What Causes Sun Spots?

About 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. Meanwhile, over two people die of skin cancer in the US every hour. 

About 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with UV radiation from the sun, too. 

Are you worried about your skin health or the potential health risk of prolonged skin exposure? Are you starting to notice sun spots across your skin? What causes sun spots, exactly?

Keep reading to find out. With this guide, you can learn everything you need to know about sun spots. We’ll even cover prevention and treatment tips.

After reading this guide, you can make more informed decisions with your skin health in mind. Read on to learn everything you need to know about sun spots today. 

What Causes Sun Spots?

First, let’s answer the question that likely brought you here: what causes sun spots to form?

You might develop a few sun spots on your skin if you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun throughout your lifetime. Sun spots are also called solar lentigines, liver spots, and age spots. They appear as flat, smooth, brown spots in areas where your skin has experienced a lot of sun exposure. 

Usually, these spots are harmless areas of pigmented skin. However, they’re easy to confuse with other sun-related skin spots. In some cases, you could confuse a sun spot with a sign of skin cancer.

If you notice sun spots, make sure to monitor them over time. If you’re concerned, visit a board-certified dermatologist.

They can help you determine whether or not the area requires treatment.

What causes sun spots, then? Sun spots are a type of hyperpigmentation that’s caused by UV exposure. After exposure to the sun, your skin will start increasing melanin production.

Melanin is a pigment that gives your skin color.

Over a period of time, your skin might start developing small clumps of melanin. These clumps can cause a sun spot to form.

Your sun spots might look like cancerous growths. If they’re really sun spots, however, they won’t require treatment. Instead, your body forms these sun spots to protect itself from more sun damage.

If you’re concerned about aesthetics, you can have your sun spots lightened or removed.


You can complete a visual examination of your skin to check for sun spots. They’re common in adults who have light skin. Unlike freckles, however, sun spots won’t fade over time on their own.

The spots will likely appear flat or oval in shape. They can range from freckle size to about 1/2 inches across. 

Sun spots will develop in areas of the body that get the most sun exposure, including:

  • Hands
  • Chest
  • Back of the hands
  • Shoulders
  • Face

Usually, they appear flat rather than raised. They might appear in clusters. Most sun spots appear brown in color. 

Age spots are common in adults over the age of 50. However, younger people can also develop sun spots if they spend a lot of time in the sun.


Now that we’ve answered the question “what causes sun spots,” let’s discuss prevention tips.

First, try to avoid sun exposure between 10 am and 2 pm. The sun’s rays are most intense during these hours. Try to schedule any outdoor activities at another time.

Make sure to wear sunscreen each time you step into the sun, too.

Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen between 15 and 30 minutes before you head outdoors. Choose products with a sun protection factor (SPF) or 30 and higher. If you sweat a lot or plan on swimming; reapply sunscreen every two hours.

Otherwise, make sure to cover up your skin before heading outside. 

For example, you can wear tightly woven clothing to cover your arms and legs, protecting your skin from sun exposure. You can also wear a broad-brimmed hat. 

Otherwise, consider wearing clothing that’s designed to offer sun protection. 

Treatment Options

You can talk to a medical professional or visit a medspa to discover ways to treat and lighten your sun spots.

For example, you might consider at-home treatment options using:

  • Aloe
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Licorice extract
  • Milk
  • Green tea
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E 
  • Topical creams

Vitamin C might provide a protective effect against UVA and UVB rays. Consider applying vitamin C topically to lighten sun spots.

Vitamin E topical oils might protect your skin from sun damage. These products might lighten existing sun spots, too. 

If you visit a medspa for treatment, consider options like:

  • Intense pulse light (IPL)
  • Laser resurfacing
  • Chemical peels
  • Cryotherapy
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Microneedling

An IPL treatment could remove sun spots by heating and destroying melanin clusters using pulses of light energy. Laser skin resurfacing could encourage new skin to grow, replacing areas with skin spots. Chemical peels might peel away old skin before encouraging new growth as well.

Make sure to find a licensed, experienced practitioner before scheduling a medspa treatment. An experienced provider will ensure the best possible results.

You can learn more about the best sun spot removal treatment options here.

When to Visit a Dermatologist

Usually, sun spots won’t require you to seek medical care. However, you might want to visit a dermatologist occasionally to assess your skin health.

Visit a medical professional right away if you notice the spots are black or have changed in appearance. These changes might indicate melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.

About 106,110 new melanomas will get diagnosed by the end of 2021. Melanoma accounts for only 1% of skin cancers. However, they cause a large majority of skin cancer deaths.

You should also visit a dermatologist if the spot:

  • Increases in size
  • Has an irregular border
  • Changes colors
  • Has an unusual combination of colors
  • Starts bleeding

Make a note of any changes you notice before your appointment. 

What Causes Sun Spots?: Your Guide to Spotless Skin

To recap, what causes sun spots? Too much sun exposure can increase melanin production, causing sun spots to form. Consider scheduling treatment at a local medspa to lighten or remove your sun spots.

Don’t forget to visit a dermatologist right away if you’re worried about your skin health. 

Eager to start treatment from a medspa you can trust? We’re to help.

Contact us today to schedule your first appointment.