2 Approaches to Treating Sunspots
Sunspots are areas of increased pigmentation that are due to sun exposure. Other names for sunspots are age spots, hyperpigmentation, and liver spots. The medical term is solar lentigines, and they're one of the most, common skin problems that develop in the second half of life.
How do sunspots, or melasma, form? When cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, are hit with ultraviolet light from the sun, they overproduce melanin, leading to clusters of pigment that cause dark spots. Sunspots are most common on skin areas that are most exposed to sunlight such as the face, arms, and shoulders, and they're difficult to cover with make-up. So, it's not surprising that people want to lighten them, but it's also important to prevent future ones from forming. First let's look at treatment options, from the simplest to ones that require some downtime for healing.
Block Pigment Production
Since sunspots are caused by overproduction of the skin pigment melanin, one way to lighten them is to suppress the ability of melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, to produce melanin. We have a few hefty products that work well that can be applied at home. These skin-lightening creams, face washes, and scrubs block the activity of tyrosinase, an enzyme that produces melanin.
A few of our highly suggested products can be found here:
Here is a helpful video with some tips when using the ARC product line.
Slough Off the Top Layer of Skin
For some people with sunspots, skin lightening products will lighten the pigmented spots enough that they don't need further treatment. If you try these products and they fail to offer the benefits you desire, another treatment option is to lift away the outer layer of skin that contains the pigmented spots. You can do this by getting light to moderate depth chemical peel. To schedule an appointment with our highly skilled staff click here!
By doing light chemical peels, you can take these results a step further, but don't expect to see results with the first light peel. Your skin will look smoother after the first one, but the age spots will still be there. It will take a series to get the full benefits. On the plus side, downtime is minimal. You'll have redness and some irritation, but should be able to return to work the next day. Moderate-depth peels have a longer downtime of 7 to 10 days, but they also will lighten sun spots more.
The Bottom Line
Age spots are a frustrating problem, but there are solutions. Try the simplest approach first, block pigment production. If that doesn't lighten the sunspots enough, the second option of sloughing off the pigmented layer or disrupting the pigment source are beneficial. Even better, do what you can to prevent sunspots. The best way to do that is to wear a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protective factor) of at least 30. It should block both ultraviolet A rays (UVA) and ultraviolet B rays (UVB). If that's the case, it should say so on the container. Wear it religiously for the most benefits.
We feature an entire collection of products in our shop for suncare. Browse the suncare section to see what options might work best for you.
Also, don't assume that dark pigmented areas are sunspots. Another skin lesion called actinic keratosis looks similar to sunspots. Also, it's important to distinguish sunspots from malignant melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. When in doubt, schedule an appointment and we can help provide a definitive diagnosis.