Brown spots on the skin are commonly referred to as liver, sun, or age spots, and are also known as senile or solar lentigines. They result from sun exposure over time, typically appearing on people over 40, according to the Mayo Clinic. Hence, they usually appear on areas of the body that get the most sun: the face, hands, arms, shoulders, upper back, and legs. As the University of Maryland Medical Center explains, these skin spots aren’t a medical concern, but people may consider them a beauty concern and seek treatment to fade them. Your dermatologist should confirm that your brown spots are liver spots, and not a possible sign of cancer or other health condition.
Protect yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. The sun not only causes brown spots, but it also will enhance the ones you have and work against your efforts to fade them. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests the use of long-sleeved shirts, pants or long skirts, sunglasses, and brimmed hats to shield your skin. It also recommends avoiding the sun in the afternoon and diligently using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
Buy a nonprescription fade cream or lotion. The New Zealand Dermatological Society (NZDS) says those made with hydroquinone are effective, and notes that over-the-counter products should have a maximum of two percent concentration. Consistent use for at least several weeks is required before your brown spots begin to fade, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Ask your dermatologist about prescription bleaching creams if nonprescription products don’t effectively fade your brown spots. The NZDS explains that these may be made with up to a four-percent concentration of hydroquinone, and may be paired with a topical retinoid cream to thin the skin, facilitating the penetration of bleaching agents to the excess pigmentation. Additionally, a mild corticosteroid may be prescribed.
Discuss with your dermatologist whether a cosmetic procedure is feasible. There are several that can fade brown spots. Skin Care Guide suggests laser skin resurfacing as an effective, relatively easy treatment option that can show results within a few weeks. Chemical peels, dermabrasion, and cryotherapy are other options suggested by the Mayo Clinic.
Tips and Warnings
- Sunscreen should be applied about 1/2 hour before going outside, and should be reapplied every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Sunblocks aren’t just for the summer–they should be used year-round.
- Changes to the appearance or the texture of your skin is a warning sign of skin cancer. The Mayo Clinic points out that skin cancers are highly treatable with early detection, so see your dermatologist right away if you notice any such changes.
Hydroquinone may cause skin irritation, and may result in exogenous ochronosis in some instances, according to the NZDS. Exogenous ochronosis is a bluish or black discoloration of the nails and sun-exposed skin, and it may cause diminished skin elasticity and impaired wound healing.