Sunspots or age spots are often considered an inevitable consequence of aging. But they don’t have to be. With a little extra care, you can protect your skin and limit the damage and lower the chances of getting sunspots. Natural remedies and some small lifestyle changes can make all the difference.
What Are Sunspots?
Sunspots can manifest on the skin over time as a result of skin exposure to sunlight. They tend to occur more on the arms and face which see maximum exposure to radiation from the sun. These spots usually show up more later in life. They’re also called solar lentigines.1 Age spots as they are sometimes referred to, are usually brown and flat spots that are larger than freckles.2
You could sometimes develop actinic keratoses or solar keratoses – scaly and dry patches of skin. These patches may be brown, red, or pink and may even develop little spikes or horn-like sections where the skin becomes extra thick. Solar keratoses can measure anywhere from a couple of millimeters to as much as a few centimeters.3
Mainstream Treatment Options For Sunspots
Topical bleaching agents as well as topical creams are commercially produced to help lighten sunspots. However, they produce mixed results for some with effects only being temporary. This means that you have to constantly keep up purchase of these products and then use the chemicals on your skin. Instead, some natural alternatives can offer a gentler way to treat sunspots, and some of these are detailed in a later section.
Other methods, like the ones listed below, are also popular for those looking to do away with sunspots. But as one cautionary piece of research pointed out, while some studies and clinical research back the use of such treatment, evidence is far from adequate. What’s more, these methods are best used alongside protective preventive care like taking vitamins and using sunscreen, plus modifying lifestyle.4
- Laser resurfacing
- Photorejuvenation therapy with Intense Pulsed Light
- Chemical peels or microdermabrasion to slough off the topmost layer of your skin may help.
Conventional Treatment For Actinic Keratosis
With actinic keratosis, mainstream treatment is usually recommended because of the possibility of them developing into skin cancer. Even if you decide to wait and watch to see if it goes away on its own, you should be especially vigilant for signs like ulcer formation, bleeding, or sudden growth of the patch.5 Conventional treatment options include:
1. Surgical Options
- Cryotherapy where tissue in the patch is literally frozen using liquid nitrogen so that the cells can be specifically targeted to crust and fall off, + Laser surgery using intense light to vaporize the tissue that’s affected or curettage and desiccation where the lesion is scraped or shaved away and heat/chemical applied to stop the bleeding.6
2. Topical Treatment/Field Therapy
When there are multiple lesions or patches that need treatment, topical solutions, gels, or creams can be applied and have little to no risk of causing scars. Besides these, chemical peels may also be used to get rid of the layer of skin that has spots allowing new blemish-free skin to form in its place.
- Topical chemotherapy using medication like 5-fluorouracil7,
- Topical immunotherapy to stimulate the production of interferon to fight cancerous and precancerous cells8, or
- Combination topical therapy using Diclofenac and hyaluronic acid,9
3. Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
Light-sensitizing topical agent is applied to the lesions after which strong light focussed on the area helps activate the agent. Only the actinic keratosis is destroyed and surrounding tissue is safe. Sunlight may be used as an alternative light source.10
Fair skinned people are especially susceptible to sunspots. However, everyone should try and exercise caution while out in the sun.
1. Use Sunscreen
Always use sunscreen with SPF or sun protection factor of over 15 before you head outdoors. A broad spectrum sunscreen that offers protection against ultraviolet rays of both kinds is ideal.11
2. Avoid 11 am–3 pm Jaunts
Skip going out between 11 am and 3 pm if you can help it. A short car drive should be fine but avoid too much direct exposure. That’s because sun rays are at their strongest at this time of day.12
3. Cover Up
A simple yet effective way to protect yourself is to just cover up your arms and legs when you’re heading out. Use a large oversized hat to shield your face.13
4. Skip Indoor Tanning
An artificial tan may seem like a good idea but exposure to this artificial ultraviolet radiation can also cause actinic keratoses.14
Getting Rid Of Sunspots Naturally
Here are some home remedies and natural treatments for sunspots. Much of the evidence is anecdotal, so results may vary depending on how dark the spots are and individual response to the remedy. If you have sensitive skin or have allergies that could make you erupt in a rash, avoid these methods. Always do a test patch on some skin to ensure you are not allergic before using it across the body on all sunspots.
The green papaya skin can be used to treat sunspots. The fleshy side of the skin can be rubbed on the affected skin very gently.15
2. Lemon Juice And Other Natural Bleaching Agents
Lightening the skin with natural bleaching agents like lemon juice or by gently rubbing a lemon skin on your face and skin can help potentially fade age spots. Other natural agents include cucumber skin or cucumber juice, green grapes, milk, and strawberries that can be applied pulped or juiced and dabbed on gently with a cotton ball.16
3. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has long been known as a natural remedy for a host of skin problems. The soothing cooling gel, when applied to sun-damaged skin, doesn’t just heal skin but also helps with age spots.17
4. Vitamins C And E
Antioxidants are known to help fight free radical damage and oxidative stress – factors responsible for aging skin and in part, causing damage like sunspots. Which is why vitamins C and E are recommended for consumption as well as topical use to treat sunspots or age spots.18 Consume foods like citrus fruits, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes, and tomatoes that are rich in Vitamin C; or nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, and vegetable oils rich in Vitamin E.19 20
5. Green Tea
Green tea as a topical treatment is also suggested. Simply brew the tea and use a clean cotton ball to apply to your age spots. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits are said to help with treating sun damage to skin.21
The natural acids in yogurt, like papaya, can help remove the top layer of skin acting as a natural peel. Fresh new skin is revealed underneath and the sunspots get sloughed off with the dead skin. Simply apply to the face directly and leave on. Add some oatmeal to create a scrub and get rid of that layer of rough sun damaged skin. Just take care to be gentle.22
|↑1||Moles. National Health Service Direct Wales.|
|↑2, ↑11||Skin Care and Aging. National Institute on Aging.|
|↑3, ↑5, ↑12, ↑13||Actinic keratoses. National Health Service.|
|↑4||Pryor, Landon, Chad R. Gordon, Edward W. Swanson, Richard G. Reish, Kelly Horton-Beeman, and Steven R. Cohen. “Dermaplaning, topical oxygen, and photodynamic therapy: a systematic review of the literature.” Aesthetic plastic surgery 35, no. 6 (2011): 1151-1159|
|↑6, ↑7, ↑8, ↑9, ↑10||Treatments for Actinic Keratosis. Skin Cancer Foundation.|
|↑14||Actinic keratoses. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑15||Tietze, Harald W. Papaya the Medicine Tree. Harald Tietze Publishing P/, 2003.|
|↑16, ↑17||Stepanovs, Juta. Skin Saver Remedies. Harald Tietze Publishing P/, 1999.|
|↑18||SHENEFELT, PHILIP D., and ROBERT A. NORMAN. “Dermatologic Conditions.” Integrative Men’s Health (2014): 333.|
|↑19||Vitamin C. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑20||Vitamin E. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑21||KIM, KAREN H., and PHILLIP C. SONG. “Skin Care for the Performing Artist.” The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health (2013): 187.|
|↑22||Tourles, Stephanie L. Herbal Remedies for a Lifetime of Healthy Skin: Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin A-222. Storey Publishing, 1999.|