Sun spots, also known as age spots or liver spots, are patches of discoloration on the skin. They can appear anywhere on the body, but they are usually common on the areas which have the most sun exposure, such as the face, arms and hands.
Sun spots are small, flat, dark areas on the skin, typically brown in colour, which have the appearance of a large freckle. They usually appear in older skin but they can also affect young adults depending on their skin type and levels of sun exposure.
The different types of sun spots:
- Lentigines - the most typical flat spots in a beige or brown colour which are recognisable as age spots or liver spots.
- Cherry hemangiomas - small red dots which are caused by an overgrowth of blood vessels. These are also very common and can appear anywhere on the body.
- Seborrheic keratoses - flat or raised, pale or dark, these can also be scaly or lumpy. They can be caused by sun exposure or genetics.
Sun spots are usually harmless but they can be distressing for patients who feel they are negatively impacting their appearance. If the spots are black, or change in size or colour, they should be checked by a dermatologist to rule out any other potential problems.
What causes sun spots?
Sun spots are actually overactive pigment cells in the skin. UV light from sun exposure makes skin produce melanin, which is what gives skin its pigment. This is why skin becomes tanned and looks darker after increased sun exposure.
If skin is exposed to too much sun over time, sun spots may appear because the melanin is produced in higher concentrations and can become grouped together within the skin. There are many factors which can increase the risk of sun spots:
- Prolonged sun exposure, particularly if the skin is not protected with SPF.
- Use of tanning beds, which are known to release harmful rays.
- If the skin is fair or sensitive, it’s more likely to react to sun exposure and form sun spots over time.
- If the skin is prone to sunburn, it’s more likely to develop sun spots in the future.
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How to improve sun spots
Since sun spots are most likely caused by UV rays, the best way to prevent or delay them is by limiting exposure to the sun.
- Keep out of the sun between 10am and 3pm.
- Use a high factor SPF and reapply regularly throughout the day.
- When outdoors, cover the vulnerable areas of skin with clothing.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible.
Once sun spots have appeared, it is possible to minimise the visibility of the discoloration with non-surgical dermatological treatments.
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Treatments for sun spots
- Chemical peels are used to treat sun spots by removing the top layer of skin with a chemical skin-safe acid.
- The dark spots are usually on the top layer of the skin, so a chemical peel can reveal a new layer with less discoloration.
- Patients may need multiple treatments depending on the shade of the spots.
- Chemical peels can be repeated if more sun spots appear over time.
- Mesotherapy can help treat sun spots by rejuvenating the top layer of skin to diminish the colour of dark patches.
- A Mesotherapy treatment penetrates the skin with multiple tiny needles, reaching deeper into the skin than topical treatments.
- The process encourages the natural production of new collagen to help promote healing and improve the appearance of the pigmentation.
- Patients may see results after one treatment but multiple sessions are usually required for the best results.
- Microneedling helps to minimise sun spots by penetrating the skin with multiple tiny needles.
- It works by producing new skin cells with fresh collagen to make skin look plumper and more volumized.
- The fuller-looking skin makes imperfections less visible.
- It typically penetrates further than Mesotherapy so may be suitable for darker or larger spots.
- Patients may see results after the initial session, but repeated treatments are usually required every 4-6 weeks.
- PRP or Platelet Rich Plasma treatment is used to treat sun spots by stimulating tissue repair and regeneration.
- Sometimes known colloquially as the ‘vampire facelift’, PRP uses the patient’s own blood. The platelets in the blood are separated from red blood cells and then injected into the skin.
- The skin looks replenished and renewed, creating a more even skin tone with less discoloration.
- Usually 3-4 rounds of treatment is recommended for the best results.
These dermatological treatments work in different ways so it’s important to choose the right process for your skin needs. Book a free consultation with our team to discover which treatments are best for sun spots.