What are these dark marks on my skin?
Sunspots! These brown marks are small or medium flat brown areas of the skin and are also commonly known as solar lentigines, age spots and liver spots. They vary in size and are most commonly seen in areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, hands, shoulders, and arms.
How do they develop?
A sunspot occurs due to the natural production of pigment in your skin when your skin is exposed to the sun. However, similar to how scars develop, pigment starts to collect in areas of your skin that have been injured due to increased sun exposure and damage.
Over time this collection of pigment can create markedly darker spots and discolouration on your skin’s surface.
Who has sunspots & why?
People with fair skin are more susceptible to sun-related skin damage. The darker your skin, the more melanin (skin pigment) you have, which helps to block some of the ultraviolet rays that would otherwise damage your skin.
Those over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of sunspots and other signs of UV-related skin damage. As you age, your skin becomes more susceptible to stress and damage, causing it to thin and lose elasticity and making it more prone to injury from sun exposure.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, your exposure to UV rays is increased, along with your likelihood of developing sunspots. However, even indoor activities can expose your skin to UV damage through glass, meaning sunspots are still possible.
Anyone who is taking common medications such as allergy and acne treatments and pain relief. Some active ingredients in prescription and over-the-counter medications can boost your skin’s sensitivity to the sun and make damage more likely.
People who use anti-ageing skincare with alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) may be more susceptible to sunspots. Studies suggest people who used AHA creams/serums saw their skin become 18 per cent more sensitive to the sun.
If you have a weak/compromised immune system or suffer from a chronic disease, you could be at risk of developing sunspots. Your skin contains specific immune cells that react to sunlight exposure, which, if under pressure, are less able to resist and repair surface damage that can lead to sunspots.
How to prevent them?
Avoid the worst hours of the sun. There is the most potential for skin damage during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m, so try to avoid going outdoors in this period.
Wear broad-spectrum SPF of a 30-50 factor. Sunscreen prevents sunspots in two ways: It will either reflect or scatter the damaging rays that cause sunspots, or it will soak into your skin to protect against UV-related skin damage.
Review your clothing. A hat and sunglasses can shield your face and neck from UV rays that could lead to skin cancer and sunspots.
Creams and Lotions
You can find many over-the-counter skin-lightening products that promise to reduce the appearance of sunspots. These products commonly contain ingredients such as vitamin C, niacinamide, Arbutin, liquorice and mulberry extract.
When used consistently, these products may start to show results in a few months. Still, their exact efficacy varies depending on the active ingredients, how concentrated they are, and what the product contains.
In clinic skin procedures
There are several options when it comes to procedures for removing sunspots.
Laser treatments treat the area by shattering the excess pigment of the sunspot in one of three laser treatments.
Cryotherapy is another common recommendation, during which they freeze the sunspots, causing them to peel off.
Lastly and my favourite options, microdermabrasion facials and specific chemical peels. Both treatments help to exfoliate the skin removing the surface layer; this lightens the appearance of
When should you get a sunspot checked by your GP?
An experienced skin specialist can view the area and confirm their diagnosis but, on occasion, may refer to a GP or dermatologist.
The referral is likely if the area is very dark brown/black, has changed in size or colour, has irregular borders, feels sore to touch and bleeds.