As you age, the visible signs of aging first begin to show on your face and chest. Darkened spots, often referred to as sun spots, are commonly found on areas of your skin which are most often exposed to the sun’s rays. Over time, small areas of the skin darken: sunspots.

What Causes Sun Damage?

Sun damage is caused by repeated prolonged exposure of your skin to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays or to artificial UV rays produced by tanning beds. Sunspots are usually not a risk to your health but can be removed for cosmetic reasons.

How Can I Tell the Difference between Melanoma and Sunspots?

When a new spot forms on your skin, that can raise a red flag that something might be wrong. How do you tell the difference between benign spots and dangerous melanoma?

  • Sun spots are flat areas of discoloration that can be very light tan to dark brown in color. They can appear on your face, neck, chest, shoulders, or the backs of your hands as early as age 40, although they may appear earlier in those who have spent a lot of time in the sun.
  • A melasma is another type of skin discoloration that can appear on the face, usually in the forehead, cheek, nose, or upper lip regions. This discoloration is light grey to tan and are more common in women. Melasma may be caused by hormonal fluctuations that naturally occur with age or during pregnancy.
  • There are many types of skin cancer, ranging from basal cell carcinoma to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. You should speak to your dermatologist if you notice dark spots appearing. Growth of a new, irregular or change to an existing sun spot’s shape, size, or color, or a lesion which bleeds easily or doesn’t heal could be skin cancer.

How are Sunspots Treated?

Since sunspots are not harmful, they do not require treatment unless you want to remove them to have a more even, youthful skin appearance. Sunspots may be effectively treated using laser resurfacing, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, microneedling, or intense pulsed light (IPL). The best way to avoid the development of sunspots is to wear sunscreen every day.