Lessen the Appearance of Sun Spots: Your Comprehensive Guide to Prevention and Treatment

Written by: Brilliant Staff

Fact checked by: Heather Snead

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As we age, a litany of new skincare concerns emerge — sun spots being one of the main culprits. 

These dark discolorations, often caused by sun exposure, can lead to premature aging, and their prevention and treatment are often discussed in the beauty world. 

Today, let's delve into understanding sun spots and investigate their causes. We will embark on a journey to prevent them and explore the treatment options available, including skin care products that can help reduce their visibility.

What Are Sun Spots?

Also known as liver spots or solar lentigines, sun spots are small, darkened patches on your skin. They're extremely common, especially in those over the age of 50. 

While they're usually harmless, they can be pretty noticeable, as they generally form in the areas most often exposed to the sun: the face, hands, shoulders, and arms.

Causes of Sun Spots

Long-term sun exposure or artificial sources of light, such as tanning beds, are the primary causes of sun spots. 

Our skin has special cells known as melanocytes that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, hair, and eyes. 

When your skin is continuously exposed to the sun, melanocytes go into overdrive, producing extra melanin and forming sun spots.

Prevention: Your First Line of Defense

When it comes to sun spots, prevention is a critical first step. Here are a few ways to keep your skin protected.

  • Use sunscreen: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more daily, even on cloudy days. Broad-spectrum means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Remember to reapply it every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Cover up: Wear protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts. Look for clothes with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label.
  • Avoid the strongest rays: The sun's rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If possible, stay indoors during these hours.
  • Don't seek a sun tan: Actively working on a tan by sunbathing or using tanning beds increases your risk of sun spots.

Treatment Options at a Glance

Sun spots are harmless and don't need treatment, but if you decide to pursue treatment for cosmetic reasons, a variety of methods can help, from prescription treatments to skin care products.

  • Topical treatments: Prescription bleaching creams (hydroquinone) used alone or with retinoids and a mild steroid might lighten sun spots when used for several months.
  • Holistic brightening agents: Several key ingredients can help reduce the appearance of sun spots, including the following:
    • Hydroquinone: This ingredient works as a skin-lightening agent.
    • Retinols: These vitamin A derivatives can help visibly fade sun spots.
    • Vitamin C: This brightens skin, promotes a collagen-rich complexion, and fights off oxidative stress.
    • Niacinamide: This is a form of vitamin B3 that can improve the appearance of enlarged pores, moderate skin surface oil, and enhance the look of skin texture.
  • Medical procedures: Certain medical procedures can help clear sun spots. These include laser therapy, chemical peels, dermabrasion, cryotherapy, and microdermabrasion. Always consult a professional dermatologist if you choose to pursue this option.

Holistic products work more gradually than prescription treatments and can take several months to show visible results, but they can be effective.

The Bottom Line

While sun spots are usually harmless, they remind us of our sun safety practices. Proper sun protection is crucial not only for preventing sunspots but also for maintaining overall skin health. 

If sun spots are disrupting your glow, know that you have options to help reduce their visibility, from non-prescription skin care products to medical treatments. Always consult your healthcare provider with any skin-related questions or concerns.


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