What Are These Flat Brown Spots?

Read Time: 3 minutes

The sun can cause many types of damage to the skin, including sunburns, wrinkles, and sunspots. Sunspots are flat brown spots that usually show up on the face, neck, chest, or hands. Are these sunspots dangerous? And when is it necessary to see a dermatologist?

Are They Dangerous? When to see a Dermatologist

Does a sunspot mean skin cancer?

As their name implies, sunspots are caused by exposure to the sun. Sunspots are sometimes called liver spots or age spots, although these spots have nothing to do with the liver and are not caused by aging. Sunspots are generally harmless and don’t pose any health risks. Typically, the only reasons to remove sunspots are cosmetic ones.

However, it is important to know the difference between sunspots and signs of skin cancer caused by sun damage. The most common type of skin cancer is melanoma, and it is the most serious. Usually, early signs of melanoma include a new mole or a mole that has new characteristics, such as changes in shape, size, itching, or bleeding. True age spots are noncancerous; however, any spot on the skin that is rapidly changing size or shape should be evaluated by a dermatologist.

Those sunburns add up

Over the years, prolonged and frequent sun exposure, including using tanning beds, can increase a person’s risk of developing sunspots. People who have a history of frequent or intense sunburns are also at higher risk. Though anyone can develop sunspots, they are more common in people with fair skin or red hair.

So, do I need to stay inside?

While staying inside on sunny days can reduce risk of sun damage, the American Academy of Dermatology has a few recommendations for preventing sunspots and skin cancer. And these tips don’t involve being reclusive!

  • Avoid direct sun exposure by finding shady areas, especially from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. when sun’s rays are the strongest.
  • Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day. Many people think that sunscreen is only appropriate on sunny days. But people are at risk of sun damage even on cloudy or chilly days.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours when spending time outside.
  • Use extra caution around water and snow, as they reflect the UV rays and cause extra sun exposure.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Perform regular skin self-checks and schedule regular appointments with a dermatologist for professional check-ups.

How can a dermatologist help with sunspots?

Though sunspots are not dangerous, some people want them removed for cosmetic reasons. Dermatologists can prescribe retinols or other creams that will work more efficiently than over-the-counter products for sunspot reduction. Additionally, procedures like microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and chemical spot treatments can reduce the appearance of sunspots.