Sun spots, also known as liver spots or age spots, are the result of long-term exposure to the sun\'s ultraviolet (UV) rays. These flat, brownish patches appear
on areas of the body most often exposed to the sun – especially the face, hands, and arms. Though sun spots are benign, they are unsightly and are often accompanied by other types of sun damage such as rough skin and wrinkles. In some cases, sun spots obscure the presence of skin cancer.
Prevention of Sun Damage
Prevention is the best way to address sun spots and other types of sun damage. Using a sunscreen lotion or cream daily, especially on the face and hands, is a good way to avoid sun damage. Anyone who enjoys outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, or skiing should always be sure to use sunscreen that protects against UV-A and UV-B rays, and to reapply it as necessary according to the product’s instructions. Swimming and any prolonged contact with water can wash off conventional sunscreen products, so anyone planning to be in the water should be sure to use a waterproof sunscreen lotion or cream.
Avoiding excessive exposure to the sun is also a good way to avoid sun damage. Too much exposure to the sun and other sources of UV radiation elevates the risk of contracting skin cancer. UV exposure can also accelerate the natural aging of the skin by damaging collagen fibers, and it is associated with the formation of sun spots and other types of sun damage. Indoor and outdoor tanning both contribute to this process. It is important to limit exposure to UV radiation from any source.
Symptoms of Sun Damage
Sun-damaged skin shows a number of characteristic symptoms. Sun spots are the most obvious, but wrinkles, lines, leathery texture, brittleness, broken capillaries, and pigmentation problems can also result from sun exposure. Any of these conditions can produce signs of premature aging on the skin, even on surprisingly young patients.
Sun Damage Treatment
There are a wide variety of cosmetic dermatology treatments available for sun damage. BOTOX® Cosmetic is an effective injection treatment for wrinkles. It immobilizes the muscles responsible for the formation of wrinkles, softening their appearance. Because sun damage involves damage to the skin’s natural collagen, collagen injections can be used to treat wrinkles and lines caused by exposure to the sun.
Chemical peels and abrasive procedures are another option for sun damage treatment. A chemical peel strips away dead skin cells and damaged outer layers of the skin, stimulating the growth of healthy new skin. Microdermabrasion, a procedure that exfoliates the outer layers of the skin with a spray of fine crystals, can also be used to stimulate new skin growth. Both these techniques are excellent for removing or reducing the appearance of minor scars and blemishes as well as signs of sun damage.
There are also a variety of laser and light techniques available to treat sun-damaged skin. With Intense Pulsed Light (IPL™) therapy, the dermatologist treats the skin with flashes of light from a high-energy, full-spectrum xenon lamp. This technique is particularly effective for treating pigmentation problems and capillary damage. Laser skin resurfacing uses a single wavelength laser beam to dissolve molecular bonds in the skin and vaporize the outer skin layers. Once the skin heals, it appears tighter and smoother. Lasers are also used to remove sun spots.