What’s with All These Sunspots?

July 3, 2019

As a practical matter, “sunspots,” – solar lentigines in medical parlance – could be considered a normal sign of aging. Truth is, if we were more careful about sun exposure throughout our lives, then we could probably avoid them. Yet, for most folks, the accumulated effects of ultraviolet light from the sun on consistently exposed areas such as the hands will result in sunspots sooner or later.

Sunspots seem to come out of nowhere, but are concentrations of the skin’s own pigmentation. They can range from freckle-size to as broad as a half-inch, and when several spots emerge together, they can become quite noticeable. The good news is that real sunspots are harmless, and they can be lightened by several different approaches to treatment.

The bad news is that some serious health threats can arrive disguised as sunspots, including the deadliest form of the most common cancer – melanoma. Because of this, it’s a good idea to get a board-certified dermatologist’s opinion when sunspots finally come to live with you. Irregular outlines, exceptionally dark color, or variations in color within the spot are especially important to check out. But even after reading the instructions for identifying skin cancer, do you really want to rely on your own opinion alone?

Four Ways to Lighten Them

There are more than four kinds of treatment for lightening sunspots, but we might group them under four columns: home remedies, over-the-counter products, professional treatments, or a combination.

Home remedies and folkways for lightening sunspots include apple cider vinegar, whose acetic acid content has the potential to lighten the spots gradually when it is applied repeatedly over time. A couple of less – ahem – aromatic home approaches involve applying green tea or black tea twice a day. Aloe vera has been shown to lighten sunspots, too.

The more effective over-the-counter products for lightening sunspots contain 2% hydroquinone, and it’s shown to be safe and effective. Products containing vitamin C, azelaic acid, or niacinamide can be helpful, too.

Your dermatologist has some faster and more emphatic solutions to sunspots, in addition to an informed ability to know when a spot means trouble. Microdermabrasion and laser resurfacing are two of these options, and there are several more.

Some Related Possibilities

Another good reason to have sunspots checked out by a professional is that they might not be sunspots. We’ve already mentioned skin cancer, because it’s vitally important. Still another skin problem that can be mistaken for sunspots is melasma. Melasma appears similarly on sun-exposed skin, but more often on forehead, cheeks, nose, or upper lip. It is more often seen among women, too, because it may be triggered by hormones, and, in fact, is often seen during pregnancy. Treatments are available, yet most women we know wouldn’t consider undertaking a treatment during pregnancy without consulting a professional.

At Dermatology Consultants, we’re happy to become the kind of easy resource you’re looking for, when a decision like this seems to be one you would rather not make on your own. Let us be your guides to the skin you can enjoy showing the world. Just contact us to get started.


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