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Sun spots are like uninvited houseguests: once they show up, they’re usually here for the long haul unless you take action to get rid of them. Here, I'll describe what they are, what they mean, and a few ways to address them if they bother you!

What are sun spots?

Sun spots are small, flat areas of increased pigmentation, also commonly called age spots, liver spots, and solar lentigines. They occur as a result of chronic exposure to ultraviolet light, which speeds up the production of melanin, which can clump together over time and create a darker color. They are more common in (but not limited to) people with lighter skin tones, and tend to look more pronounced on lighter skin tones, which have less melanin at baseline. They tend to occur on areas of the body that get the most sun exposure over time, like cheeks, hands, bald heads, and shoulders. If your “sun spot” has any texture to it, if it itches or bleeds, or if it contains multiple colors, it’s important to have it examined by a dermatologist. 

Do sun spots go away? 

Left alone, they will not go away. And there's no need to try to remove them if they don't bother you, but they can show up in prominent places, so sometimes people want to diminish their appearance.

How to prevent sun spots

Wear zinc sunscreen, big hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves! Try to avoid the sun between 10am and 2pm, when the rays are the strongest. And consider a supplement like Heliocare, which helps prevent damage from harmful UV rays. Limiting your skin’s exposure to UV light NOW is the best way to prevent sun spots in the future, and to prevent other chronic sun-related damage, including skin cancer!

How to get rid of sun spots

Do you have to get rid of sun spots? Absolutely not! But they can become annoying if they’re in the wrong place. I have one on my upper cheek that always looks like a little bruise (especially in my photos) so I decided to look into my options for reducing its appearance. 

Natural Solutions to Sun Spots

If you’re not frantic about your sun spots, and are willing to take the slow and gentle route, look for ingredients that can help increase cell turnover and repair oxidative damage. These products are suitable for sensitive skin, and can often be used where other treatments have caused irritation or other side effects. 

Pumpkin and tomato pack an alpha-hydroxy acid punch in our gentle, nourishing Pumpkin Facial Soap. Used daily, it can help reduce discolorations over time.

Green tea, algae, wheatgrass, pumpkin, and papaya come together in our rich, silky Brighten Facial Serum to increase cell turnover and brighten skin tone.
Our Restore Facial Serum contains soothing oils of shea and kukui keep skin soft while lavender and helichrysum help reduce inflammation after a day in the sun. 

Dermatological Solutions to Sun Spots
1) Laser and IPL
These are the fastest methods for treating sun spots, but work best for people with lighter skin tones. They get the most noticeable results in a fairly short period of time. They can be expensive, and are not usually covered by insurance as they are considered cosmetic in most cases. If you have dark skin, discuss lasers and IPL with your dermatologist, since certain procedures can cause darkening or even scarring on skin with more melanin.
IPL is relatively painless, and generally well tolerated with minimal “down time.”
I tried IPL on my cheek sun spot, and after two treatments, the spot was reduced by 80-90%! After almost two years, I’m considering another round of IPL. Laser treatments can be a bit more invasive (and expensive), with a little more downtime, but with very good results for most people.
2) Medications
From Retin-A to chemical peels to hydrogen peroxide, there are many medications that can reduce the appearance of sun spots. Most of them require a prescription or an in-office treatment, and you should let your dermatologist know about any other skin or medical conditions so a custom plan can be created for you. Not all medications are suitable for all skin types or skin tones. Hydroquinone is the most commonly used lightening medication, but it’s especially tricky with dark skin tones, as it can lighten normal pigmentation and cause a blotchy effect.
3) Cryotherapy (Freezing)
Liquid nitrogen can freeze and kill the hyperpigmented skin cells, which will then scab and slough off after a week or two. The sun spot may be a bit lighter when it heals, but the treatment can occasionally cause scarring.
4) Dermabrasion    

This is essentially sanding down your face. It can help with sun spots, and microdermabrasion may cause slightly less trauma, but be careful if you have sensitive skin or any concerns about rosacea, because it can make those conditions worse. 

In the end, you might also decide to accept your sun spots and keep living your best life, which could be the greatest option of all time! Whatever you decide, approach the process with kindness and gentle compassion toward yourself, because your beauty is WAY bigger and deeper than your sun spots. Oh, and wear your sunscreen!