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Sun Spot Causes & Treatment

Updated: May 6, 2021

Fun in the sun left you feeling' shady? You are not alone! We all love the sunshine, but sometimes it doesn't love our skin. Excessive exposure to the sun is a direct cause of sun spots (also called age spots). However, genetics may also predispose some individuals to developing age spots more readily than others. Melanin is the pigment that give skin color. UV rays from the sun causes more melanin to be produced, resulting in tanning. High UV ray exposure over time causes damage to the skin cells. So instead of the melanin being produced in an evenly distributed fashion, it clumps together in high concentrations leading to sun spots.


Melanocytes produce melanin to protect against the harmful effects of UV light. Melanin protects the skin by shielding it from the sun. It's your body's natural protection from a sun burn. We all look better with a healthy glow, but extended amounts of time in the sun (or a tanning bed) is dangerous. It takes time for melanocytes to produce enough melanin to give your to proper protection from the sun. When melanocytes can't work quickly enough to create a tan, the UV rays from the sun can burn the skin. Sun damage accumulates over time and can lead to skin cancer. The lighter the skin, the higher your risk for skin cancer.

DNA Mutation

With the depletion of the ozone layer, sun exposure involves more and more UV radiation. This radiation leads to DNA damage and eventually mutation. How? The sun damages DNA repair processes. This causes failures in the cell's check point process of ensuring that it's DNA is intact before permitting DNA replication and cell division, This mutation can lead to skin cancer.

Skin Cancer

Most moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are harmless - but not always. Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that begins in melanocytes. It is less common than less harmful forms of skin cancer like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is more dangerous due to its ability to rapidly spread to other organs. If you have any moles, consult a dermatologist for a full body check. Identifying potential skin cancer is not easy, and not all melanomas follow the rules. Finding melanoma at an early stage is crucial; early detection can vastly increase your chances for cure.

Benign Skin Spots

Non-cancerous skin spots include Melasma, Freckles and Lentiges. Freckles you've had since you were a kid, and can get darker during warm months and fade lighter during winter months. Lentiges are larger than freckles and are commonly referred to as sun spots, age spots or "liver spots". Some are direct consequences of severe sunburn. Melasma, irregular dark patches, is more common in women and appear in one's 20's and 30's. The patches are triggered by excessive sun exposure and intensified by hormone levels associated with birth control, pregnancy, or postmenopausal hormone therapy. Low levels of thyroid hormone may also contribute. It may appear during menopause as estrogen and progesterone levels decline.

Sun Spot Treatment

There are a variety of treatments available out there for sun spots. In order to make the right decision you need to understand what caused the sun spots in the first place. For example, if it is melasma, and a birth control has caused it, you could discuss possibly trying a different birth control with your gynecologist. It is difficult to correct melasma if you do not address the cause. After that point, you can begin to deal with the damage and changes that have taken place.

Melasma is chronic and relapsing in nature. No single treatment has been proven to be efficient for all patients with melasma, therefore treatment can be challenging. The most responsive to treatment is the forehead, while other locations and older lesions are more difficult. At Georgia Center MedSpa, our current treatment options include the following:

  1. Prevention of UV radiation (photo protection): SPF Broad Spectrum 30+, daily sun avoidance, and wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

  2. Hydroquinone Skincare: Obagi Blender every night and Obagi Clear twice daily, prescription strength, for 3 months.

  3. Topical Retinoids Skincare: Obagi tretinoin (retin-A) topical cream; pea sized amount applied 2-7 nights per week.

  4. Image Lightening Lift Chemical Peel: series of 6 peels at two week intervals.

  5. Image Perfection Lift: this peel is done only once or twice per year at 6 month intervals.

  6. Limelight IPL Photofacial: series of 3 treatments and one month intervals.

  7. Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C): Obagi C-clarifying serum every night for 3 months or Obagi Vitamin C Profession-C Serum 20% every night (can be used longer than 3 months).

Using Sunscreen & Obagi Nu-Derm Skincare


We carry a wide variety of sunscreens, including Revision Intellishade, Image Protection Plus, and Obagi Matte SPF 50. Sunscreen should be applied daily. When outdoors, reapply every two hours. Reapply immediately after swimming or sweating. Always check and make sure your sunscreen isn't expired. Our sunscreens are SPF 30 or higher, water resistant and provide broad-spectrum coverage. This means it protects you from UVA and UVB rays. Apply enough sunscreen to thoroughly coat the area. Also, keep in mind that if you are using prescription strength hydroquinone - it will denature if it comes in contact with UV rays - so proper sunscreen usage is pivotal!

Obagi Blender and Clear

Obagi's Nu-Derm skincare line contains the presciption products listed above. But using these products correctly is pivotal. Since they are prescription strength, they are highly concentrated and there is no need to use a large amount at each application. The hydroquinone products include Obagi Clear and Obagi Blender. What is the difference between these two? Saponins. Obagi Blender contains saponins to help it pull the it down to the lower dermis and fight pigmentation at a deeper level. Obagi Blender is used at night after Obagi Clear has been applied. Obagi Clear is designed to be used morning and night and helps more with surface damage and pigmentation on the upper layers of the skin.

Obagi C Rx C-Clarifying Serum

This product combines hydroquinone and vitamin C. This comes in a dropper vial, with drops recommended every night for 3 months. Do not use this and Obagi tretinoin on the same night.

Obagi Tretinoin

We carry. both cream and gel formulas of Obagi Tretinoin (Retin-A). For newcomers to tretinoin or those with extremely sensitive skin, Obagi's micronized treatinoin gel 0.05% may be ideal. It is time released so it impacts the skin more slowly than tretinoin cream. If your skin can tolerate stronger potency, 0.05% or 0.1% tretinoin cream may be the right starting point for you. You may need to use tretinoin consistently for 6 weeks to 3 months in order to fully experience results.

The first stage of using tretinoin is called "the purge". During this phase new skin cells push the build up of oil and bacteria to the skins outer layer. Before new skin cells can really be seen, this "interruption" may cause acne to worse as the skin's layers are "cleaned out". Then, new skin cells cause old skin cells to shed off the surface to make room for new skin cells, In the beginning the exfoliation may seem extreme. Applying an oil free, gentle moisture at least 20-45 minutes prior to applying tretinoin can help reduce the appearance of skin flaking. Also be sure to not apply tretinoin to wet skin, as this will intensify its effect leading to excessive dry skin and flaking. Towel dry you face before application.

Tretinoin has MANY ADVANTAGES, it improves suns spots, but it ALSO treats acne, enhances skin renewal, stimulates cell growth, and increases collagen production. Frequency of use: this can be titrated to your skin based on dryness and reaction. If needed, tretinoin can be used two nights per week (for sensitive skin) or every night (for oily skin). This is an excellent skincare product to use and continue to use in your skincare regimen! Why? It interrupts the cycle of aging and nourishes it with retinoid acid, the same acid the body requires to regenerate skin, produce collagen and rebuild elastin.

In Office Treatments

Limelight IPL Photofacial

Limelight is an intense pulse light treatment that treats the brown spots caused by sun damage, facial redness ,and in some cases tiny veins. After customizing the treatment for your specific skin care needs, the Limelight will heat up the brown or red cells, then over a period of 1-3 weeks the brown spots will slough off and redness will reduce. Another positive benefit of Limelight is the stimulation of collagen production. This may lead you to notice some fine lines plump up. In most cases, Limelight is done in a series of 2-4 treatments, depending on the condition that needs to be treated. The treatment feels like a rubber band snapping against the skin. For a couple of hours post treatment you will experience some mild redness. Since Limelight is a non-ablative treatment, you can put your makeup on and go back to your day without any downtime.

Limelight is one of my favorite treatments to do because it is highly effective. In fact, I consider it to be the most effective treatment for controlling pigmentation due to sun exposure. Of course, every good clinical treatment is only made better by the products you use at home. The Obagi products mentioned above are a great compliment to this treatment, except avoid tretinoin usage the week before and after Limelight treatment. SUNSCREEN MUST BE WORN PRIOR TO AND AFTER TREATMENT. Avoid any sun exposure two weeks prior to treatment, this decreases the risk for side effects from treatment.

Image Lightening Peel

Chemical peels effectively remove the outermost layer of skin to reveal a smoother complexion with fewer lines and sunspots. In a nutshell, this is a lightening facial treatment which works with specialist peels, blending together lactic and kojic acids with a cocktail of lightening agents to reduce pigmentation. It can also be super helpful to ease up the redness caused by Rosacea.

The Image Lightening Lift doesn’t cause skin peeling or a burning sensation either. It tingles lightly when the peel is applied, but it lasts around 2 minutes and just leaves skin looking a little pink immediately after. You could easily go back to work after the treatment, as there is no skin shedding or peeling straight after.

Image Perfection Lift

A combination of salicylic acid, retinol and lactic acid make up this amazing peel. These strong ingredients combat wrinkles and lines that come with ageing not sparing acne, uneven pigmentation and blemishes. It works in a way that stimulates collagen production; it's the skin's repair powerhouse.

After treatment, you will notice the reddening of your skin and you will wear a visible shine immediately after the peel. This will give way to a tight feeling of the skin on the second day. Day three is when your skin will eventually start to peel off. The peeling will last about three days, with strong peeling starting around the mouth since it’s the part that moves most and milder peeling on the outer face. The peeled skin will need up to four to five days to completely recover. A good moisturizer will be handy in reducing the peeling appearance. But then you are good to go! If you are attending an event, remember to have your peel done at least two weeks prior to give your skin plenty of time to recover.

This peel can be done once every 6 months.

Ready to schedule? Contact our office today!


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