Are Sunspots Permanent?
Most Sunspots (often known as “liver spots” though they have nothing to do with your liver) fade somewhat over time. They typically do not disappear completely because the skin has been permanently damaged by the sun. Sunspots are flat areas of discolored skin that can be tan or varying shades of brown. They appear on any part of your body that gets exposure from the sun, such as your face, shoulders, back, and the backs of your hands or forearms. The appearance of sunspots typically starts to occur around the age of 30, though some people may develop them earlier or later in life, depending on the amount of sun exposure they’ve had. They are noncancerous and don’t pose any risk to your health or require treatment unless you’re looking to remove them for cosmetic reasons. Often, patients want to remove sunspots because they do not like the skin discoloration associated with them.
Home Remedies for Sunspots
There are many professional and at-home treatments for Sunspots and Sun Damage that you can use to help fade or remove sunspots. Some at home treatments include, but are not limited to, topical creams, serums and things you may find in your fridge or kitchen cabinets. There are several creams available over-the-counter that can be applied at home to fade sunspots. Creams containing hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, kojic acid, or deoxyarbutin are the most effective. Serums like Vitamin E and Vitamin C offer several benefits related to the sun, including a protective effect against UVA and UVB rays. Applying vitamin C or Vitamin E topically is an effective way to lighten various dark spots caused by the sun.
Professional Sunspot Treatment Options
For the more stubborn sun damage areas, visiting a dermatologist and getting professional treatment may be necessary to get rid of the sunspots. If you want your age spots to be less noticeable, treatments are available to lighten or remove them. Since the pigment is located at the base of the epidermis (the most superficial layer of skin), any treatments meant to lighten the age spots must penetrate this layer of skin. Medications such as prescription bleaching creams (Hydroquinone) used alone or with retinoids (Tretinoin) may gradually fade the spots over several months. It is advised to use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 when using medication treatments. The treatments may result in temporary itching, redness, burning or dryness.
A chemical peel involves applying an acid, such as Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) which exfoliates the outer layer of your skin and treats these sun spots (age spots). As your skin peels, new skin forms to take its place. Several treatments may be necessary and combined with topical bleaching creams to have the best results.
Laser and intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) is another option that can be used to treat sunspots. Lasers or light therapy is used to destroy melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) without damaging the skin’s surface. Lasers such as Alex Trivantage and Fraxel are extremely popular lasers used when treating sun spots. With these treatments the age spots fade gradually over several days. Fraxel with the 1927 setting combined with the Alex Trivantage laser for stronger or stubborn sub spots is the best treatment to remove sunspots.
An antiquated method of sunspot removal is Cryotherapy (freezing). Cryotherapy is a fairly quick, in-office procedure that involves a liquid nitrogen solution or nitrous oxide to freeze off sunspots.
Identifying Sunspots Correctly
Sunspots can commonly be mistaken for a birthmark or a freckle which is harmless but sunspots can also be mistaken for something more serious like a cancerous cell. Sunspots are harmless, but any skin spot that grows quickly, changes in appearance, or seems unusual should be evaluated by a dermatologist. Certain features can help you distinguish between sunspots, birthmarks, and skin cancer. Here are some helpful ways to distinguish between different discolorations and lesions:
Freckles are an inherited feature most often seen in fair-skinned people, especially those with red hair. Freckles are flat, brown spots that become more prominent in the Summer, when you get more sun. They fade or disappear in the Winter. Unlike sunspots, freckles become less noticeable as you age.
There are two main types of birthmarks: pigmented and vascular. Birthmarks can be flat or raised, big or small, and can be various colors and shades, such as tan, brown, purple, red, and pale blue. Most birthmarks are harmless, but some can be associated with health problems.
This is another common problem that affects areas of skin that get a lot of sun exposure, such as the forehead, cheeks, nose, and upper lip. It causes brown or gray-brown patches on the skin, usually on the face.
Skin cancer results from the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells and can be caused by UV rays from the sun and tanning beds, or genetic mutations. There are several types of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type and melanoma is the deadliest. A new, changing, or growing mole or spot is a warning sign of possible skin cancer, along with lesions that itch, bleed, or don’t heal. Skin cancers also tend to have irregular borders.
How To Prevent Sunspots
The best way to prevent new sunspots or other photosensitive skin conditions, such as rosacea and melasma, is to limit your exposure to the sun. The proper SPF, which contains ingredients to block both UVA and UVB is the key to choosing the proper sunscreen, to prevent more sun damage. One should apply sunscreen before going outdoor and reapply sunscreen regular as directed, especially after swimming or sweating. Strict avoidance of tanning beds is also a must in preventing sun spots. It is important to remember that even a slight “tan” represents damage to your skin and will lead to more sun spots and wrinkles. This is especially true if you are fair skinned and prone to sunburns. Sun spots are a cosmetic issue and are not harmful to your health. However, the same UV rays that cause sunspots can also cause skin cancer and represent damage to your skin.
If you’re frustrated with the appearance of sunspots, there’s finally a nonsurgical solution that can help. Contact us online today or call our NYC based office 212-535-3088 to learn more about which treatment may be right for you.