What Are the White Spots on Skin From Sun Exposure?

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(Image: Ralf Nau/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Many people strive for a suntan year round. Indoor tanning salons, self tanning lotions, or a good long soak in the sun are all ways to achieve a sun-kissed glow. Some people bake for hours in the sun's rays or use tanning booths and receive not only a suntan, but also sun spots.

Significance

Sun spots are spots on the skin that occur after sun exposure. Sun spots can be dark or white. White spots can have several causes, and they all share one thing in common, they prevent melanin from being produced in that specific area of the skin, and therefore, cannot alter its pigment. In other words, the skin cannot tan in those small areas.

Fungus

White sun spots are a common skin condition worldwide and especially prevalent in sub tropical climates. The most common cause is tinea versicolor, a skin fungus which will spread if not treated with creams and dandruff shampoos. These spots will generally form on the back, chest, and upper arms, and appear flaky or scaly.

Genetics

Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis, a genetic disorder, can also result in white spots. It is a preexisting condition that becomes more visible after exposure to UV light due to the darker skin around it. No treatment is available.

Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a chronic skin disorder. It causes a loss of pigment in the skin that appears as white patches on the face, neck, limbs, torso or skin folds. Vitiligo is also a genetic disorder. Corticosteroid cream and photo therapy are treatments.

Pressure Points

Sometimes, white spots may merely be pressure points. These are points of the skin that have directly pressed against the tanning bed restricting blood flow. Changing position in the bed every few minutes, or standing, will prevent pressure points.

Warning

If white or dark sun spots change in size, shape or color consult a doctor for an assessment. Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and avoiding over exposure to the sun is the best prevention.

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