Any time a spot shows up on your face, it can provoke both anxiety and unhappiness. This emotional response can be the result of worrying about skin cancer, skin conditions, or disliking the appearance of dark spots on the skin. Dark spots on the face may represent a myriad of different things. However, of all the possibilities, four types of dark face spots are the most common. Let’s review these dark spots on the face—including what they look like and what can be done about them.
Common Dark Spots on the Face
Age Spots, Sun Spots (Solar Lentigo), Liver Spots
Sun spots, also known as solar lentigo (solar lentigines-plural), liver spots, and age spots, are one of the more common types of dark spots on your face. Solar lentigo develops as a result of sun exposure/sun damage throughout our lifetimes.
If you have a history of severe sunburns, then you are more likely to develop sun spots. Ultraviolet (UV) light from any source such as tanning beds may also lead up to the growth of sun spots. These agespots will develop as a result of melanin (the substance that gives your skin pigment) clumping together.
Generally, sun spots are small and fairly uniform. Any sunspot can eventually turn into melanoma (see below), however, the vast majority of sunspots will only be harmless pigment spots. The ABCDE rule is a helpful guide when looking for signs of melanoma.
Age Spot Treatment & Prevention
Rigorous sun protection is one of the best ways to help fade and prevent more sun spots from developing. You can protect your skin and limit age spots by wearing sunscreen when outdoors during peak sun hours. There are also some specific treatments that can also help lighten sun spots.
Sunspot treatment includes certain over-the-counter (OTC) creams, prescription creams, and other types of procedures that your dermatologist may perform. OTC fade creams usually contain hydroquinone or retinol as their active ingredients. Your dermatologist will sometimes prescribe stronger versions of the hydroquinone, or a prescription medicine known as tretinoin. Tretinoin is a type of medicine that is more potent than OTC retinol.
Chemical peels are also safe and effective for treating age spots. This treatment option uses a chemical solution to remove the outer layer of the skin. For maximum effectiveness, dermatologists may recommend cryotherapy and dermabrasion as well. Although cryotherapy may be uncomfortable, freezing age spots will quickly damage melanin-producing cells. Dermabrasion takes longer to see results, however, studies show that patients who receive treatment twice a week for 16 weeks will see sun spots disappear.
Seborrheic keratosis is a type of growth that may be dark in color and is most commonly seen on the face. However, seborrheic keratosis can appear anywhere on the body. These dark spots typically develop in adulthood and tend to increase in number as you age. Generally, we see these as a scaling, rough, dark, raised bump which may appear as though you could pick it off the skin. When we see seborrheic keratoses, there are usually multiple spots.
Seborrheic Keratosis Treatment Options
Although seborrheic keratosis does not require treatment, a dermatologist may treat it with liquid nitrogen cryotherapy (freezing). Dermatology healthcare professionals recommend following a skin care regimen and putting Vaseline on seborrheic keratosis areas at bedtime to reduce the amount of scale over the top of them. Vaseline may also temporarily improve the appearance of seborrheic keratosis.
Moles can also show up as dark spots on the face. They may have a varied appearance depending on skin color and can also be of differing sizes. Generally, when evaluating moles, especially for concern that they may be cancerous/melanoma, dermatology professionals are looking to see that moles are uniform in appearance. To remove a mole, a dermatologist may perform a biopsy-type procedure.
Please refer to our earlier blog for more information about identifying worrisome moles.
The fourth most common condition we see causing dark spots on the face is known as postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. Any condition which involves inflammation of the skin (especially acne), may cause an increase in the production of pigment leaving behind darker areas. Although these spots may fade on their own, that can take months or longer.
Several different treatments can be used to help fade postinflammatory hyperpigmentation including laser treatments and chemical peels. Some products for treating dark spots are available over the counter as lightening/fade creams. Additionally, your dermatology provider may be able to perform procedures in the office to help fade them as well.
There are two important factors in the treatment of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. First, treating the underlying condition which leads to the dark spots on your skin can help reduce the number of spots that develop. Second, shielding these areas from ultraviolet light (the sun or tanning beds) is incredibly important. Light from tanning beds or the sun may darken them and make them last longer.
A fifth entity that is worthy of consideration that may cause dark areas on the face is a form of skin cancer known as melanoma. Melanomas on the face may arise spontaneously or develop within a pre-existing sunspot or mole. The most important thing to identify when looking for melanomas is that moles/spots are uniform. The best dermatologists know that the ABCDE rule is a very helpful tool for our patients to use when looking at any dark spots on their skin.
- Asymmetry – Non-cancerous moles are typically uniform and symmetrical in shape.
- Border – Melanoma often has borders that are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- Color – Moles that are benign (non-cancerous) are typically one color and do not include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
- Diameter – Melanoma growths are normally larger than 6mm in diameter.
- Evolving – Unlike most benign moles, melanoma changes over time. If you have a mole or skin growth, watch it for signs of changes in size, shape, and color.
If you notice any of the ACBDEs of melanoma, it is important that you tell your dermatologist right away and schedule an appointment. Performing regular skin checks at home, as well as annual skin checks with a dermatologist, can help you catch skin cancer before it becomes life-threatening.
We hope this information is helpful to you. If you have concerns, consider seeing us for a consultation. Our dermatology providers all have vast experience diagnosing and managing all of these conditions and more, including melanoma.
Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands | Best Dermatologist Omaha & Council Bluffs, IA | Board Certified Dermatologists
At Advanced Dermatology the Midlands Our vision is to deliver the highest level of dermatological care, using the most advanced technology and evidence-based medicine in a personalized and compassionate environment. Contact us to schedule a consultation. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]