April 16, 2021

Sunspots are a common occurrence on skin that is over exposed to the sun. Although sunspots are not harmful or cancerous, they should act as a signal to you to start taking better precautions to protect your skin from the sun. If you currently have sunspots on your skin, do not be alarmed, rather start taking steps to protect your skin from the sun, such as using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding outdoor activity during the middle of the day when the sun is strongest. 

What are Sunspots?

Sunspots, also known as age spots or lentigines, are small, flat dark areas on the skin. Sunspots differ in size and shape and typically appear on areas often exposed to the sun such as, face, hands, and shoulders. Sunspots are very common in adults older than 50, but young people are susceptible to sunspots if they spend a lot of time in the sun. 

What Causes Sunspots?

Sunspots are caused by overactive pigment-producing cells. Exposure to the sun and Ultraviolet (UV) rays speeds up the production of melanin. Melanin is a natural pigment that gives skin its color, but when over exposed to the sun, causes your skin to darken and produce sunspots. When skin has had years of sun exposure, sunspots appear when melanin becomes clumped or is produced in high concentrations.

You might be likely to develop sun/age spots if you:

  • Have fair skin or red hair
  • Have a lot of sun exposure or have skin that is susceptible to sunburn

younger women applying sunscreen to prevent sunspots

How to Prevent Sunspots?

The best way to prevent sunspots from appearing on your skin is to develop and maintain sun safety habits. The best ways to prevent sunspots is to avoid the sun during peak hours, use sunscreen, and wear clothes that protect your face and shoulders from the sun. 

  • Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The sun's rays are most intense during this time. Plan your outdoor activities at different times of day.
  • Use sunscreen. 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors apply a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or more often depending on if you are swimming or sweating. 
  • Cover up. For protection from the sun, wear clothing that covers up as much of your body as possible. Wear long sleeves to cover your arms and pants to cover your legs. A large sun hat is cute and perfect to cover your face, providing even more coverage than a baseball hat or visor.
  • Wear clothing designed to provide sun protection. Look for clothes labeled with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 40 to 50 to get the best protection.
  • Avoid tanning beds! Tanning beds dramatically increase the  likelihood of getting sunspots.

woman wearing sunscreen to prevent sunspots

What’s the best way to treat sunspots?

Sunspots are not harmful and don't need to be treated. However, they should act as a warning to start taking the necessary precautions to protect your skin from the powerful UVA and UVB rays from the sun. There are a few at home remedies you can use to help minimize the appearance of sunspots. When shopping for products to treat your sunspots look for ingredients such as Vitamin C, hydroquinone, glycolic, hydroxy and kojic acid. While these ingredients do a great job of lightening the appearance of sunspots over time, they do not make your sunspots completely disappear. Using products with these ingredients takes time to completely remove your sunspots. If you do want to completely remove the appearance of your sunspots for cosmetic reasons, consult your dermatologist for cosmetic laser treatments and other options for removal. Dermatologists can prescribe fast acting creams such as retinoids to reduce sunspots. They can also administer other procedures such as microneedling and microdermabrasion which minimize the appearance of sunspots. 

When should I talk to a dermatologist?

Although true sunspots are not harmful, they are a result of sun damage and can be sign to start better protecting your skin from the sun! If you have a lot of sunspots and you notice one that looks different from the rest, it is always a good idea to consult your dermatologist. 

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