Are brown spots on my skin dangerous?

August 8, 2014

Flat brown spots on the skin are called senile lentigo—not to be confused with lentigo, which is a regular mole. While some people seem to inherit the likelihood of having brown spots, the main cause of the dark pigmentation is prolonged exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun or from tanning salons. That's why the spots usually show up in people over the age of 40. Brown spots can show up on any part of the body regularly exposed to the sun, such as the hands, feet, chest, shoulders and arms. Over time, smaller spots tend to merge into larger ones.

They’re not really dangerous, but...

While they may be unsightly, brown spots are not considered dangerous in and of themselves; the pigmentation is simply caused by an overproduction of melanin. It is a good idea to examine them and even have them looked at by a doctor from time to time to make sure they don’t evolve into lentigo maligna, pre-cancerous skin cells that can turn into melanoma.

Farewell, brown spots — almost!

Whether you call them age spots, sun spots or liver spots, what we all can agree upon is that we wish they weren’t there at all. The good news is that you can make them less visible. There is some bad news, though, if you want to keep from getting more of them: your days of sunbathing will have to be a thing of the past. Here are the main treatments available in medical clinics and beauty salons.

  • Skin creams that are designed to fade brown spots.
  • Laser therapy, which destroys the cells containing melanin (or melanocytes) and gradually fades brown spots.
  • Cryotherapy, or liquid nitrogen, for lightening brown spots.
  • Peeling, which involves a deep exfoliation of the skin to remove dead cells and dark spots.
  • Dermabrasion, which abrades and removes the superficial layers of the skin to remove stains and blemishes.

To find out which treatment is right for your skin type, a consultation with a health professional is strongly recommended. It is extremely important to deal with a reputable esthetician or dermatologist who has the required skills and experience. Exposure to the sun should be avoided after any of these treatments, as the skin is tender and fragile.

To prevent brown spots

Ah, yes, the bad news again. Sun exposure is the culprit behind brown spots, so if you don’t want to have them, you’ll have to take the sun very seriously from now on. There are three ways to prevent the appearance of brown spots.

  • Limit your exposure to the sun, especially between noon and 4:00 P.M.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 for the body and at least 30 for the face and neck. Put it on several times a day.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face.
Are brown spots on my skin dangerous?
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