Age spots, sunspots, liver spots, dark spots…argh! For some of us, summer can start to feel like the season of spots.
Makeup helps some, but even the best cover-up doesn’t appear flawless, and such a shame when the skin as a whole may be healthy and radiant!
What can we do about all these spots?
We’re glad you asked! We have some tips to help. But first, let’s talk about what causes these spots to show up in the first place.
What Causes Spots to Show Up on the Skin?
Age spots are blotches of darker skin that can show up anywhere on the body, but are most common on the face and the back of the hands. They range from light brown to black in color, are painless, have the same texture as the rest of the skin, and usually show up in areas that are typically exposed to the sun.
The first question most of us have when talking about spots is: are they all caused by the same thing?
The answer is yes. Most all of these spots and dark splotches are caused by repeated exposure to the sun, along with other factors. Whether you’re talking about age spots, liver spots, dark spots, or sunspots, you’re talking about dark areas of the skin where the melanin, or skin pigment, has been produced in concentrated amounts.
UV rays accelerate the production of melanin. That’s why you get a tan when you spend time in the sun. In response to UV exposure, the skin produces more melanin as a protective response, to help shield the skin from the damaging effects of the sun.
Why does the melanin appear to clump into small areas to produce spots? Researchers believe it’s because of skin damage in that area. The surface of the skin becomes stretched and overpigmented as a result of time in the sun-that’s why these spots typically appear on the face and the back of the hands, which are the areas of the skin most exposed to the sun.
Age, however, also has something to do with it. As we get older, the skin has a harder time keeping up with repair, which can increase the risk of skin damage that opens the door for the production of age spots. As we get older, we also tend to produce more melanin as well, and we produce it less consistently, which can cause that clumping effect, particularly in areas where the skin is damaged.
The other names we use for these spots are simply other terms to describe them. “Sun spots” indicate that they are caused by sun exposure. “Age spots” shows that they tend to show up as we get older, though younger people can get them, too. “Liver spots” simply refers to the brown color. And “dark spots” just describes the fact that these spots are darker than the surrounding skin.
For the remainder of this post, we’ll refer to these as “sun spots,” though you understand that all terms are applicable.
What Factors Increase Your Risk of Sun Spots?
In addition to sun exposure, which is the main cause of skin damage and sunspots, there are other risk factors that may make it more likely that you will have to deal with these little frustrations:
- Red hair
- Light colored skin
- History of time in the sun
- History of several sunburns
- Age-being over 40 years old
- Frequent use of tanning beds
If you have any of these other characteristics, you may be more at risk for sunspots.
Should I Be Concerned About Skin Cancer?
When you see a dark spot on your skin, you may wonder if you should be concerned about cancer. It’s always good to be cautious, and to check with your dermatologist if you notice something new that concerns you.
In general, there are some key differences between the two. In general, a spot on your skin that may be cancerous is usually asymmetrical, meaning that the growth is different on one side than on the other (one side is usually bigger), has an irregular border, is larger than a pencil eraser, and tends to change over time. Melanoma spots often have other shades of color in them, too, ranging from brown to black and tan, or even red.
If you notice these factors, or if the spot starts to itch, hurt, bleed, or otherwise cause problems, get it checked right away.
Sunspots or age spots, by contrast, are typically flat, oval, and more evenly shaped and shaded. They also tend to remain mostly the same over time.
Natural Ways to Lighten Your Sun Spots
Once you know that your spots are not concerning, as far as cancer goes, your next goal is likely to get rid of them. They just have a way of marring an otherwise flawless appearance, right?
We recommend you avoid hydroquinone, as it tends to bleach skin and cause damage to the fibers over time. Instead, try some of the following methods to fade spots out over time. Above all, wear your sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and other protective clothing items, particularly after you start treating your age spots. The more you work on lightening them, the more sensitive your skin will become to UV exposure, which means if you’re not careful, you can make the spots worse. Protect protect protect!
- Exfoliate: Sloughing off the top layer of skin can help speed up lightening of the age spots. You can use a gentle exfoliating agent with fruit acids and/or a sensitive sugar scrub. Watch your skin-if it starts to break out or become inflamed, back off and try a gentler method.
- Lemon juice: Many skin-lightening formulas use lemon and other citrus-based ingredients because they naturally exfoliate skin and help lighten sunspots. You can make your own mask by mixing lemon juice with rosewater and then applying to the spots. You can also slice a lemon and apply it directly, but this may be too harsh for you if you have sensitive skin. If you want to combine both exfoliating and fading, mix your lemon juice with some brown sugar and use it as a facial scrub.
- Apple cider vinegar: You get natural alpha hydroxy acids in vinegar, which again, help slough off that top layer of skin, allowing the younger cells to come forward and help fade that sun spot. Dab a little on the affected area and leave overnight. If you find that it’s too harsh, mix with a little water or olive oil, or use for only 10-20 minutes and rinse off.
- Papaya: This fruit is rich in natural enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids that help exfoliate skin and fade dark spots. The best way to use it is to cut a slice from the real fruit and press it onto the skin for 15-20 minutes. You can also mash cut fruit into a pulp and then apply that to the skin.
- Plain yogurt: Yogurt has lactic acid in it, which is another gentle exfoliating acid that can help fade sunspots. You can apply the yogurt directly and leave it on for about 20 minutes, or you can combine it with ground oatmeal and lemon juice and apply the resulting “pack” on the skin for about 30 minutes.
- Tomato: Tomatoes are naturally acidic, and are an age-old remedy for sunspots. You can simply slice and apply one directly, mash it up into a pulp, or use tomato juice mixed with honey. Try on a small spot of skin first as it can be harsh for some skin types.
- Castor oil: This moisturizing oil also has the ability to fade age spots. You can just dab a bit on the affected areas and leave on overnight, or mix with vitamin E to increase effectiveness. Do be sure to massage it well into the skin so it is completely absorbed. If you find it’s not moisturizing enough, you can add in some olive oil.
As you are using these treatments, take special care to protect the skin when you go outside, as all of these treatments can increase photosensitivity. Then, be patient. It takes time, usually several months of daily treatments, to see results.
Do you have a natural remedy for sunspots?