Sunspots on the skin are a part of life for millions of people around the world, particularly for those who spend a decent amount of time in the sun over the course of their life. Fortunately, there has been a great deal of research on what sunspots are and what causes them, as well as some of the preventative measures and remedies that can protect you from this condition.
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What are Sunspots?
Sunspots are the small, darkened spots that form on the skin of the face and other parts of the body, and are often mistaken for freckles or the beginning of pimples/blemishes. Also known as solar lentigines and liver spots, these small spots are typically brown, white or red and can be very difficult to cover up, particularly for people with fair skin. Some of the most common places for sunspots are the cheeks, forehead, neck, arms, shoulders, back and torso, although they could potentially appear anywhere on the body.
As mentioned, the label “liver spots” is often given to sunspots, as they were believed to be linked to the health of the liver and the level of toxins in the body. However, research has shown that sunspots are not caused by any activity of the liver, so this informal name is now used far less often.
Causes of Sunspots on the Skin
As the name implies, sunspots are caused by exposure to the sun; more specifically, it is the result of long-term damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This form of solar radiation can damage the cells and tissues of the skin at a molecular level. Sunspots appear because your skin’s melanocytes, which are the pigment-making cells, will create additional pigment in one concentrated area to protect against additional UV radiation. Essentially, the more melanin present on the skin in a given area, the less damage the radiation will do. As mentioned earlier, areas of the body like the arms, face, back, scalp and neck are most commonly exposed to the sun, which is why sunspots will normally appear in these regions. If you have fair skin, you are far more likely to develop sunspots at an early age, perhaps even in your twenties, although most people don’t begin noticing these spots until their thirties or forties.
While sunspots themselves are harmless, they are often indicative of prolonged exposure in the sun, which will increase your risk for skin cancer. Furthermore, the physical symptoms of skin cancer can often mimic the appearance of sunspots, and even be mixed in with sunspots, making them difficult to recognize. If you have a significant amount of sunspots, it is a good idea to regularly be checked out by dermatologists or your primary care physician, as you will be at a higher risk for skin cancer.
Despite being harmless in and of themselves, sunspots are often thought of as blemishes or signs of “getting old”, leading many people to cover them up with makeup, prevent additional sunspots from developing and find effective ways to treat or minimize their appearance.
Prevention of Sunspots on the Skin
Some of the best ways to prevent sunspots include limiting your amount of time in the sun, wearing high-SPF sun cream, using SPF makeup, increasing antioxidant intake and wearing sunglasses when spending time outside.
Sunscreen: If you regularly apply a high-SPF sunscreen, it will be possible to block or deflect the majority of UV rays before they can penetrate the skin and stimulate the melanocytes into overproducing pigment. People with fair skin are recommended to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when they go out in the sun. This can considerably lower your risk of more sunspots appearing, and also reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.
Makeup Choice: For women with fair skin or for those who are at high risk for sunspots, purchasing a makeup that has SPF included can be a wonderful way to combine your cosmetic and medicinal needs in one simple product. Applying sunscreen after putting on makeup is not a pleasant prospect, but SPF makeup solves that problem and keeps sunspots at bay.
Outdoor Time: The most obvious preventative measure for sunspots is to reduce the amount of time you are spending in the sun. For those with an active lifestyle, this can be difficult, but consider working out at the gym, rather than jogging outside, taking a break from your weekly tanning routine, or at least being sure to wear proper clothing covering your neck and back when going out in the sun for long periods of time.
Sunglasses: Some of the most sensitive skin on the face (and therefore on the entire body) is around the eyes, making them very susceptible to sunspots and UV radiation damage. Wearing sunglasses when you go outside is a great way to protect this valuable tissue. In addition to preventing sunspots, sunglasses will also cut down on how much you squint, which will help soothe or prevent the formation of wrinkles and crow’s feet.
Antioxidants: If you ensure that your diet is rich in antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and other culinary items, you will reduce your chances of developing sunspots. Not only can antioxidants improve the appearance of the skin, but it can also protect the skin from potential damage or malfunction, such as in the case of sunspots.
How to Get Rid of Sunspots on the Skin?
With sunspots affecting so many people all over the world, a number of trusted approaches have been developed to eliminate them from the skin, including laser resurfacing, chemical peels, cryotherapy and topical bleaching.
Topical Bleaching: You can purchase topical bleaching kits from most pharmacies, which consist of a cream that has a high level of hydroquinone, a natural bleaching agent. Prescription bleaching kits are very similar but have a higher concentration of that active ingredient.
Chemical Peel: This approach consists of putting a combination of various acids on the face, which can eliminate the top layers of skin where the excess melanin has been deposited. This typically works as a temporary refresher for your face, although it can be slightly painful and leave redness behind for a few days.
Laser Resurfacing: One of the most popular remedies for sunspots on the skin is laser treatments, and uses a cold laser to burn off the damaged layers of skin where the sunspots are present. This can take a few weeks to recover from but the effects are very noticeable and long-lasting.
Cryotherapy: This remedy relies on a liquid nitrogen solution that is applied to the age spots to “freeze” them, at which point they will peel off from the skin and can be removed. This can sometimes leave small depressions in the skin.
Home Remedies for Sunspots on the Skin
Many people try to avoid undergoing medical procedures if at all possible, and in the case of sunspots, there are plenty of natural remedies that have been in use for generations, such as the use of lemon juice, aloe vera, green tea, sandalwood, vitamin E supplementation, red onions, rosehip oil and ginger.
For thousands of years, aloe vera has been used to improve the appearance, texture and health of the skin. Applying a small amount of gel to sunspots every night is an excellent way to treat these spots at home.
Vitamin E Supplementation
Vitamin E is a critical antioxidants vitamin that is directly connected to the health and appearance of the skin. Crack open a vitamin E capsule and apply it directly to the site of sunspots on the skin for rapid healing.
The acidity of onions, combined with their high sulfuric compound concentration and antioxidants, is an excellent way to eliminate sunspots by bleaching the areas and healing damaged layers of tissues. Rubbing red onion juice on your sunspots twice per day will show marked results within 1-2 weeks.
Rubbing ginger slices on sunspots on the skin is a quick way to deliver gingerol – the active ingredient in ginger – to the damaged areas. This powerful antioxidant is directly linked to the appearance of the skin and is known to help fade blemishes and age spots.
This oil is commonly found in cosmetics and medicinal creams because it is an emollient substance, which can help to moisturize and heal damage on the skin, including discoloration from sunspots.
High acidity and citric acid levels are great for cleansing the skin and even preventing oxidative stress but lemon juice is more important for sunspots because it has natural bleaching abilities, helping to mask or completely eliminate the appearance of sunspots.
Green Tea Bag
After you brew your next cup of green tea, save the tea bag and put it in the refrigerator. When you want to treat sunspots, simply apply those used bags to the area. The high antioxidant levels in green tea can help minimize the appearance of sunspots and improve the overall health of your facial skin.