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How to Treat Sun Spots on the Skin

Updated March 23, 2017

Sun spots, or age spots, are flat grey, brown or black spots that appear on areas of the body most exposed to the sun, such as your face, hands, shoulders and arms. Sun spots develop over time from years of frequent or prolonged exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light accelerates the production of melanin, the pigment in the upper layer of skin that gives your skin its colour, and increases uneven pigment production resulting in sun spots. Lighten and fade sun spots by protecting your skin from further sun damage and with natural remedies or topical treatments.

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  1. Apply a sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to exposed skin any time you are outside and exposed to sunlight to prevent sun damage and more sun spots. Prevent and fade sun spots simultaneously with an anti-ageing sunscreen, serum or skin cream. The UV shields in such products will protect your skin from further sun damage while the anti-ageing ingredients minimise the appearance of existing sun spots.

  2. Try lightening sun spots with a natural remedy before resorting to harsh medical treatments. Squeeze the juice from one lemon into a bowl and dab the lemon juice on any areas of your skin with sun spots using a cotton swab or cotton ball. Though fading sun spots with a natural remedy will take more time than other treatments, the gentle fruit acids of lemon juice will fade sun spots and brighten your skin over time with regular use and without irritating your skin.

  3. Use an over-the-counter (OTC) fade cream or lotion containing less than 2 per cent of the bleaching agent hydroquinone. Hydroquinone may cause skin irritation, especially in its synthetic form, so if you have sensitive skin, opt for a cream containing plant-derived hydroquinone or another plant-based lightener, such as mulberry root, liquorice root, azelaic acid or kojic acid. You may need to use an OTC fade cream for several weeks to months before sun spots fade.

  4. Talk to you dermatologist about prescription bleaching creams containing hydroquinone, alone or with retinoids and a mild steroid, if natural or OTC remedies do not effectively fade sun spots over time. Only use a prescription bleaching cream as a last resort for at-home treatment, as prescription bleaching creams are more likely to cause skin irritation, including itching, redness, burning or dryness. Sun spots will gradually fade over several months with regular use.

  5. Tip

    No matter how you treat sun spots, continue to wear sunscreen when you're outside, especially when using medication treatments. While you can permanently remove sun spots with medical procedures, such as laser therapy, freezing, dermabrasion and chemical peels, try lightening and fading sun spots with at-home treatments before turning to complete sun spot removal. Not only are these procedures expensive, they can cause temporary discolouration and skin irritation, including redness and scabbing, or even permanent scarring and discolouration.

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Things You'll Need

  • Sunscreen (SPF 30+)
  • Lemons
  • Bowl
  • Cotton swabs or cotton balls
  • Over-the-counter fade cream
  • Prescription bleaching cream

About the Author

Kaitlin Meilert has been writing since 2006. Her articles have appeared in "Reality Check Girl Magazine," "Hilltop Views" and the "Statesman." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English writing and rhetoric from St. Edward's University.

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