Sun Damaged Skin Spots: When You Should Worry

I know you would agree with me when I say that I would rather be tan than pasty. Most people would. That’s why, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 58 million people went to the beach in 2010, and that number will have also increased since then. But sun exposure presents certain dangers, especially without proper protection.

And I’m not talking about sharks. Sun damage spots appear on skin due to UV-ray exposure, and those who spend more time at the beach or just laying out in the sun are at a greater risk for developing them. They appear most often on the nose, ears, neck, shoulders, and other areas that receive the most attention from the sun.

The good news is that there are solutions! Although there are skin problems out there due to overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays, there also preventative measures that can be taken to prevent sunspots from ever occurring. The first step is having a basic understanding of these unwanted spots so that they can be identified and dealt with quickly. That’s what we’re going to discuss today.

The Importance of Protecting Skin from the Sun

Millions of people spend time in tanning beds or lay out at the pool or the beach in order to get tanner. Sure, being tan may be an attractive quality, but it can come with some consequences if someone spends too much time in the sun in order to obtain the optimum level of “bronze” they’re shooting for.

Skin spots from sun exposure are more common in older individuals that have spent a significant amount of time in the sun, but that doesn’t mean that young people shouldn’t plan ahead and limit the amount of time their body is out in the sun, especially without sunscreen.

Understanding how important it is to protect their skin as much as possible will hopefully help motivate people to start taking preventative measure starting at an early age.

What are Sun Spots?

Sun damaged skin spots, also called solar lentigo, are dark spots from sun damage that appear on the skin. They appear on both males and females and are more common in older individuals who have had more time to expose their skin to the sun’s harmful rays.

Different Forms of Sun Damage

One distinction that should be made is the difference between solar lentigo and actinic keratosis. Solar lentigo, as described earlier, are dark spots that result from prolonged sun exposure. However, these sun spots are typically harmless.

Actinic Keratosis is another type of sun damage that can potentially be cancerous. Rather than dark and almost looking like a freckle, these spots begin flat and scaly and will be more of a pink or pale color. These are the sun damage red spots that many people experience. It’s estimated that 58 million Americans have this type of sun damage on their skin. These could also be referred to as red age spots.

Who Gets Sun Damage on their Skin?

One of the most commonly asked questions regarding this type of skin damage is who it can happen to. Young people that are spending a lot of time at the pool or at the beach are wondering if they should reconsider how much time they spend in the sun’s harmful rays, and the answer is yes.

The truth is that although sun damage occurs most commonly in older individuals in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, the damage starts when they are younger. People who begin spending a lot of time in their sun in their 20’s are putting themselves at a greater risk for skin damage, and even skin cancer. That’s why it’s so important to limit sun exposure and wear sunscreen.

Sun damage isn’t restricted to seniors. Young adults and even teenagers should start being smart around the sun in order to prevent having sunspots later in life.

Identifying Sun Damage Spots

If someone suspects that they are developing sun damage spots on face, their shoulders, or other parts of their body that have been exposed to the sun, it would be a good idea to get in touch with a dermatologist as soon as possible. However, there are simple ways to go about identifying them at home as well.

Solar Lentigo

The picture above is an example of a hand that has been marked with the dark brown spots of solar lentigo. It’s important to note that this version of sun damage is harmless physically, but aesthetically it can drastically affect someone’s skin. Solar lentigo can be identified by the brown spots that appear similar those on the hand that is seen above.

 brown spots

Actinic Keratosis

The lesions known as actinic keratosis are a bit more abrasive-looking, and are more of a concern. They are elevated off the skin, and are more pink like the spots that have appeared on the man’s forehead below. These spots can eventually develop into cancer, so those that suspect they have developed these reddish pink spots should contact their dermatologist.

What Does the Color Indicate?

It seems that a big factor in determining the severity of sun damaged skin is the color of the affected area. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the different types.

  • The brown spots that are often seen are solar lentigines. These are flat, brown marks that resemble freckles. Brown spotting is better than the others, as most of the cancerous forms of skin damage are going to come in another color.
  • Cherry Angioma is another type of skin spot that could be mistaken or sun damage. It’s a common skin spot that results from a broken blood vessel beneath the skin, and will be cherry red, hence the name.
  • Seborrheic Keratosis is another form of skin spot. They aren’t considered to be related to skin cancer or sun damage. They grow as black, brown, or tan bumps and appear in older people.
  • Actinic Keratosis is the type pictured above, where the pink or red bumps are a form of sun damage that can potentially become cancerous.

Although the brown spots are not great for cosmetic purposes, it’s the red and pink forms of sun damage that are most dangerous. If any spots that meet the description of actinic keratosis, one should head to the dermatologist immediately to avoid any worries about skin cancer or melanoma.

Preventing Sun Damage

No one wants sun damage to occur on their skin, or to develop sun damage brown spots, no matter how old they are. The good news is that there are simple steps that can be taken to help prevent them from ever occurring. When going to the beach, pool, or spending a significant amount of time outside where the sun will be strong, be sure to follow these simple tips for avoiding sun damage.

Prevention Techniques

  • Limit time in the sun – less sun exposure means less risk of developing sun spots
  • Wear Sunscreen – SPF 15 or higher
  • Exfoliate the skin with home cleansers
  • Use Aloe Vera gel if sunburns occur

Remember that those that live closer to the equator are at a greater risk of sun damage because the sun’s rays are stronger there. When vacationing in those areas, wear sunscreen if you’re going to be tanning, and if possible avoid the sun between 10 AM and 3 PM, the hours of the day when the sun is at its strongest.

Red Spots

Sun damage red spots are also a danger, as it was discussed earlier. Remember that these spots, called actinic keratosis, can also develop into a form of skin cancer. It’s extremely important that users do everything they can to prevent these spots from developing, especially if skin cancer runs in their family or they have paler skin.

Treating Sun Spots

The next thing someone with sun damage skin spots will want to know is how to go about treating the problem once it has already occurred.

Treatment Techniques

sun damage on their skin
  • Visit a dermatologist. There are lots of great skin doctors out there that know how to effectively treat sun damaged skin and ensure that it doesn’t develop into skin cancer
  • Milk or Buttermilk treatment can help remove sunspots on the face
  • Apple Cider Vinegar and Lemon Juice can also help lighten sunspots
  • Apply Aloe Vera gel. Like with sunburns, Aloe Vera can help with sun damage as well
  • Steep a green tea bag and hold it on the affected area

So, when should someone worry about sun damage from skin spots? If they see crusty, red or pink spots forming it could develop into a form of cancer and they should contact their dermatologist immediately.

The brown spots are a form or sun damage called solar lentigo, but they are harmless in comparison to the forms that can develop into skin cancer. It’s important to distinguish between the different types, and treat them accordingly. If someone suspects they have developed sun damage on their skin, the best thing for them to do is contact a dermatologist as soon as possible.

So, When to Worry?

When someone is given enough information, there should never come a time when they need worry about their skin spots that have occurred as a result of sun damage. A proper knowledge about sun exposure and the different types of sun damage on the skin will help someone identify if there has been harmful damage take place on their skin.

With proper preventative techniques and the quick treatment of any spots that have occurred, people can keep their skin looking healthy long into their later years. It’s important to see a dermatologist if a suspicious spot develops.

Hopefully no one ever needs to worry about having their skin become sun damaged and possibly even cancerous. However, in the society of today where many people are obsessed with having their skin as tan as possible, there are many people that will develop these skin conditions.

When is it Cancer?

One of the biggest questions concerning sun damaged skin is whether it is a form of skin cancer. The three biggest types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamos Cell Carcinoma

These are the most common and most treatable types of skin cancer. They make up about 95% of skin cancers that occur.


Melanoma is caused by abnormal pigment cells named melanocytes. This is the most serious form of skin cancer and results in 75% of all skin cancer deaths.

It’s important to remember that UV-radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer. Some of the early signs of skin cancers will include sun spots, like some of the ones that were described earlier.

What We Learned

Although sun exposure can lead to skin cancer and a variety of spots occurring on someone’s skin, there are millions of people that flock to beaches in the United States and around the world every year. Many of these people use sunscreen and take the preventative measures that help to prevent sunburn, sun damage, and skin cancer or melanoma from ever occurring. The problem is that many people don’t.

Not taking the proper measures against sunburn and sunspots leaves a person at risk for a variety of spots. From solar lentigines to actinic keratosis, there are several different forms and colors of sun spots that occur on someone’s skin. There are simple treatments that can be done at home to lessen and possibly remove these harmful spots. However, if spotting continues it’s recommended that one goes and visits a dermatologist.

It can be tricky to deal with the sun. Sun exposure is number one cause of skin cancer, so it’s very important that people begin taking the steps necessary to prevent sun damage from occurring on their skin. The less their skin is exposed to the sun, especially without sunscreen, the less their chances are of ever developing a form of skin cancer.


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