Have you ever spotted a tiny patch of lighter pigment on your skin and became quickly concerned? Us too. The good news is that while most of these white skin spots are related to sun damage, they’re harmless, but they can be aesthetically pesky. We found ourselves wondering why certain spots grow lighter than others on people of all skin tones. It seems it’s also somewhat of a mystery to experts, but here’s what they know.
What causes white sun spots on our skin
The technical term for these spots is idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis. “It’s termed idiopathic because the pathogenesis of these little white spots is unclear,” says New York dermatologist Elaine Kung, MD. She says the circulars or oval spots that are generally about two to five millimeters. They’re often found on the upper chest, arms and legs and tend to pop up after getting a lot of sun.
These spots may be from skin aging, ultraviolet exposure, trauma, genetic predisposition or local inhibition of melanogenesis (aka pigment production), says Dr. Kung. The condition is benign and simply a cosmetic concern for some people.
How to prevent white sun spots
Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby notes that “once the color has lost its pigment, it’s very difficult to regain it,” so prevention is essential especially if it runs in your family. Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD recommends using sun protection, preferably clothing, to protect skin from these spots.
Can you fade white sun spots?
Truthfully, experts say it’s very challenging to correct white sun spots, so prevention is crucial. “The white skin means that the pigment cells are gone. Once gone, they are not coming back,” says Dr. Papantoniou.
“If there are any residual pigment cells, you may be able to stimulate them with Latisse,” says Dr. Papantoniou. “If they are really bothering you, some places will do skin grafting, which might be an option.” Dr. Allenby says it’s possible that over a long period of time, a product like Retin-A may be beneficial, but these white spots “are fairly resistant to repigmentation.”