Brown spots on the skin are also called age spots, liver spots, sunspots and senile lentigo. They are usually flat and gray, black or brown spots that appear on the areas of the skin that are most often exposed to direct sunlight or ultraviolet rays from tanning beds. They are caused by the surplus production of melanin.
Doctors may not always know the reason age spots develop. They most often appear on the face, shoulders, upper back and forearms. Brown spots may develop in people of any age, sex or color. However, there are certain risk factors that make them more common in people:
- Over 40 years of age
- With fair skin
- Who have years of sun exposure
- Who use tanning beds frequently
Brown spots usually have the same texture as the rest of your skin and are painless. Our specialist will usually diagnose brown spots simply by looking at them. If there is any consideration that the spots may not be simple age spots, our specialist may request a biopsy on one or more spot. This means a small section of skin will be taken for tests.
Age spots usually are not dangerous and do not cause any health problems, but they may be unsightly and many people want to have them removed. While there are creams that may help brown spots to fade, they may take several months, and the skin needs regular applications of sunscreen during the treatment. Other treatments that our specialist may recommend include:
- Laser treatments to stop the cells that produce melanin
- Chemical peels that gently remove the outer layer of skin and stimulate the deeper layers to produce more collagen that replaces the removed old skin
- IPL photorejuvenation, which uses light to remove blemishes
Whichever treatment is recommended for you, wearing sunscreen afterwards is essential because the skin will be very sensitive to ultraviolet rays. You may not be able to prevent brown spots from forming, but you may be able to reduce the chances of developing them if you:
- Wear sunscreen with a high SPF every day and make sure it has UVA and UVB protection. It should be applied about 30 minutes before you go out into the sun and reapplied every two hours if you perspire or swim.
- Wear a wide brim hat to protect your face when you go into the sun and a long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms and shoulders.
Brown spots are harmless, but if they cause you to be distressed about your appearance, you can have them removed. Make an appointment at Guelph Medical Laser and Skin Centre in Guelph to learn more about your treatment options for brown spots. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.