How to banish sunspots from your face

Not so enamoured with those little brown blotches on your skin? Here’s how to get rid of – or at least minimise – sunspots.

If you have noticed sunspots on your face, it is likely they are the result of sunburn, or too much tanning, years ago.

But if they’re bothering you, it’s not too late to take action.

What are sunspots?

“Sunspots are flat brown spots, and they become more prevalent with age, as they’re caused by cumulative sun exposure,” Sinclair Dermatology dermatologist Dr Lara Trindade says.

“If we have lots of sun exposure throughout our lives, over the years it will trigger our pigment-producing cells, called melanocyte, in our skin to produce more pigment in a small concentrated area.”

What do sunspots look like?

SSKIN cosmetic clinic skin specialist Amba Brennan says sunspots are not raised, but stand out because of their darker pigmentation.

“It’s almost like a blotch I guess – a blotchy darker pigment that’s formed on the surface of the skin,” Amba says.

“They could be anywhere on the face, but generally where the sun hits the skin the most.”

Don’t be surprised if sunspots start sprinkling themselves across your face, decolletage, tops of your shoulders, back and hands in your late 30s or early 40s, she says.

Are sunspots dangerous?

The short answer is no, they are harmless.

But Dr Trindade says there is a type of melanoma, called lentigo maligna, which can look a bit like a sunspot in its early stages.

“I would definitely schedule a skin check with a dermatologist just to check if they (sunspots) are actually what they think they are,” she says.

GPs who are trained in using a dermoscope – a device that allows practitioners to see under the surface of the skin – can also carry out skin checks.

How to prevent sunspots

Protecting yourself from the sun is the simplest way to stop sunspots forming, though for some of us the damage may have already been done in our childhood and early adulthood.

But whatever you can do to dodge the sun’s rays – such as wearing at least SPF 30 sunscreen, a broad-brimmed hat and large sunglasses that protect the delicate skin around the eyes – will help stem future damage, Dr Trindade says.

Options for treating sunspots

Amba recommends Vitamin C, a tyrosinase inhibitor, to slow the progression of sunspots, and says it is best applied as a serum.

“Tyrosinase is the enzyme responsible for controlling the production of melanin,” she says.

Vitamin A, as part of a regular skincare routine, can also be effective in reducing the appearance of sunspots, she says, but notes it does make your skin more sun sensitive so you will need to limit future sun exposure.

Professional treatments for sunspots

Amba says skin needling, “which corrects pigment from the inside out”, is one of her favoured methods for treating sunspots.

Dr Trindade, however, favours non-ablative laser treatments, or cryotherapy.

“Cryotherapy basically removes sunspots, freezing them with a liquid nitrogen solution,” she says.

Dr Trindade says chemical peels can also achieve good results with sunspots.

“I would recommend a medium-strength peel because with the superficial peels, you would need multiple sessions, and you might not get the result you were expecting because they don’t penetrate enough skin to eliminate the pigmentation,” she says.

The downside of medium-strength chemical peels is that you might want to hide away for about seven to 10 days as your skin recovers from the treatment.

Written by Larissa Ham.