What are sunspots?

Also known as age spots or liver spots (even though they have nothing to do with the liver), sunspots on the skin are essentially dark spots caused by excess melanin that your skin produces. As a recap from “Uneven Skin Tone: Causes & How to Best Treat“, melanin is a natural pigment that not only gives our skin its color but is the culprit of dark spots when produced in excess. Sunspots are harmless, but it’s definitely a good idea to be safe and distinguish when they’re not a sunspot and when they’re potentially cancerous. Generally speaking, sunspots are flat and appear on areas of your skin that get the most sun exposure.

Causes of sunspots

The sun! Specifically, exposure to the sun will increase the likelihood of sunspots. Here’s what’s happening. When your skin is exposed to harmful UVA and UVB rays, it produces more melanin to protect itself. In other words, melanin overproduction happens when your skin is in defense mode. As a result, melanin particles cluster together and form dark sunspots on your skin.

How to prevent sunspots

  • SPF 30+ sunscreen with broad spectrum
  • Hats
  • Sunglasses

How to treat sunspots

Topicals

  • Retinoids (e.g., tretinoin, retinol)
  • Kojic acid
  • Azelaic acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Hydroquinone (note: the U.S. FDA has proposed a ban on any over-the-counter products containing it, and it’s banned in Japan, the EU, and Australia)

In-office treatments

  • Laser therapy
  • IPL
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Chemical peel

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