Brown Spots and Melasma

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About Brown Spots, Sun Spots, Pigmentation, Melasma & Liver Spot

Brown Spots and MelasmaBrown spots on the skin—typically on the face, chest, shoulders, and back of hands—can be the direct result of unprotected exposure to the sun. They can also be a result of hormonal changes and are a common skin problem that we, consult many of our patients about.

The flat spots on the skin—also called age spots, sun spots, solar lentigines, or liver spots (even though they have nothing to do with the liver)—are triggered after prolonged sun exposure. When the sun’s UV rays hit the skin, they damage the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes and causing a spike in production of the skin pigment called melanin. They’re common in patients with fair skin, but they can also appear in those with darker skin.

These spots range in color from brown to tan to dark brown based on how much sun exposure you’ve had—and cause your skin to look blotchy, freckled, and uneven. And they vary in size, again depending on how much sun you’ve been exposed to.

Link to hormones: As hormone levels may change during events such as pregnancy or due to birth control pills, brown, uneven patches can appear on a woman’s face when the skin is exposed to the sun. It seems that sunlight triggers the pigment-producing cells in the skin to go into overdrive. Called the melasma, these dark patches may persist and not improve even with bleaching creams.

We commonly treat these brown spots or patches with chemical peels (which exfoliate the outermost layer of skin, removing the dark spots), light therapy and lasers (the energy blasts away pigment).

“Getting rid of uneven skin color is one of the quickest and easiest ways to look younger”
– Dr. Dennis Gross

Bottom line: You can create more even toned skin through the state-of-the-art treatments we offer. But long-term results depend on staying out of the sun and wearing a daily broad-spectrum sun protection whenever you are out in the sun, driving in your car, or sitting by a window (the sun’s UV rays can penetrate through glass).

Before & After

FAQs

How many treatments will I need?

It depends on the skin—and how the brown spots you have, but expect that you will need one to several treatments over the course of several weeks or months.   But keep in mind, these brown spots will come back as soon as you go out in the sun unprotected—why daily broad-spectrum sunscreen is essential.

I used to get a lot of sun, but now I avoid the sun. Why am I still getting brown spots?

The skin remembers all that sun damage from years ago—and, in fact, it’s that prior, extensive sun exposure that’s causing your brown spots to appear now. The fact that you’re avoiding the sun now is important; after you have your brown spots treated, they won’t come back if you continue to stay out of the sun and wear daily, broad-spectrum sun protection.

How can I tell if a brown spot is harmless—or cancer?

Most age spots are harmless and don’t require medical care. But if they change in appearance, have a dermatologist evaluate them right away, particularly if the spot is darkly pigmented; has changed in size or shape; has an irregular border; has an unusual combination of colors; and/or is accompanied by itching, redness, tenderness, and/or bleeding.  We always recommend a yearly full body check for new spots as a precaution, as there are areas of the body that you yourself cannot see.

Contact Us

Contact us for more information about setting up a consultation about how to treat your brown spots or hyperpigmentation:
212-725-4555

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