Why do Sunspots Form & Can You Get Rid of Them?
Sunspots are also known as liver spots (even though they have nothing to do with your liver) and are caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays.
They’re different from other types of hyperpigmentation as they have their own distinct characteristics, but both can often get lumped together under the umbrella of sunspots.
Why Do Sunspots Form?
Sunspots are also commonly referred to as lentigos or lentigines, and they're basically collections of melanocytes, which are the pigment-producing cells (responsible for skin colour) that are in the basal layer of the epidermis. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or from tanning beds (please don’t be using these anymore, they have increased skin cancer risk written all over them) accelerates the production of the melanocytes. After years of exposure, the melanocytes clump together and start to produce at higher concentrations causing sunspots.
What Do Sunspots Look Like?
Unlike most moles that tend to be raised or stick out, sunspots aren’t raised at all, you can run your finger over a sunspot, and it will feel just as smooth as the skin around it. Sunspots are generally harmless and are part of the natural ageing process but with any changes in your skin, be cautious.
The problem with sunspots is that skin cancer in its early stages can look like a sunspot, a flat, brownish spot. Which means if you ignore these changes, you could be ignoring skin cancer in its early stages. One key difference between sunspots and melanoma is that sunspots develop in places that have had direct exposure to sun, so your face, neck, hands or shoulders. Melanoma on the other hand can pop up anywhere, even in places that have never been exposed to sun. The key is to get your skin checked regularly by a skin cancer expert.
Can You Get Rid of Sunspots?
Good news! There are a few things you can do to reduce the appearance of sunspots. Use skin brightening active ingredients like niacinamide, curcumin and naringenin all proven to even skin tone and help with UV damaged skin. Retinol is another good ingredient to use to reduce sunspots as it encourages cellular turnover and helps fade pigmentation. This powerful multi-tasking ingredient also helps to increase collagen production and fine lines and wrinkles, so sunspots or not, it’s a good one to have in your routine.
As sunspots are localised to the top layer of the skin (basal layer of the epidermis) a glycolic acid peel administered by a dermatologist is a great option as it peels this top layer off along with those cells.
Laser resurfacing treatments are also an option, they are effective but also costly. The laser targets the melanin in the skin and removes the top layer of skin along with the sunspot. You’ll find that the sunspots will be faded and may have disappeared with this treatment, however, it’s a safer treatment for light skin types, those with darker skin tones will want to steer clear of this treatment as it could cause blistering, scarring or discolouration.
As we’ve discovered there are a variety of ways to treat sunspots, some treatments will work better on certain skin types and colours and the intensity of the sunspots. Some sunspots are best treated with lasers and light devices and if you have darker skin or melasma, topical creams and chemical peels may work better and are safer.
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