Sun spots are technically known as ‘solar lentigines’ – sounds fancy, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying 🙂
They are basically well-defined changes in the pigment or texture of skin, that appear as uniformly colored areas of brown, gray, or black skin. They are also commonly referred to as liver spots or age spots. They can can be a real nuisance to deal with and may appear on the hands, face, neck, shoulder, arms, as well as your back and chest. These areas of darker colored skin are not caused by age but are a direct result of the damaging effects of sun exposure. Yikes!
So avoiding getting them in the first place is wise, but you’re probably more interested in getting rid of age spots first.
What Exactly Are Sun Spots?
We have all heard that too much exposure to the sun can be dangerous – it can irritate and damage our skin. This is true in many ways and can lead to our skin aging prematurely when we don’t want it to. Because who wants to look older before their time!?
While sun spots are not caused by aging, they are more common among people over 50 and do not appear as frequently in younger adults. Which is why they are often referred to as ‘age spots’, when age really just means more sun damage.
Sun spots grow on the top surface layer of skin and have the capacity to grow individually or as a cluster. These growths of pigment are often even confused with skin cancer and can give you quite a scare. Sun spots are just pigment and nothing to do with skin cancer so don’t be scared of them. Specalists can very easily tell which spots are perfectly harmless, so if you’re in any doubt just get checked over for peace of mind.
Why Do We Gets Sun Spots?
The more time we spend outdoors in the direct rays of the sun, the more our skin will begin to produce an excess amount of skin pigment (called ‘melanin’). Originally, these spots were thought to show the health of our liver, hence the other nickname, ‘liver spots’.
Some researchers believe that certain people are more susceptible to getting sun spots than others due to their genetic makeup. This may be true for individuals who tan more easily compared to others, even when exposed to exactly the same amount of sunlight. Medical professionals have also observed that parents who show this tendency will likely pass it down from parent to child. So it’s worth making sure your children are aware that they made need to avoid the sun more than their friends.
Causes Of Sun Spots
After thorough medical studies, researchers have determined the culprits of these spots. The changes to the skin occur when the melanocytes, or cells that create melanin, accumulate too much in one area. As this happens, that area of skin darkens in color and we get another blemish to be self-conscious about. This effect actually prevents the normal functioning of melanocytes in producing healthy amounts of melanin, which is why they don’t go away on their own.
Sun exposure is of course the major factor, but these things are known to make things worse:
- Lack of Exercise
- Tanning beds
- Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
- Unhealthy dieting
Diagnosing Sun Spots
They can be easily identified by the naked eye – spots may be flat, oval, or even raised bumps on the skin. They can vary in size from being as small as a freckle up to half an inch in size. They may even have exactly the same texture of skin, which can confuse you at first glance. If you ever have concerns about any mark or blemish though just ask your doctor to have a look – in the vast majority of cases it will be nothing to worry about.
How To Get Rid Of Sun Spots
The goal of treating sun spots is to lighten the affected skin, or promote the growth of healthy skin in the area. This can be accomplished with medical procedures that aim to penetrate the layers of skin. While medical treatments often provide the most immediate results they can also create some unwanted side effects. For this reason, it is wise to discuss all options for removing sun spots with an experienced doctor or dermatologist.
These are some of the different medical procedures you can use to get rid of sun spots:
- Laser and Intense Light Pulsing: the use of the laser light to destroy melanocytes in the affected area
- Pharmaceutical Medicines: the application of bleaching creams used in conjunction with retinoids
- Chemical Peels: the topical application of acid on the skin that causes new skin to form
- Cryotherapy: the use of liquid nitrogen on the skin to freeze off unwanted spots
- Dermabrasion: a technical procedure where micro crystals gently abrade away layers of skin
Preventing Sun Spots From Occurring
Of course, the most effective way to stop sun spots is to stay out of the sun. We all need just a little sun on our skins every day to stay healthy – but a few minutes early in the morning or late in the afternoon should be enough. At these times of day the sun is less strong than in the middle of the day. Then if you do need to be in the sun for longer or at peak times of the day, then make sure you always apply plenty of high factor sunscreen.
It can also help to adjust to a healthier lifestyle. Eating a good range of nutritious foods and will help your bodies circulation of nutrients, and the formation of healthy skin cells.
If you do accidentally burn then always apply some soothing aftersun treatment. Lotions containing a high amount of aloe vera are good, but apply them as soon as you can and keep applying them regularly. Keep any sunburnt areas covered up and out of the sun completely until they are fully recovered.