July 07, 2023

_LEARN

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REFERENCE LAB

Sun Spots: Causes & 3 Prevention Tips
Spending time outside is a natural way to boost mood and overall longevity, but without proper protection, you can end up with sun spots. Sun spots are a form of hyperpigmentation and are among the most common signs of skin aging. Also referred to as age spots, liver spots, or solar lentigo, sun spots are characterized by discolored and darkened patches on the skin, and are usually a result of sun damage.

_LEARN

/

REFERENCE LAB

July 07, 2023

Sun Spots: Causes & 3 Prevention Tips
Spending time outside is a natural way to boost mood and overall longevity, but without proper protection, you can end up with sun spots. Sun spots are a form of hyperpigmentation and are among the most common signs of skin aging. Also referred to as age spots, liver spots, or solar lentigo, sun spots are characterized by discolored and darkened patches on the skin, and are usually a result of sun damage.
How to recognize sun spots
Sun spots are flat, dark patches of skin that commonly cluster around areas most exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms, and shoulders. Lighter skin types are more likely to experience these spots, as they have less protective pigment in their skin. Some women also experience melasma, another common form of hyperpigmentation. What causes melasma on face
? It is often a result of hormonal fluctuation rather than sun exposure. 1
How to recognize sun spots
Sun spots are flat, dark patches of skin that commonly cluster around areas most exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms, and shoulders. Lighter skin types are more likely to experience these spots, as they have less protective pigment in their skin. Some women also experience melasma, another common form of hyperpigmentation. What causes melasma on face
? It is often a result of hormonal fluctuation rather than sun exposure. 1
What are Sun Spots?
o understand sun spots, we must first get to know the type of skin cells responsible for their creation: melanocytes.Melanocytes & MelaninMelanocytes are our natural line of defense against sun damage. These skin cells are responsible for producing and spreading melanin, the skin’s pigment molecule. Melanin protects the DNA within our skin cells from UV damage by absorbing UV light or ultraviolet rays and safely releasing the absorbed energy as heat.
Melanocytes are relatively few in number and a single melanocyte will produce melanin for the 30-40 skin cells in its proximity.2 The more melanocytes you have, the more evenly melanin can be distributed across the skin. Frequent exposure to sunlight and UV radiation stimulates melanocyte production of melanin, darkening the skin. The uniform distribution of melanin results in the general tanning of the skin, while concentrated melanin production and distribution results in dark spots. Over time, certain areas of our skin, especially those most exposed to the sun, can experience an overproduction or concentration of melanin, resulting in sun spots. Additionally, our skin varies in thickness and sun sensitivity. This leads to the uneven stimulation of melanocytes, uneven distributions of melanin in the skin, and over time, sun spots. 3,4
What are Sun Spots?
o understand sun spots, we must first get to know the type of skin cells responsible for their creation: melanocytes.Melanocytes & MelaninMelanocytes are our natural line of defense against sun damage. These skin cells are responsible for producing and spreading melanin, the skin’s pigment molecule. Melanin protects the DNA within our skin cells from UV damage by absorbing UV light or ultraviolet rays and safely releasing the absorbed energy as heat.
Melanocytes are relatively few in number and a single melanocyte will produce melanin for the 30-40 skin cells in its proximity.2 The more melanocytes you have, the more evenly melanin can be distributed across the skin. Frequent exposure to sunlight and UV radiation stimulates melanocyte production of melanin, darkening the skin. The uniform distribution of melanin results in the general tanning of the skin, while concentrated melanin production and distribution results in dark spots. Over time, certain areas of our skin, especially those most exposed to the sun, can experience an overproduction or concentration of melanin, resulting in sun spots. Additionally, our skin varies in thickness and sun sensitivity. This leads to the uneven stimulation of melanocytes, uneven distributions of melanin in the skin, and over time, sun spots. 3,4
What Causes Sun Spots?
Three main factors determine, where and when sun spots occur, along with their severity. These include UV exposure, age, and genetically-determined skin type.

UV Exposure

UV exposure is the most common source of damage to the skin and triggers the development of sun spots. When your skin is exposed to UV radiation, melanocytes begin synthesizing melanin. Some melanin is distributed to cells in the deeper parts of the skin. These melanin deposits accumulate slowly, eventually revealing a sun spot. Because this process occurs in the deeper layers of the skin it can take months or even years for sun spots to show. Frequent UV exposure results in more sun spots and decreases the time needed to appear.Contrary to popular belief, sun protection isn’t just for days spent outside in the summertime. UVA radiation is able to penetrate through clouds, making it important to wear sunscreen during the winter
months. It can also penetrate windows meaning that you could be exposed to UVA while sitting in your car or inside a building. Man-made sources of UV radiation can be equally, if not more damaging. Tanning beds age the skin at an accelerated rate and can contribute to sun spots, along with an increased risk of skin cancer. 5 Make sure to wear SPF 30+, broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day all year long to keep your skin nice and healthy!

Age

While sun exposure triggers sun spots, age can bring them out. You may not observe sun damage in your younger years but that doesn’t mean the damage didn’t occur. In fact, you could experience sun damage in your 20s, without noticing the resulting sun spots until your 40s! Why is this the case? On average, most people begin to lose between 10% and 20% of their melanocytes every decade starting in their 30s. (6) As you lose melanocytes, the melanin deposits in the lower layers of the skin become more pronounced. Age-related loss of melanocytes in the skin also increases sun sensitivity and hinders the even distribution of melanin in skin, resulting in an increased risk of hyperpigmentation.

Genetics

Genetics plays a key role in our level of sun sensitivity and tendency to develop sun spots. Darker skin has more base-line levels of melanin, therefore reducing the risk of sun damage and sun spot development. 7 Those with lighter skin tones have less sun-protective melanin and are predisposed to experiencing sun damage and developing sun spots. 8
What Causes Sun Spots?
Three main factors determine, where and when sun spots occur, along with their severity. These include UV exposure, age, and genetically-determined skin type.

UV Exposure

UV exposure is the most common source of damage to the skin and triggers the development of sun spots. When your skin is exposed to UV radiation, melanocytes begin synthesizing melanin. Some melanin is distributed to cells in the deeper parts of the skin. These melanin deposits accumulate slowly, eventually revealing a sun spot. Because this process occurs in the deeper layers of the skin it can take months or even years for sun spots to show. Frequent UV exposure results in more sun spots and decreases the time needed to appear.Contrary to popular belief, sun protection isn’t just for days spent outside in the summertime. UVA radiation is able to penetrate through clouds, making it important to wear sunscreen during the winter
months. It can also penetrate windows meaning that you could be exposed to UVA while sitting in your car or inside a building. Man-made sources of UV radiation can be equally, if not more damaging. Tanning beds age the skin at an accelerated rate and can contribute to sun spots, along with an increased risk of skin cancer. 5 Make sure to wear SPF 30+, broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day all year long to keep your skin nice and healthy!

Age

While sun exposure triggers sun spots, age can bring them out. You may not observe sun damage in your younger years but that doesn’t mean the damage didn’t occur. In fact, you could experience sun damage in your 20s, without noticing the resulting sun spots until your 40s! Why is this the case? On average, most people begin to lose between 10% and 20% of their melanocytes every decade starting in their 30s. (6) As you lose melanocytes, the melanin deposits in the lower layers of the skin become more pronounced. Age-related loss of melanocytes in the skin also increases sun sensitivity and hinders the even distribution of melanin in skin, resulting in an increased risk of hyperpigmentation.

Genetics

Genetics plays a key role in our level of sun sensitivity and tendency to develop sun spots. Darker skin has more base-line levels of melanin, therefore reducing the risk of sun damage and sun spot development. 7 Those with lighter skin tones have less sun-protective melanin and are predisposed to experiencing sun damage and developing sun spots. 8
How to Prevent Sun Spots
Regardless of your skin tone or age, avoiding unprotected sun exposure is the best way to prevent the development of sun spots. Here are a few habits that can help prevent sun spot formation!
  1. Sunscreen: Integrating a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30+ into your daily skin care routine will be your greatest defense against sun damage. It’s worth experimenting with types of sunscreen to find one that can be integrated seamlessly into your daily routine. The main varieties of sunscreen include chemical vs mineral sunscreen and untinted vs tinted sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens get absorbed into the skin, giving them the potential to enter the bloodstream. It is therefore recommended to use a mineral sunscreen across your body. Mineral face sunscreen is also ideal for those with sensitive skin types, and many are being offered in tinted forms to avoid white cast. Regardless of which type of sunscreen you opt for, make sure to reapply your sunscreen throughout the day for continued protection!
  2. Avoiding UV Radiation: Reducing sun exposure, especially during the times of days with a high UV index (typically between 10am - 2pm) is also an effective way to prevent sun damage and subsequent hyperpigmentation. If you need to be outside in times with a high UV index, shielding your skin with clothing, an umbrella, or a hat significantly reduces your exposure to ultraviolet light.
  3. Antioxidants:
    UV radiation can oxidize the melanin in skin cells causing them to darken. 2Antioxidants can neutralize such oxidation, helping to reduce hyperpigmentation. Antioxidants can be consumed in food and applied in topical creams to reduce hyperpigmentation and sun sensitivity. Try to integrate
    foods for skin repair
    and antioxidant-rich foods into your diet, or incorporate an antioxidant-rich cream into your skincare routine! 9
How to Prevent Sun Spots
Regardless of your skin tone or age, avoiding unprotected sun exposure is the best way to prevent the development of sun spots. Here are a few habits that can help prevent sun spot formation!
  1. Sunscreen: Integrating a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30+ into your daily skin care routine will be your greatest defense against sun damage. It’s worth experimenting with types of sunscreen to find one that can be integrated seamlessly into your daily routine. The main varieties of sunscreen include chemical vs mineral sunscreen and untinted vs tinted sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens get absorbed into the skin, giving them the potential to enter the bloodstream. It is therefore recommended to use a mineral sunscreen across your body. Mineral face sunscreen is also ideal for those with sensitive skin types, and many are being offered in tinted forms to avoid white cast. Regardless of which type of sunscreen you opt for, make sure to reapply your sunscreen throughout the day for continued protection!
  2. Avoiding UV Radiation: Reducing sun exposure, especially during the times of days with a high UV index (typically between 10am - 2pm) is also an effective way to prevent sun damage and subsequent hyperpigmentation. If you need to be outside in times with a high UV index, shielding your skin with clothing, an umbrella, or a hat significantly reduces your exposure to ultraviolet light.
  3. Antioxidants:
    UV radiation can oxidize the melanin in skin cells causing them to darken. 2Antioxidants can neutralize such oxidation, helping to reduce hyperpigmentation. Antioxidants can be consumed in food and applied in topical creams to reduce hyperpigmentation and sun sensitivity. Try to integrate
    foods for skin repair
    and antioxidant-rich foods into your diet, or incorporate an antioxidant-rich cream into your skincare routine! 9
Why is prevention important?
Although sun spots are generally not dangerous themselves, they are manifestations of sun-damaged skin and can indicate an increased risk of skin cancer, and a compromised skin barrier.10Therefore, it’s important to respond to signs of excessive sun damage, including the development and worsening of sun spots. 11Always consult your dermatologist if you have any concerns regarding your skin health or sun-damaged skin.
Why is prevention important?
Although sun spots are generally not dangerous themselves, they are manifestations of sun-damaged skin and can indicate an increased risk of skin cancer, and a compromised skin barrier.10Therefore, it’s important to respond to signs of excessive sun damage, including the development and worsening of sun spots. 11Always consult your dermatologist if you have any concerns regarding your skin health or sun-damaged skin.
How to Treat Sun Spots
While not harmful themselves, sun spots can be a cosmetic concern, therefore treating their appearance is a popular pursuit. Treatments for sun spots utilize physical or chemical means to distribute melanin within skin and/or shed the layers of skin holding the increased levels of melanin. A skin health professional can consult on the most suitable treatment for an individual, as the proper treatment depends on the depth and severity of the sun spots, along with preferences regarding cost and recovery time. The most popular physical sun spot removal techniques include laser treatment, microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, and cryotherapy.
  • Laser Treatments use specific wavelengths of light to break apart melanin and destroy unwanted hyperpigmentation. This treatment can be uncomfortable or even painful and should always be performed under the supervision of a licensed professional. 12
  • Microdermabrasion hits the skin with tiny crystals that are then suctioned back out very quickly. This resurfaces the skin and rearranges melanocytes deep within the epidermis, spreading the concentrated levels of pigment in both small and large sun spots. 12
  • Dermaplaning involves using a sharp dermaplaning tool to scrape away layers of the upper skin. 12,13
  • Cryotherapy freezes darkened areas of skin with liquid nitrogen causing darkened skin to peel off. 14
Physical treatments are relatively invasive and performed in a clinical setting. These treatments can be expensive, potentially painful, and can also have an inconvenient recovery time. For this reason, many people prefer to use chemical-based remedies such as Kojic acid, Retinol, and Hydroquinone, which can often be utilized in a home setting and tend to be cheaper.
  • Kojic acid
    functions by inhibiting tyrosinase, a key enzyme required for the production of melanin in skin. Unfortunately, kojic acid is not suitable for many, as it often leads to dermatitis and eczema in skin. 15
  • Retinol is widely used in anti-aging skin care for its ability to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin texture. These benefits are due to retinol’s effects of stripping the skin’s top layer, stimulating cell renewal to replace the peeled layer with new skin cells. However, there are dangers of retinol to consider and overuse or extended use of retinol can strip your skin too quickly, reducing skin barrier function and causing redness, peeling, and inflammation. In a test performed in the OneSkin’s lab, our scientists found that while retinol increases key biomarkers associated with collagen and hyaluronic acid production, it also significantly increases the activity of biomarkers linked to aging and skin inflammation. Read more about the effects of Retinol hereto learn more about retinol 101 reload
    . 16
  • Hydroquinone
    is commonly used to treat hyperpigmentation and works by bleaching skin. While hydroquinone is effective at bleaching the skin, prolonged use can cause ochronosis, a condition that leads to the development of blue/black discoloration of facial tissue. For this reason, hydroquinone is banned for cosmetics use in Europe. As of 2020, hydroquinone must now be registered as a drug with the FDA in the US. 17
How to Treat Sun Spots
While not harmful themselves, sun spots can be a cosmetic concern, therefore treating their appearance is a popular pursuit. Treatments for sun spots utilize physical or chemical means to distribute melanin within skin and/or shed the layers of skin holding the increased levels of melanin. A skin health professional can consult on the most suitable treatment for an individual, as the proper treatment depends on the depth and severity of the sun spots, along with preferences regarding cost and recovery time. The most popular physical sun spot removal techniques include laser treatment, microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, and cryotherapy.
  • Laser Treatments use specific wavelengths of light to break apart melanin and destroy unwanted hyperpigmentation. This treatment can be uncomfortable or even painful and should always be performed under the supervision of a licensed professional. 12
  • Microdermabrasion hits the skin with tiny crystals that are then suctioned back out very quickly. This resurfaces the skin and rearranges melanocytes deep within the epidermis, spreading the concentrated levels of pigment in both small and large sun spots. 12
  • Dermaplaning involves using a sharp dermaplaning tool to scrape away layers of the upper skin. 12,13
  • Cryotherapy freezes darkened areas of skin with liquid nitrogen causing darkened skin to peel off. 14
Physical treatments are relatively invasive and performed in a clinical setting. These treatments can be expensive, potentially painful, and can also have an inconvenient recovery time. For this reason, many people prefer to use chemical-based remedies such as Kojic acid, Retinol, and Hydroquinone, which can often be utilized in a home setting and tend to be cheaper.
  • Kojic acid
    functions by inhibiting tyrosinase, a key enzyme required for the production of melanin in skin. Unfortunately, kojic acid is not suitable for many, as it often leads to dermatitis and eczema in skin. 15
  • Retinol is widely used in anti-aging skin care for its ability to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin texture. These benefits are due to retinol’s effects of stripping the skin’s top layer, stimulating cell renewal to replace the peeled layer with new skin cells. However, there are dangers of retinol to consider and overuse or extended use of retinol can strip your skin too quickly, reducing skin barrier function and causing redness, peeling, and inflammation. In a test performed in the OneSkin’s lab, our scientists found that while retinol increases key biomarkers associated with collagen and hyaluronic acid production, it also significantly increases the activity of biomarkers linked to aging and skin inflammation. Read more about the effects of Retinol hereto learn more about retinol 101 reload
    . 16
  • Hydroquinone
    is commonly used to treat hyperpigmentation and works by bleaching skin. While hydroquinone is effective at bleaching the skin, prolonged use can cause ochronosis, a condition that leads to the development of blue/black discoloration of facial tissue. For this reason, hydroquinone is banned for cosmetics use in Europe. As of 2020, hydroquinone must now be registered as a drug with the FDA in the US. 17
Can the OS-01 Peptide Treat Sun Spots?
Looking for effective topical skin care products that help prevent or reduce the appearance of sun spots? OneSkin’s proprietary OS-01 peptide has been lab-tested against other topical hyperpigmentation treatments for its ability to reduce melanin content in skin. Not only is OS-01 peptide moisturizer and peptide body lotion more effective at reducing melanin content in skin, but it has not been shown to induce the irritating and harmful side effects that retinol, hydroquinone, and kojic acid often trigger. You can read more about the science behind the OS-01 peptide and hyperpigmentation hereto learn more about skin hyperpigmentation what it is common treatments and how os 01 improves skin hyperpigmentation!
Can the OS-01 Peptide Treat Sun Spots?
Looking for effective topical skin care products that help prevent or reduce the appearance of sun spots? OneSkin’s proprietary OS-01 peptide has been lab-tested against other topical hyperpigmentation treatments for its ability to reduce melanin content in skin. Not only is OS-01 peptide moisturizer and peptide body lotion more effective at reducing melanin content in skin, but it has not been shown to induce the irritating and harmful side effects that retinol, hydroquinone, and kojic acid often trigger. You can read more about the science behind the OS-01 peptide and hyperpigmentation hereto learn more about skin hyperpigmentation what it is common treatments and how os 01 improves skin hyperpigmentation!

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Key Takeaways
  • Sun spots are flat, dark patches of skin clustered around areas most exposed to sun damage, such as the face, arms, and shoulders.
  • UV exposure is the most common source of damage to the skin and triggers the development of sun spots.
  • Sun spots are the result of the overproduction of melanin, skin’s pigment molecule and natural defense against UV damage.
  • You can prevent sun spots by wearing sunscreen, avoiding UV exposure, and consuming products with antioxidants.
  • OneSkin’s proprietary OS-01 peptide has been lab-tested against other topical hyperpigmentation treatments and found to be superior in its ability to reduce melanin content in skin.
Key Takeaways
  • Sun spots are flat, dark patches of skin clustered around areas most exposed to sun damage, such as the face, arms, and shoulders.
  • UV exposure is the most common source of damage to the skin and triggers the development of sun spots.
  • Sun spots are the result of the overproduction of melanin, skin’s pigment molecule and natural defense against UV damage.
  • You can prevent sun spots by wearing sunscreen, avoiding UV exposure, and consuming products with antioxidants.
  • OneSkin’s proprietary OS-01 peptide has been lab-tested against other topical hyperpigmentation treatments and found to be superior in its ability to reduce melanin content in skin.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

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