This image shows a liver spot on the face.
What Are Liver Spots? Everything to Know
Liver spots, also called age spots or lentigines, are benign pigmented spots that appear on the skin. These spots can appear on anyone of any race or age. However, they often occur in adults with less pigment in their skin.
Liver spots are commonly due to exposure to UV radiation from the sun or indoor tanning beds. They typically appear on areas of the body exposed to the sun, like your hands and face.
Liver spots are harmless and generally do not require treatment. However, there are ways you can reduce their appearance if they bother you.
Liver spots are noncancerous, or benign, spots on your skin. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. While it is not as common, it is more dangerous than other types of skin cancer because it is more likely to spread.
You can develop melanoma anywhere on your body. However, certain areas are more common, these include:
- chest and back in males
- legs in females
The exact cause of melanoma is unknown. However, there are factors that may put you at a higher risk of developing it. These risk factors include:
- UV exposure
- skin and hair with less pigment
- personal or family history of skin cancer
- weakened immune system
The main symptom of possible melanoma or other skin cancers is a new spot that is unlike others or a spot that changes shape, color, or texture. Other symptoms include:
- sores that do not heal
- pigment from a spot spreads to the surrounding skin
- area around a mole discolors or swells
- spot becomes itchy, tender, or painful
- surface of a mole changes, oozes, or bleeds
If you experience any symptoms of melanoma or have a spot that concerns you, contact your doctor.
Liver spots typically have flat surfaces. They can range in color from skin-colored to tan, dark brown, or black. They typically are either oval-shaped or have an irregular shape. Liver spots generally have a distinct border.
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Liver spots can appear on the back of the hand.
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This image shows a close-up of liver spots on the cheek.
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Liver spots can also appear on the chest.
Zay Nyi Nyi/Shutterstock
Liver spots are typically due to an increase of pigment cells in the upper layers of the skin.
The most common forms of livers spots result from exposure to UV radiation. This exposure often comes from:
- sun exposure
- indoor tanning
Radiation therapy may also cause these spots to develop on your skin in the affected area.
Where can you get liver spots?
Liver spots typically appear on areas of the body exposed to the sun. The most common areas are the face and the back of the hands.
When should you contact a doctor about liver spots?
When you have a new spot that is unlike other spots on your skin or a spot changes in shape, color, or texture, contact your doctor. Liver spots are typically harmless. However, new and changing spots on your skin are potential symptoms of skin cancer.
Liver spots are typically harmless, so they do not require treatment. However, if you are concerned with their appearance, there are ways that may help fade the color and make them less noticeable.
Always talk with your doctor or a dermatologist before using products to fade liver spots. Fading methods may not be as effective for everyone.
Products that can help manage the appearance of liver spots include:
- broad-spectrum sunscreen 50 SPF or higher
- hydroquinone bleaching cream
- alpha hydroxy acids
- vitamin C
- azelaic acid
- cysteamine cream
- chemical peels
Treatments that may permanently remove individual spots include:
- intense pulsed light
- pigment lazers
Speak with your doctor to make an informed decision on the most effective treatment for your individual needs.
The main way to prevent liver spots is to practice sun safety and protect yourself when you expose your skin to UV radiation.
Ways you can protect yourself and practice sun safety include:
- staying under shade as much as possible
- wearing clothing that covers your skin, a hat, and sunglasses
- using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher
Even if you are in the shade, it is still important to protect your skin with sunscreen and clothing.
Liver spots are pigmented spots that appear on your skin mostly in areas exposed to the sun. They are most commonly on the back of the hands and the face.
Anyone can develop sun spots. However, they occur more often in adults or older adults with less pigment in their skin.
Liver spots are benign and typically do not require treatment. However, if the appearance bothers you, there are products that may fade the spots. Speak with your doctor before trying any of these products.
If you have a new spot that is unusual or a spot that changes in shape, color, or texture, contact your doctor because this may be a symptom of skin cancer.