Skin sunspots, also known as solar lentigines, are flat, brown or black spots of various sizes. Often found on areas frequently exposed to sunlight such as the face, hands, shoulders, and arms, these spots are more common in individuals over 50 and those with substantial sun exposure. Typically harmless, sunspots don't necessarily require medical treatment but can be treated for cosmetic purposes.

Identifying Symptoms of Sunspots

Sunspots are more prevalent in individuals with lighter skin tones. Key characteristics include:

  • Flat, oval shape
  • Brown or black colour
  • Location on sun-exposed areas like the hands, feet, face, shoulders, and upper back
  • Size ranging from a few millimetres to half an inch, often appearing in groups

When to Seek Medical Attention

Though usually benign, sunspots can sometimes indicate skin cancer risk, especially if they change in appearance or size. It's advisable to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis in such cases.

Causes of Sunspots

Extended exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning devices leads to sunspots. These result from melanin accumulation, the skin's natural response to protect deeper layers from UV damage.

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop sunspots, but they're more common in fair-skinned individuals and those with a history of sunburns or extensive sun exposure.

Diagnosis Methods

  • Physical Exam: A doctor examines the skin, sometimes using a magnifying lens.
  • Skin Biopsy: Conducted if there's a suspicion of malignant melanoma.

Treatment Options

  • Medications: Products like hydroquinone or retinoids and steroids can lighten sunspots over 2-3 months. Sunscreen application is crucial during this period.
  • Laser Therapy: Multiple sessions might be needed, with results visible in 2-3 months. Sunscreen use post-treatment is vital.
  • Chemical Peel: Applying acids to remove the top layer of skin, revealing a new layer underneath. Regular sunscreen use enhances results after 2-3 sessions.

Prevention Tips

  • Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when UV radiation peaks.
  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, 15-30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming/sweating.
  • Wear protective clothing like broad-brimmed hats and garments covering arms and legs or those with a UPF rating.