The “sun” in sunspots is appropriate, as they are a consequence of overexposure to the harsh ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. This is why they appear predominantly on areas of the body that receive the most sunlight, such as the nose, cheeks, shoulders/upper back, and hands. Contrary to popular belief, sunspots are not an inevitable consequence of aging. They can be prevented, and if you already have them, they can be treated in a variety of ways.
How Do I Prevent Sunspots?
Most experts agree on the following for sunspot prevention:
The daily application of sunscreen should be a routine part of skin care. Ideally, it should offer:
- Broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays
- Sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher
- Water resistance
Sunscreen should be applied generously in the morning at least 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapplication is recommended every couple of hours or sooner if perspiring heavily or swimming.
- Avoid the sun
The sun’s skin-damaging UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and can last even further during the spring and summer months. Outdoor activities should be scheduled before or after these times and you should seek shade whenever possible. It should also be kept in mind that reflective surfaces, such as water, snow, and sand, intensify the effects of the sun’s UV rays.
- Cover the skin
Covering your skin can also protect your skin from UV rays. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses whenever possible. Today, there is even clothing with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), which is similar to SPF ratings (the higher the number, the better the protection).
How Do I Get Rid of Sunspots?
Despite the best prevention efforts, sunspots can still develop. If you have already developed sunspots, they may be eliminated with the following:
- Home remedies
The following are home remedies for sunspots:
- Lemon juice, castor oil, aloe vera, buttermilk, and coconut water all contain skin bleaching properties
- Green tea and cucumber packs have antioxidant properties
- Papaya pulp, yogurt, and apple cider vinegar contain acids that provide gentle skin peels
It should be kept in mind that the evidence for these home remedies is anecdotal. In other words, what works for one person may not work for another.
- Hydroquinone with or without Retin-A®
Hydroquinone is a very popular topical skin-bleaching agent that can be used to treat sunspots. Concentrations above 2% require a prescription, and it is commonly combined with prescription-strength Retin-A cream (a form of the powerful antioxidant vitamin A) with good results.
- Chemical peels
Chemical peels with acids, such as trichloroacetic acid (TCA) or glycolic acid, dissolve the epidermis, or outer layer of skin, containing the sunspots. Once the peel is done, your skin heals via generating a new spot-free layer.
- Laser treatment
Laser treatments can remove sunspots by affecting the epidermis, or outer surface of the skin (ablative); the dermis, or middle layer of skin (non-ablative); or both, Examples of laser treatments for sunspots include the HALO® and PicoWay® lasers.