no wonder that some treatments may take time to work. On the other hand, some treatments may provide immediate results but they require a lengthy recovery time. Here are ways to treat sun spots.
#1 – Lightening Creams – Prescription grade lightening creams used alone or with retinoids and a steroid may slowly fade the spots over several months. This method to treat sun spots leaves the skin very sensitive to sunlight. Sun protection with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ is recommended if you use this treatment.
#2 – Laser Therapy – Laser therapy destroys melanin-producing cells without damaging the skin’s surface. Several sessions are usually required to achieve lasting results. . After treatment, spots will fade gradually and while laser therapy has few side effects, it may result in some discoloration of the skin in people with darker skin types.
#3 Chemical Peel – A chemical peel ‘burns’ the outer layer of the skin. As the skin peels off, new skin forms, slowly removing all evidence of spots. Several treatments may be necessary. Sun protection with SPF 30+ is highly recommended after chemical peeling.
#4 Freezing – Also called cryotherapy, this way to treat sun spots works by applying liquid nitrogen or another freezing agent to the spots to destroy the extra pigment. As the area heals, the skin appears lighter. Freezing is typically used on a single spot or a small grouping of spots. The treatment can temporarily irritate the skin and, in rare instances, may result in permanent scarring or discoloration.
#5 Dermabrasion – The most aggressive of treatment, this procedure requires local anesthetic and consists of abrading or ‘sanding’ down the upper layers of the skin. After treatment, the skin is very red and irritated, and it will takes several months for the skin to re-grow and heal.
#6 Home Remedies – There are several home remedies that have been shown to fade and treat sun spots. Like all treatments, these may take some time to produce results, but they are proven remedies, and they cost just pennies to do. Here are two:
- Lemon juice has a proven track record for fading the appearance of sun spots. Simply dab fresh lemon juice onto spots twice a day. Leave on for 30 minutes or more, if possible, and you will begin to notice improvements in about two months.
NOTE: Lemon juice increases the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight – so if you plan to go outdoors, wait for the juice to dry first and protect the skin from direct exposure to sun.
- Apple cider vinegar is an excellent home treatment for fading sun spots. Apply directly to the skin alone, or mix with the juice of an onion and apply to the skin. To get the onion juice, finely chop or blend and use a strainer or cheese cloth to squeeze and extract the juice. Mix equal parts of vinegar and onion juice and dab on spots with a cotton pad. Leave mixture on the skin for at least 30 minutes. Repeat once a day for approximately 6 weeks for gradual improvement.
Risks Associated With SunSpots
Even though Sunspots are relatively harmless, they do have an impact on a person’s skin appearance A good number of people who experience sunspots tend to go in for some or the other treatment to reduce their visibility or to eliminate them entirely. These treatments however can pose certain risks to the individual getting them. For example, some general treatments can cause skin irritation soon after or can leave the skin feeling sore. However, the risks presented with these treatments differ based on the kind of procedure that one goes in for. The best way to know the risks associated with the kind of treatment you are going for is by consulting your doctor about the sunspots that you are experiencing.
Even though exposure to the sun is inevitable, there are of course a number of ways in which one can avoid the exposure that they have. UVA and UVB rays are two of the main reasons for sunspots, and limiting one’s exposure to these two is the best way to reduce the appearance of these spots.
One of the best ways in which one can reduce the exposure to the sun itself is by avoiding the sun during certain hours of the day. Don’t go out into the sun between 10 am to 3 pm, and if you have to, cover your face with a scarf or wear sunscreen. This reduces the amount of sun exposure that you experience. Don’t forget that sunscreen also needs to be reapplied at regular intervals to be able to properly take care of your skin and reduce the appearance of these spots on the skin. Choosing cosmetics that already have SPF properties in them is also one way to reduce the impact of these rays on the skin.
Finally, the best remedy for sun spots is prevention! Always use broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF15 if you plan to be outdoors for extended periods of time. For more information on sunscreen, including new FDA guidelines, read our related articles below.
- Remove Dark Spots Naturally (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Fraxel Laser Resurfacing (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Sunscreen: New Guidelines this Summer (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Seeing Spots? What are Dark Spots on the Skin? (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Photo Facial – For Clearer, Brighter, More Radiant Skin (healthyskinsolutions.com)