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Sun spots, also known as liver spots (even though they have nothing to do with the liver), are spots of hyperpigmentation that develop on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.

UVB radiation damages keratinocytes, which are cells in the top layer of the skin. This DNA damage releases chemicals which stimulate melanocytes to produce melanin, which is then distributed to the surrounding keratinocytes resulting in the appearance of tan, freckled, or spotted skin. When the skin is chronically overexposed to sun, the melanocytes may proliferate, which results in the spots becoming darker and more widespread. UVA radiation penetrates past the epidermis and straight into the dermis, slowly yet irreversibly damaging the skin. Not only does UVA break down collagen and elastin (causing wrinkles), it is responsible for irregular pigmentation that may take decades to appear.

This is different from melasma (brown or gray spots found on the forehead, cheek or nose), which is triggered by hormonal influences. Melasma is usually brought on by pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and other hormone therapies

Sunspots are commonly found on the face, shoulders, back, and the backs of the hands and tend to develop around 40 years of age. However, they may develop earlier in life depending on your level of sun exposure. They do not discriminate between genders, and can appear on men and women of any race.

You can not permanently remove sunspots, and I don’t recommend lasers in this situation. However, you can minimize the appearance at home and or with your professional through special medicated creams.

Applying a sunscreen to the face and décolleté daily is crucial in preventing further hyperpigmentation and preventing sun spots. I recommend using Dr. Barbara Sturm Sun Drops, which protect your skin against both UVA and UVB rays, and also contains SPF 50 broad spectrum protection against the sun.

I also recommend Environ’s 3 Focused Care Radiance + Range, which is a three step regimen treatment that includes vitamin C and other potent ingredients to lighten dark spots and improve the appearance of uneven skin tone. Please note, this should not replace your sunscreen.

Step 1 is the Multi-Bioactive Mela-Prep Lotion, which contains highly specialized ingredients for a brighter, more even-toned complexion. Step 2, Vita-Botanical Mela-Fade Serum System, is comprised of 2 serums that contain a potent blend of vitamins and botanicals that assist in targeting the root causes of skin discoloration and help to improve the appearance of visible skin damage. The final step in this range is the Intense C-Boost Mela-Even Cream, which is a vitamin C cream that reveals a brighter, more evenly radiant and healthier looking skin.

In-Studio treatments including Cold Therapy are extremely effective in treating hyperpigmentation and dark spots. Cryogenically cooled air helps infuse targeted brightening serums into the skin for maximum absorption. Additionally, green and yellow LED light are also effective in improving the appearance of sun damage.

When you look at a brown spot on your skin, it is not always easy to tell the difference between a sunspot, freckle, mole or melanoma. This is why it is important to always check your spots, and see a doctor or skincare expert if you notice any changes, inconsistencies or abnormalities.