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What are Sun Spots and How Do I Prevent Them?

what are sun spots

If you’ve often wondered how to get rid of sun spots, then you aren’t the only one… And while erasing them entirely may be a bit challenging, the key is knowing how to prevent them from showing up in the first place. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know…

With the help of NYC-based, board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, we’re breaking down exactly what sun spots are, what makes them different from freckles and other types of skin discoloration and the role sunscreen plays in preventing and actually helping existing spots become less prominent.

What are sun spots?

“Sun spots, also known as lentigines, are darkened areas of skin caused by an increased number of pigment-producing cells,” says Zeichner. “With exposure to UV light, not only do pigment-producing cells divide, but they go into overdrive, producing more pigment in the skin than you would normally have otherwise.”

The difference between sun spots, dark spots, freckles and melasma

Sun spots are also commonly referred to as “dark spots” or “liver spots,” so these three things are synonymous.

Freckles, on the other hand, are entirely different. “Ephelides, also known as freckles, are different from the sun spots most people are concerned with,” says Zeichner. “Freckles are minuscule dark patches on the skin that can be made worse by UV light. In the winter, when the skin is not as exposed to UV light, freckles tend to fade, but they’ll break out again the next summer.” Whether or not you develop freckles is determined by your genetics. “Generally speaking, most babies are not born with them, and they start to show up after exposure to sunlight,” says Zeichner.

The most important difference between sun spots and freckles is that sun spots indicate some level of UV-induced skin damage, while freckles do not. “Under the microscope, freckles have a normal number of pigment-producing cells,” says Zeichner. “Sun spots, on the other hand, have an abnormal amount of pigment-producing cells, which indicates some level of damage.”

Melasma is different from sun spots, too. “Melasma is considered a broad area of hyperpigmentation that typically occurs around the mouth, or around the eyes and the temples, sometimes extending to the forehead,” says Zeichner. “It’s also thought to be made worse by hormone stimulation, which is why it’s commonly referred to as the mask of pregnancy. UV light may also contribute to its development, and definitely to its worsening.”

The most important difference between sun spots and freckles is that sun spots indicate some level of UV-induced skin damage, while freckles do not.

How does sunscreen help mitigate sun spots?

As always, you should make it a habit to wear broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every single day to keep your skin protected from all UV exposure. Regular use of sunscreen will be your best bet in preventing sun spots from forming. And if you have sun spots, sunscreen is a must to keep them under control.

“Regular use of sunscreen will protect the skin against harmful UV rays that promote the development of dark spots,” says Zeichner. “Even if you already have sun spots, using sunscreen can help protect the skin and prevent inflammation. This will allow the skin to heal itself to the best of its ability, which often comes with the improvement of sun spots.”

What kind of sunscreen should you use for sun spots and for sun spot prevention?

As mentioned above, you’ll want a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30, but beyond that, you’ll just want to find something that you love wearing every day. Zeichner also recommends using a sunscreen with vitamin C. “Brightening ingredients like vitamin C will help reduce pigmentation,” he says. “It’s a potent antioxidant that interferes with abnormal production of pigmentation.”

how to get rid of sun spots

Luckily, our Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist SPF 50 contains vitamin C for a double punch of broad spectrum SPF protection and vitamin C antioxidant benefits. This super lightweight mist was created primarily for body, but you can also spray it onto your hands and apply to your face as well. The best part is that it doesn’t smell like sunscreen so it’s a great everyday choice for ultimate protection.

If you’re wearing a vitamin C serum on your face, then we have plenty of face-focused sunscreens to pair with it. Superscreen SPF 40 is a hydrating moisturizer for dry skin, Zincscreen SPF 40 is a daily lotion for acne-prone skin and Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 is our clear sunscreen primer that works well on a variety of skin types. Just be sure to use one or two of these diligently every day to protect your sun spots from those pesky UV rays.

+More questions about sun spots? Leave them below!