Dark spots, age spots, sun spots—no matter what name they go by, these marks can make an appearance on your skin. What happens is, spending time out in the sun (without taking adequate protection measures) can lead to sun damage—and this damage can show up on the surface of your skin years down the road as visible signs of aging like sun spots or fine lines and wrinkles. So, is there anything you can do to help protect your skin and face from sun spots? And, after you have sun spots, is sun spot removal an option? Keep reading to learn all about sunspots (including white sun spots), plus tips to add to your own skin care routine to help fade their appearance and prevent their return.
WHAT ARE SUNSPOTS?
You’ve noticed those pesky spots forming on your skin after too much time in the sun, but what exactly are they? According to the Cleveland Clinic, sun spots (also known as age spots) are flat, harmless marks that develop on the skin in areas that have had lots of sun exposure. These may include the face, neck, back of the hands, shoulders, upper back, and tops of the feet—but sun spots can appear anywhere on the body. What do sun spots look like? They’re often brown or black in appearance and are extremely common, especially in those with lighter skin.
WHAT CAUSES SUN SPOTS ON SKIN?
The cause of sunposts all comes back to prolonged sun exposure as the UV light from the sun speeds up the skin’s melanin production rate. Melanin is what gives your skin pigment, and when more melanin forms in a particular area, that area becomes darker—AKA, it turns into a sun spot. When should you be concerned about sun spots? Like we mentioned, the Cleveland Clinic states these spots are harmless, so there’s no need to worry about them. With that said, white sun spots could be a cause for concern. Speaking of…
WHAT ARE WHITE SUN SPOTS?
Although sun spots are most commonly darker in color, white sun spots can occur after too much time in the sun, too. The technical name for this, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, is idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH). Basically, these white spots occur when there is decreased melanin production in the skin—the opposite of dark spots. Although the full cause of IGH is unknown, it is thought that UV light exposure plays a big role in its development, which is why this skin care concern has earned the name white sun spots.
HOW TO HELP PREVENT SUN SPOTS
Now that you’re up to speed on exactly what sun spots are, including their white-colored counterparts, it’s time to address what to do about them. Below, we’re sharing six tips to help prevent sun spots on your face and skin from forming in the first place.
1. USE BROAD-SPECTRUM SUNSCREEN AS DIRECTED
You didn’t think you could get through this article without reading all about sunscreen, now did you? It’s impossible to talk about sun spots without waxing poetic about broad-spectrum sunscreen. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen daily as directed (and taking other sun protection measures) can help prevent the appearance of sunspots. When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, you have a variety of options. Consider adding a moisturizer with SPF, like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Day Moisturizer SPF 30, to your skin care routine. Combining moisturizer and broad-spectrum sunscreen into one step will help you streamline your skin care routine without sacrificing sun protection.
2. REAPPLY SUNSCREEN EVERY TWO HOURS
Think you can apply SPF in the morning and call it a day? You’re not getting off that easy. Once a day isn’t enough for broad-spectrum sunscreen application. You’ll need to reapply and then reapply again. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends reapplying sunscreen at least every two hours, or more often if you’re working up a sweat or getting wet. If you’re concerned about messing up a full face of cosmetics, that’s no reason not to repeat your application. Read our article on how to reapply sunscreen when you’re wearing makeup, and that will be one less thing you have to worry about.
Editor’s note: There’s always more to know about sunscreen. For more on this important aspect of preventing sun spots, check out The Ultimate SPF Guide.
3. DRESS FOR THE OCCASION
When you’re planning a day in the sun, the obvious inclination might be to throw on your shortest shorts and a tank top, but for your skin’s sake—resist. According to the FDA, it’s best to wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible. That means sporting lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Don’t worry; you can still look chic while all covered up!
4. ACCESSORIZE APPROPRIATELY
No outfit is complete without a few accessories, and one that has the purpose of sun protection is no exception. Pop on a pair of sunglasses to help protect the delicate skin around your eyes. Then, top of the look with a wide-brimmed hat.
5. SEEK SHADE DURING PEAK HOURS
Choose the times you want to be outside wisely. Not all hours of the day are created equal. The sun is at its peak—with the rays being the most intense—from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. That means it’s a prime part of the day to stay inside or stick with lounging under a large umbrella.
6. BRIGHTEN YOUR COMPLEXION
Don’t keep your skin in the dark. As you age, skin’s natural ability to shed surface dead skin cells declines, and sun spots can become increasingly more visible, leaving skin looking older and duller. To help brighten up the look of your skin, incorporate peel pads into your nightly skin care routine. The L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Peel Pads, which are formulated with glycolic acid, help resurface dull, uneven tone and rough texture to reveal a more youthful-looking complexion. Over time, skin tone will look more even. Wipe a peel pad over your face at night, and remember to apply your broad-spectrum sunscreen in the morning since alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid may leave your skin more sensitive to the sun.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT EXISTING SUN SPOTS
Already have sun spots? You’re probably wondering, “Do sun spots on skin go away?” Well, not exactly, but besides following the tips above to prevent more from showing up, there are ways you can fade their appearance. We’re naming three, below.
1. LASER TREATMENTS
Laser treatments aren’t an instant sun spot removal method, but according to the AAD, they are a quick way to address them. They also tend to have longer-lasting results than some other options. As far as side effects go, crusting or temporary darkening of the spots may occur, but the AAD states that these effects tend to fade quickly.
Microdermabrasion can be used to smooth away sun spots on your face and body, per the AAD. Studies show this can be quite effective, with one study having half of the patients see their sunspots completely disappear after multiple sessions. After microdermabrasion sessions, your skin may be red, but that will likely go away within hours.
3. CHEMICAL PEELS
The AAD names chemical peels as an effective option for fading sun spots on the hands.
Not sure which option to go with? Consult your dermatologist, who will be able to better determine which method of addressing sun spots will be best for you and your skin. Doing your own research should never replace visiting a board-certified derm!
Editor’s note: The AAD points out that sun spots can return, so after trying any of the above options for fading your sun spots, proper sun protection is still a must.
Next: Could Kojic Acid Be Hyperpigmentation’s Kryptonite?