Sunspots: When to be Concerned

Skin sunspots are a type of hyperpigmentation that develops from prolonged sun exposure. Generally, sunspots appear flat and brown and are darker than the skin’s surrounding areas. The most common places for sunspots to emerge are on the face, hands, arms, and shoulders. These areas receive greater sun exposure, making them a higher risk of developing sunspots.  

Sunspots are caused by an overproduction of a pigment known as melanin. This substance is responsible for hair, skin, and eye pigmentation or color. Fortunately, sunspots are typically harmless. Individuals who suffer from chronic sunspots are predominately worried about the cosmetic aspect. However, sunspots can be an indicator of sun damage to the skin. Excessive sun exposure leads to a variety of skin-related issues that everyone should consider.  

It is important to care for your skin and to take the appropriate measures to avoid sun damage. Individuals should be aware of their sunspots, keeping an eye on changes or abnormalities that may occur with them. 

Situations That May Be Concerning When It Comes to Sunspots:  

  1. Irregular Borders: Similarly to warts, freckles, and other formations on the skin, sunspots should maintain an even border. Sunspots that appear jagged or have irregular borders might be cause for concern. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, has been known to present itself within abnormal sunspots. 
  2. Change in Appearance: Just like any other skin condition, changes in the skin’s appearance should be evaluated by a professional to rule out any threatening conditions. If you notice that there is a change in color, size, shape, or texture regarding a sunspot, it is important to contact a dermatologist. Rapid changes may indicate a more serious skin condition such as skin cancer. Detecting these changes early is critical to prevent the spread of cancer cells. 
  3. Bleeding or Itching: Bleeding, painful, or itchy sunspots could be signs of an issue that requires medical attention. If you are experiencing these undesirable symptoms with your sunspots, it is best to have it checked by a doctor.  
  4. Family History: If you have an existing personal or family history of skin cancer, scheduling regular checkups with a dermatologist is recommended.  
  5. Rapid Growth: Sunspots that become significantly larger in a brief period may be cause for concern and should be evaluated.  

 Protecting your skin from sun exposure can help prevent the development of new sunspots and reduce the risk of further sun damage.  

Tips to Avoid Sun Damage and Potential Sunspots: 

  1. Applying sunscreen any time your skin is exposed to the sun is key to protecting it from damage. It is recommended to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF every day. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, especially if you are sweating or swimming. 
  2. Seek Shade: You can reduce direct sun exposure and harmful rays by spending as much time in the shade as possible. The sun’s rays are typically strongest between 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon.  
  3. Protective Clothing: It is beneficial to cover areas of the skin when there is prolonged time spent outdoors. A common misconception is that your skin is free from damage on cloudy days. However, it is important to protect your skin whether or not the sun is shining. Long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses with UV protection are just some options to help avoid direct sun exposure. 
  4. Sunglasses: As stated previously, wearing sunglasses can help block both UVA and UVB rays, which can be damaging to the eyes and skin surrounding them.  
  5. Avoid Tanning Beds: It is best to avoid using tanning beds due to their harmful effects and the rays they emit. Tanning beds are known to cause skin damage and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.  
  6. Lip Balm: Specialized lip balms that contain SPF are beneficial to protect your lips from sun damage.  
  7. Shade-Friendly Activities: Opting for activities in the shade not only allows you to avoid direct sunlight but also keeps your body hydrated. Places near water, sand, or snow are more likely to cause harm due to their reflective surfaces. It is vital to be cautious when around surfaces with intensified, reflective rays.  
  8. Regular Skin Exams: One of the most influential steps to maintaining healthy skin is to schedule regular skin exams with a health care professional. This is particularly important if you notice any abnormal changes or spots on the skin.  
  9. Skin-Healthy Diet: Incorporating antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals into your diet is beneficial to support healthy skin. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are advantageous choices when it comes to your skin’s health.  

Protecting your skin from an early age and engaging in consistent sun protection habits will not only reduce the risk of damage but can also help prevent sunspots. If you notice any changes in your skin or existing sunspots, it is best to consult with a dermatologist. A professional can help determine if there is a greater risk. 

If it is time for your annual appointment or you have skin-related concerns or irregularities, contact our office. Dr. Gurgen at Lady Lake Dermatology and Mohs Surgery in the Village and Leesburg offers quality and personalized care for our patients.