If you are experiencing spots on your hands, face, shoulders and chest, you may be wondering what they are, how they got there, and what you can do about them. These splotches can be anything from freckles to sun spots to liver spots or age spots. When skin is exposed to the UV-B rays from the sun, specialized skin cells called melanocytes activate. Once activated, the cells produce increased amounts of melatonin, which darken freckles, create age and sun spots.
For those with fair complexions, freckles are a lifelong companion. Freckles are a genetic gift and their job is to actually protect the skin, sadly for persons with these genetic qualities, they don’t tan well. Freckles can vary in color and include: yellow, red, tan, brown, and even black. The more sun exposure, the darker the freckles become and in months with little sun exposure, they become lighter. Freckles are funny little fellows that may remain for a lifetime or disappear completely in adulthood. Freckles are a natural defense against UV-B and are not damage. The bottom line, nature gave them and nature takes them.
Unlike freckles, sun spots are damage in response to the sun’s UV-B rays. Also termed actinic keratosis, sun spots can appear as rough or raised spots. Sun spots take years of exposure to appear. People on immuno-suppressants are at risk for developing sun spots, as are light haired, persons with green or blue eyes. Sun spots may develop into cancer, beginning as a small, scaly area and should be evaluated by a dermatologist as soon as it’s discovered.
Also called solar lentigines, age spots/liver spots appear as brown or grey colored areas appearing predominately on the hands and can appear as early as forty, but generally appear near the age of 50. These spots are color changes that are caused as a result of sun damage. They are generally harmless and can be treated with a number of skin care products such Retin-A treatments, bleaching treatments and acid peels.