Sun spots are flat, brown or tan marks on sun exposed areas of the body like the face, chest, neck, arms and the back of the hands. They are most common as people get older, as the skin's ability to protect itself from the sun's UV rays is diminished with age. Many consider them embarrassing and although they are not a medical concern once declared benign, patients often seek treatment to remove or reduce the appearance of sun spots.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

The best way to treat sun spots is to avoid them altogether. This is best accomplished by reducing one's exposure to the sun's rays, or by wearing sunscreen or the proper clothing when outdoors in the sun for an extended period of time. Tanning beds may also be a source of sun damage, as some studies have shown that UVA rays from tanning beds may be up to two to three times more powerful than rays that occur naturally from the sun. Avoiding tanning beds is also a good way to prevent sun spots and other cosmetic blemishes related to sun damage. Many clinics or medical spas now offer sunless tanning as an alternative.

Cosmetic Treatments

Various cosmetic options are available for treating sun spots. Chemical peels have been used successfully to provide a controlled damage to the skin so that new skin grows to improve appearance. Chemical peels may be superficial and only lightly affect the epidermis, or they may be very deep and affect both the epidermis and dermis. The severity of the condition may determine which chemical peel is used. Intense pulsed light therapies are also available to provide relief from sun spots. This treatment is non-ablative, meaning it does not cause damage to the epidermis, but rather targets the dermis. New collagen is produced, resulting in a tighter, more youthful appearance as well. Laser resurfacing is another option for treating sun spots. A high intensity beam of light is used to ablate the skin. The production of new collagen and skin cells is produced, providing relief from various cosmetic blemishes including sun spots. While other treatment options may also be available, chemical peels, intense pulsed light therapy and laser resurfacing are common in most medical spas and clinics. Before choosing any treatment, patients are encouraged to seek consultation with a trained and certified skincare professional.