Those annoying brown spots that show up on your face, hands, and chest in your 30s and older are known as liver spots or sunspots and are largely caused by sun damage. In this article, we cover four ways to treat unsightly spots.
What Are Those Brown Spots on My Chest?
Not all brown spots on the skin are caused by sun damage.
Some brown spots on the face (called "melasma") can be caused by a surge in hormone levels due to pregnancy, oral contraceptive use or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause. Unlike sun spots, melasma spots tend to fade once hormones moderate. A dermatologist can diagnose melasma by using a special light. Brown spots are mainly a cosmetic problem -- they cause no health risks -- but they can be annoying. There are ways to tone them down and camouflage them.
To minimize the appearance of brown spots, you have a few options.
Ablative laser resurfacing is perhaps the most effective (and costliest) way to remove brown spots. You get these done in a dermatologist's office.
Laser treatments target the melanin in your skin and are highly effective. The top layer of skin where the spots are is removed via lasers in a procedure that takes about 20 minutes. Scabs will form within 24 hours on the treated area. Once the procedure is over, you can use Vaseline on the spots to protect them and you'll need to stay out of the sun.
You'll find your spots will have faded with the treatments and some may disappear. The best news is once the skin heals, your skin should be much smoother and sunspot-free.
Over-the-Counter Skin Lightening Creams
OTC skin lightening creams can be effective in lightening your brown spots. Look for products with 2% hydroquinone in them. Popular over-the-counter creams include Porcelana and Esoterica Fade Cream. Apply these to your brown spots twice daily. These should help lighten your brown spots, but they likely won't go away completely.
Prescription Strength Creams
Prescription-strength creams contain 4% hydroquinone and are arguably more effective than the OTC versions. But they are also harsher on your skin. Popular products include Obagi Clear, Glyquin, Tri-Luma, and Solaquin. Usually, anything over 2 percent hydroquinone requires a prescription.
Some doctors prescribe Tretinoin to combat sunspots. Tretinoin is a form of Vitamin A and is used to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sunspots. It comes in many brand forms including Renova, Retin-A, Avita, Retacnyl or Stieva-A. There are also generic versions available.
Glycolic acid peels administered by a doctor work by removing the top layer of skin. You may need to be treated more than once and you should always keep skin out of the sun after a chemical peel.
It's highly recommended that you wait until after pregnancy or breastfeeding to treat melasma or sunspots and always keep your treated skin out of the sun by wearing sunscreen of at least SPF 50 and a hat.