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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

See Sun Spot, Run!




What are they?
 Solar lentigines, more commonly referred to as sunspots, age spots or liver spots, are lasting patches of discolored skin. These usually appear on the skin as brown or gray splotches and vary in size and shape. Sunspots tend to show up on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun most often, such as the face, hands, shoulders and chest. They are usually accompanied by other signs of sun damage, such as wrinkles and dry, thinning skin. Although sunspots usually develop on older people after years of sun exposure, young people can get them as well. With the rising trend of tanning beds, the early exposure to UV rays can sometimes cause skin to spot prematurely.

What causes them?
  • Overexposure to UV rays from sunlight or tanning beds is the most common cause of sunspots. Fair-colored skin is more susceptible to sunspots than darker skin tones. UV rays cause the skin to increase melanin production, which is the pigment in hair, skin and eyes.
  • Excessive melanin production can cause certain areas of the skin to become darker than the surrounding areas. Melanin is the tan color in the skin associated with sunbathing. The true purpose of melanin is to consume UV radiation and protect new cells in deeper layers of the skin, not to create an “attractive” appearance. Older skin is more prone to sunspots because it has a harder time clearing melanin from the system.
  • Sun allergies may cause white spots to appear after sun exposure. These spots can be caused by sun, but may also develop due to exposure to other outdoor elements that agitate skin, such as fungus. Be mindful of these fungal infections that can cause these white spots, as they will likely spread to other parts of the body.
  • Severe sunburns can also cause white spots to develop after the burn heals. The spots appear because the burn damaged the skin’s pigmentation.

 Should I be worried?
Except for the inherent cosmetic issue, sunspots are relatively harmless and are not a direct indication that you will get (or already have) skin cancer. However, having sunspots is an indication that the skin has been sufficiently damaged by the sun, which puts you at a greater risk for developing skin cancer. See your dermatologist yearly for a spot check to make sure your spots aren’t actually moles that can change into a cancerous lesion.

Treatments and remedies
  • Applying aloe vera gel on affected areas twice daily can help heal sun-damaged skin. For best results, apply sooner rather than later.
  • Medical creams containing corticosteroids may also help return the skin to its original state.
  • Apply a slice of fresh lemon or lime directly onto the sunspots for 10-15 minutes daily. The acid helps in lightening the spots and removing dead skin cells. Results are usually seen after daily use for two or more weeks.
  • Squeeze a used green tea bag onto a cotton ball and rub it over the spots. The tea contains antioxidants that can help skin repair itself.
  • Break open a vitamin E capsule and apply the gel directly to the sunspots. The same vitamin E properties that can help fade scars will also help fade sunspots.
  • Professional options are also available, such as laser resurfacing, chemical peels and cryotherapy.

Prevention
Protect your skin from the sun and UV damage by avoiding indoor tanning, staying out of direct sunlight as much as possible and wearing a hat or light-colored clothing outdoors.
If you have to be in the sun, use a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen.

Have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below or make an appointment  with Advanced Dermatology.

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