Do sunspots go away over time?

That's basically my whole question. I noticed that I have more than a few sunspots all over my body—mainly on my legs, arms and hands. I thought for the longest time that they were freckles. But they're not. They're bigger and the color's different. But I swear that there was a significant one on my wrist for quite a while and now it's gone. Is that typical for a sunspot—that it will fade with time? Can I hope for that to happen to all of my sunspots?


F, 39, California

Tags:woman age 35-44 arms hands sun spots fade legs

I’ve never seen any cases where sunspots have gone away on their own. However, I have seen cases of them fading, due somewhat to a person’s diligence about their exposure to the sun and use of sunscreen.

If you do an internet search on popular ways to reduce dark spots – also known as liver spots, age spots, brown spots, skin spots, and sunspots – you’ll see a plethora of natural remedy and home remedies, as well as ads for over-the-counter lotions and creams that you can use on the affected area(s). Home remedies include the use of natural items such as lemon juice, aloe vera, buttermilk, and green tea bags. Over-the-counter products can reduce the severity of the dark spots, but their success is largely determined by the actual darkness of the spot, the affected areas, and your skin tone. Depending on the areas of concern, the type of skin involved, and the sensitivity of your skin, some dermatologists may recommend prescription or non-prescription medications like hydroquinone (which can be prescribed and used in combination with other ingredients in a drug called Tri-Luma) which act as a bleaching agent.

I have two recommendations for you: first, see a board-certified dermatologist to discuss your concerns. You may want to see them for a full-body evaluation so they can check for any other skin problems you might have. They can also talk to you about your skin care routine. Second, while you’re waiting to see the dermatologist, make sure you wear sunscreen and cover up your arms, neck, and chest. This is especially true for long periods of sun exposure.

Typically, sunspots don’t disappear on their own. When we’re younger, these spots usually come in the form of freckles. As we age, the effects of sun exposure or sun damage can lead to dark spots on your skin. Dark spots can begin to appear as early as your thirties and sometimes sooner depending on your skin tone (e.g. darker or lighter skin) and how much or how frequently you applied sunscreen if you were going to be exposed to the sun for long periods.

Genetics also play a role in determining your risk for skin spots. If you search online you’ll probably see ads or recommendations for “natural” or home remedies as well as over-the-counter creams for skin care. That said, I strongly recommend that you consult with a board-certified dermatologist to make sure the spots in question are indeed sunspots and not something more serious, like skin cancer or other dangerous skin problems.

In the meantime, continue to go through your regular skin care routine and make sure you use a broad spectrum sunscreen / sunblock (SPF 30 or higher for best results) - and don’t forget to go heavy on the affected areas. Depending on where you live and how often you’re in the sun, you should also consider wearing a hat and long sleeved shirt to reduce your exposure to it’s potentially damaging rays. This way you’ll avoid the unpleasant look of sunspots on your neck, arms, etc.