White Spots on Skin from Sun Exposure: Causes, Treatments, & Prevention (2023)

  • Excessive sun exposure can create white spots on various areas of the body.
  • While ultraviolet radiation (UV) is typically believed to be responsible for these spots, their exact cause is unknown.
  • These spots are not dangerous and do not require treatment, however some may wish to reduce their appearance for aesthetic reasons.
  • Proper sun protection can help reduce UV damage, which may prevent these spots from forming.

White sunspots, or iIdiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH) are a form of hypopigmentation, a condition that occurs due to a lack of melanin in an area of skin. While there are several theories as to why IGH occurs, spots on skin from the sun is widely believed to be due to this decline in melanin production.

There are several treatments available that may reduce the appearance of white spots, however fully erasing these spots can be difficult, particularly when using at-home treatments alone.


What Is Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis (IGH)?

Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH) is the medical term for white spots on the skin. The name is descriptive, referring to the cause and appearance of these spots: idiopathic means the cause is unknown, guttate refers to their teardrop shape and hypomelanosis, the lighter-colored skin.

IGH spots appear gradually on the skin over time and tend to be small – commonly between 2–6 mm. Most are smooth to the touch, but some can feel scaly.

While the factors that lead to IGH are still disputed and a definitive cause has yet to be established, the most commonly accepted explanation is that the melanin production process is disrupted by accumulated ultraviolet (UV) damage as a result of years of sun exposure.

This link to sun exposure is partially based on the fact that the spots most often appear on areas exposed to the sun such as the arms, legs, face and back.

Although sun damage is one explanation for these spots, others believe they are part of the natural aging process. Genetics may also predispose some to IGH as the condition seems to run in families.

  • White Spots on Skin from Sun Exposure: Causes, Treatments, & Prevention (1)
  • White Spots on Skin from Sun Exposure: Causes, Treatments, & Prevention (2)
  • White Spots on Skin from Sun Exposure: Causes, Treatments, & Prevention (3)

Who does it affect?

IGH typically occurs in people with lighter skin tones over the age of 40, and becomes increasingly common with age. Although the exact number of people with IGH is unknown, one study found that more than 85% of people over the age of 40 had some level of white sunspots. Women are also more prone to IGH than men, however this condition can affect anyone.

Sun damage, which is believed by some to trigger IGH, accumulates over time. This may explain why IGH is more common with age as the effects of sun damage compound over years of exposure.

Additionally, those with lighter skin tones are subjected to more UV damage over the course of a lifetime than those with darker skin due to lighter skin’s lower levels of melanin, a natural defense against UV damage. This increased amount of UV damage may explain why lighter- skinned people are more likely to develop IGH.

Should you be concerned if you are affected?

IGH are harmless and there is no evidence to link them to skin cancer or any other health concerns.

With that said, similar appearing white spots can be a sign of more harmful conditions, such as fungal infections, which require medical attention. A dermatologist can give an accurate assessment of your skin and provide treatment.

Treatments for White Sunspots

Some people may opt to treat sunspots on aesthetic grounds by one of two ways: over-the-counter (OTC) creams and professional treatments.

Unfortunately, treating IGH is particularly difficult. At-home treatments are limited to topicals which require months of regular application to achieve even minor results. Professional treatments offer quicker and typically more superior results, however, even the best available options will not fully fade spots.

Over the Counter Treatments for White Sunspots

There are two OTC topical options available to address white sunspots: steroid creams and retinoid creams. While both these creams may help to reduce the appearance of white spots, their effectiveness is questionable and neither can be considered a reliable treatment method.

Topical steroid creams

Although these creams are typically used to reduce inflammation and treat conditions such as eczema, creams that contain corticosteroids—which mimics cortisol, a naturally occurring hormone—may help to reduce white sunspots.

Corticosteroid creams are available in different strengths. Milder ones such as hydrocortisone can be purchased OTC, while stronger formulations will usually require a prescription.

Although topical corticosteroid creams are prescribed to those with white sunspots, there is no conclusive evidence to support their ability to fade these spots. Caution is also advised as long-term use of these creams can result in unwanted side effects, including further skin tone changes.

Topical retinoid creams

Retinoid creams assist with cell turnover and regeneration which can aid in reducing skin discoloration. Retinol and tretinoin—both concentrated forms of vitamin A—are two of the most commonly used types.

While one study found that daily tretinoin use over a four-month period significantly improved skin pigmentation, the extent of repigmentation will vary from one person to the next; additional research into this treatment is required.

Professional Treatments for White Sunspots

White sunspot treatments carried out by a professional use more potent solutions that tend to have a greater impact on IGH by treating deeper layers of skin than OTC methods.

While full repigmentation is still unlikely, the various tools and procedures utilized in these treatments—including lasers, dermabrasion, chemical peels and cryotherapy—can improve the localized lack of melanin that causes white sunspots.

Laser treatments

Laser treatment can help to reduce the appearance of white sunspots. Excimer lasers, which use ultraviolet light to create pigment-producing cells, led to a significant increase in pigmentation in one small study of people with IGH. As only affected areas of skin are treated with UV radiation, the risk of side effects is relatively low.

Fractional lasers can also effectively fade spots by stimulating the melanin production process and eliminating defective melanocytes, which are melanin-producing cells.


This exfoliating procedure physically removes the skin’s outer layers using a specialized abrasive tool to reveal the new skin beneath. When used to treat IGH, dermabrasion causes white spots to crust over and triggers the body’s melanin production process.

A study of people with IGH found that dermabrasion achieved significant repigmentation in roughly 80% of cases, by helping to increase the formation of new melanocytes. However, following treatment, patients have experienced significant skin redness that can last for up to 6 months.

Dermabrasion is also not suitable for people with acne or a history of keloid scarring as these conditions increase the risk of side effects associated with the procedure.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels remove the top layer of skin and therapeutically damage the skin to trigger the body’s natural healing response, which can help trigger repigmentation.

The peel technique can provide a noticeable improvement in skin tone, but may also cause redness or scarring. In some cases, chemical peels can worsen white spots or lead to hyperpigmentation.


Cryotherapy involves applying liquid nitrogen with a cotton-tipped applicator to a sunspot for 5–10 seconds to freeze the skin. This is thought to improve the production of melanocytes, however additional research into this process is still needed to confirm the exact cause of repigmentation.

One study found that the procedure substantially reduced the visibility of sunspots within 4 months of treatment.

Home Remedies for White Sunspots

Several natural treatments purportedly address IGH by using common ingredients such as:

  • Cabbage juice
  • Lime juice
  • Onion juice
  • Fresh ginger
  • Green tea

While some anecdotal evidence supports their use, there is no scientific proof that any natural home remedies can effectively fade white spots. If you choose to apply a natural treatment, it is important to exert a degree of caution. While most are safe, some can cause skin irritation and disrupt your skin’s natural pH balance.

Preventing White Sunspots

To prevent white sunspots, limit direct sun exposure and protect skin from the sun. There are several ways to achieve this::

  • Wear a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30; reapply every 2 hours when outside and immediately after swimming
  • Stay in the shade during the hottest parts of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Cover as much exposed skin as possible by wearing sunglasses, a hat and long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • Avoid tanning beds

Other Causes of White Spots on Skin

Aside from IGH, white spots on the skin can also be associated with other skin conditions or be symptoms of other health issues. While most of these white spots are larger in size than IGH, they may at times be confused with the white sunspots.

Vitamin deficiency

A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to the formation of skin lesions which can take the form of white spots on skin. These spots often show up on the outside of the forearm and can grow whiter over time.

A vitamin D deficiency can also result in the formation of white spots, as low vitamin D levels are associated with psoriasis, a common skin disorder that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells. While not all forms of psoriasis cause white spots, the condition can cause spots that resemble IGH.

Fungal growth

Also known as tinea versicolor, this common fungal infection is caused by a buildup of yeast on the skin. Humid environments and moist, oily skin can trigger the discoloration of small skin patches. They may be white, pink or brown, and can be itchy or scaly.


A lack of melanin results in vitiligo’s characteristic white patches. Commonly seen on the face, neck and hands as well as creases in the skin, the patches can appear symmetrically on both sides of the body. With time, they may change in shape and size, but they’re usually permanent.

Pityriasis alba

Pink or red scaly patches are an initial symptom of pityriasis alba, a condition mainly seen on the faces of children and young people. In later years, these round or oval-shaped areas fade to leave white spots on the skin. Usually, pigmentation gradually returns. Pityriasis alba’s cause is unknown.


White sunspots are a very common skin concern, particularly for those over the age of 40. Although there is no scientific consensus on the specific factors that lead to IGH, sun exposure is believed by many to inhibit the production of melanin and contribute to the formation of white spots on the skin.

As sunspots cause no health threat, removing them isn’t medically necessary, however, some may prefer treatment for aesthetic reasons. When addressing IGH, it is important to keep in mind that while fading the spots is possible, the complete elimination of these spots is an unlikely outcome even when undergoing professional treatment.

There are several methods that may help reduce the appearance of white sunspots including OTC options such as topical steroid and retinoid creams, as well as professional treatments such as lasers, dermabrasion, chemical peels and cryotherapy.

Wearing sunscreen daily and limiting sun exposure whenever possible can also serve to minimize UV damage and may prevent sunspots from forming.

If you’re unsure of the cause of white spots on your skin, seek the advice of a board-certified dermatologist.


  • Brown F, Crane JS. Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis. [Updated 2018 Oct 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482182/
  • Coondoo, A., Phiske, M., Verma, S., & Lahiri, K. (2014). Side-effects of topical steroids: A long overdue revisit. Indian dermatology online journal, 5(4), 416–425. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.142483
  • Goldust M, Mohebbipour A, Mirmohammadi R. Treatment of idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis with fractional carbon dioxide lasers. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2013 May 8. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23656568
  • Hill, J. P., & Batchelor, J. M. (2017). An approach to hypopigmentation. BMJ, i6534. doi:10.1136/bmj.i6534
  • Jung Min Bae, Ji Yoon Choo, Hee Sun Chang, Hyub Kim, Ji Hae Lee, Gyong Moon Kim. Effectiveness of the 308-nm excimer laser on hypopigmentation after lichen striatus: A retrospective study of 12 patients. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 75, Issue 3, 2016, Pages 637-639, ISSN 0190-9622. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2016.05.001
  • Juntongjin P, Laosakul K. Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis: A Review of its Etiology, Pathogenesis, Findings, and Treatments. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2016 Aug;17(4):403-11. doi:10.1007/s40257-016-0195-3
  • Pagnoni, A., Kligman, A.M., Sadiq, I., & Stoudemayer, T. (1999). Hypopigmented macules of photodamaged skin and their treatment with topical tretinoin. Acta dermato-venereologica, 79 4, 305-10. doi:10.1080/000155599750010724
  • Podder, Indrashis; Sarkar,Rashmi. (2018) Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis: An overview. DOI:10.4103/Pigmentinternational.Pigmentinternational_
  • Shin MK, Jeong KH, Oh IH, Choe BK, Lee MH. Clinical features of idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis in 646 subjects and association with other aspects of photoaging. Int J Dermatol. 2011 Jul;50(7):798-805. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2010.04743.x

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Can you get rid of white spots from sun damage? ›

Since you generally cannot correct the loss of pigment that causes white spots, you must instead treat the skin surrounding the spots. IPL—or Intense Pulsed Light—can be used to target and treat sun-damaged skin.

Why do I get little white spots after being in the sun? ›

These white spots appear because there's less pigment in the affected area. Don't be alarmed, though, as these spots aren't a sign of a worsening condition. They aren't painful or itchy, but you may sunburn more easily on the whiter areas where there is less pigment.

Can you prevent white spots on skin? ›

Avoiding white spots

In the case of sun damage, the health of your skin is entirely in your hands. By using sunscreen, staying out of the sun, not using sunbeds and avoiding being sunburned, you can prevent the damage that UV can cause to your melanin-producing cells – thereby preventing white spots.

What is the best home remedy for sun spots? ›

At-home treatment
  • Aloe vera. Studies have found that aloesin and aloin, which are active compounds found in aloe vera plants, can lighten sunspots and other hyperpigmentation.
  • Licorice extract. ...
  • Vitamin C. ...
  • Vitamin E. ...
  • Apple cider vinegar. ...
  • Green tea. ...
  • Black tea water. ...
  • Red onion.

Which ointment is best for white patches on skin? ›

Topical steroids come as a cream or ointment you apply to your skin. They can sometimes stop the spread of the white patches and may restore some of your original skin colour.
Using topical steroids
  • fluticasone propionate.
  • betamethasone valerate.
  • hydrocortisone butyrate.

Are white sun spots permanent? ›

Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis

The spots are permanent,” warns Dr. Shainhouse. Aside from causing brown spots, too much sun exposure also destroys the skin's melanocytes that result in these light spots that often appear on the arms and legs.

Which vitamin deficiency causes white spots on skin? ›

Deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D and vitamin E can cause white patches on the skin. While harmless, these white spots indicate that you need to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

How can I get rid of white spots on my skin naturally? ›

Here are some home remedies for treating white patches.
  1. Drink water and consume food from vessels made from copper. ...
  2. Consume figs.
  3. Drink ginger juice as this increases blood flow to the white patches on your skin.
  4. Dry pomegranate leaves and powder them. ...
  5. Consume edible dry leaves, fruits and flowers in equal quantities.

How do you treat sun spots? ›

  1. Medications. Applying prescription bleaching creams (hydroquinone) alone or with retinoids (tretinoin) and a mild steroid might gradually fade the spots over several months. ...
  2. Laser and intense pulsed light. ...
  3. Freezing (cryotherapy). ...
  4. Dermabrasion. ...
  5. Microdermabrasion. ...
  6. Chemical peel.
Feb 11, 2022

Do light sun spots go away? ›

Most sunspots fade somewhat over time, but they will typically not disappear completely because the skin has been permanently damaged. There are, however, several treatments to diminish the appearance of sunspots. Bleaching creams and acid peels can make the appearance of sunspots less obvious.

Can white spots be reversed? ›

White Spot reversal treatment is a minimally invasive, cost effective procedure provided by trained dental hygienists to reverse white spots lesions in the teeth, with long term results. This procedure preserves the enamel and may prevent the need for more extensive treatment.

Can you fix white spots? ›

In general, fluoride prevents demineralization and can help repair mild white spots. Your dentist may recommend remineralizing the teeth with a topical fluoride paste as the first step. Traditional tooth whitening with a peroxide-based bleaching agent can help in some cases.

Are white spots reversible? ›

White spot lesions may be due to fluorosis (overexposure of fluoride to the teeth), enamel hypoplasia (thinner development of the enamel on teeth), demineralization of the enamel on the teeth, low calcium diet, and poor oral hygiene. The good news, though, it's treatable and can be reversed.

What vitamin removes sun spots? ›

Vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) is especially fantastic at treating age spots on the face because it depigments or reduces melanin on the skin—thereby removing dark spots.

What vitamin helps prevent sun spots? ›

Vitamin E absorbs the harmful UV light from the sun when applied to the skin. Photoprotection refers to the body's ability to minimize the damage caused by UV rays. This can help prevent dark spots and wrinkles. Normally, the body produces vitamin E through sebum, an oily substance emitted though the skin's pores.

Does hydrogen peroxide get rid of sun spots? ›

The hydrogen peroxide helps moisten age spots to dissolve them without damaging surrounding skin. Some people need more than one treatment in order to dissolve an age spot completely, especially if it's large or very dark.

Do white sun spots spread? ›

Vitiligo white spots on skin may start out small before slowly spreading to cover larger areas. Although, this isn't always the case. It can occur anywhere on your body, including your head.

Why is my skin turning white in spots? ›

Overview of Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a chronic (long-lasting) autoimmune disorder that causes patches of skin to lose pigment or color. This happens when melanocytes – skin cells that make pigment – are attacked and destroyed, causing the skin to turn a milky-white color.

What foods reduce white spots? ›

Diet for vitiligo prevention
  • bananas.
  • apples.
  • leafy greens, such as kale or romaine lettuce.
  • chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans.
  • root vegetables, especially beets, carrots, and radishes.
  • figs and dates.

Does lack of vitamin D cause spots? ›

Is vitamin D deficiency a risk factor for acne? In 2006 , researchers estimated that over 41 percent of the U.S. population was deficient in the hormone called vitamin D. Vitamin D is not listed as an official risk factor for acne, according to the Mayo Clinic.

What oil is good for white spots skin? ›

Another great natural ingredient that helps diminish white patches is neem oil. It is antifungal in nature and not only helps calm the skin with its anti-inflammatory nature, but also ensures any discolouration is dealt with. With regular usage, neem oil is effective in tackling white patches on the face.

How do you get rid of sunspots fast? ›

  1. Medications. Applying prescription bleaching creams (hydroquinone) alone or with retinoids (tretinoin) and a mild steroid might gradually fade the spots over several months. ...
  2. Laser and intense pulsed light. ...
  3. Freezing (cryotherapy). ...
  4. Dermabrasion. ...
  5. Microdermabrasion. ...
  6. Chemical peel.
Feb 11, 2022

Can you make sun spots go away? ›

If you have sun spots that you don't enjoy seeing, there are several highly effective treatments that will help you improve them. The options for sun spot removal include laser treatments, chemical peels, microneedling, and microdermabrasion.

What vitamin helps with sunspots? ›

While sunspots can be very difficult to fade, once obtained, Vitamin C can help reduce the look of sunspots. Vitamin C works to brighten and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, age spots and sunspots.

Does vinegar get rid of sun spots? ›

There are some mildly effective at-home treatments for sunspots, including aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, black and green tea, and vitamins C and E.

What is the best laser treatment for sun spots? ›

Ablative lasers are suitable for many types of sun damage lesions, even severe ones like deep wrinkles, loose skin and actinic keratoses. The Er:YAG or erbium laser creates less damage and is more precise than the CO2 laser. However, in expert hands, CO2 laser therapy can be more effective for skin rejuvenation.

What do sun spots look like? ›

What do they look like? Sunspots appear as flat, darker patches of skin (tan to dark brown) that are found on areas of the body that have experienced high levels of sun exposure such as the face, shoulders, hands, chest, and the backs of hands.

How do you prevent sunspots from getting worse? ›

Sunscreen: Protect your skin everyday – even the winter months – with sunscreen. Use SPF 30 or greater to the best protection. The layer of sunscreen will protect your skin from developing sunspots. Don't forget to take the SPF with you when you travel – frequent application is key to continued protection.

What is a natural remedy for age spots? ›

To make a gentle, exfoliating mixture that can reduce the appearance of age spots, combine 3 tablespoons of oatmeal, 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of milk in a bowl to make a paste. Apply to your face and hands and leave it on until it dries completely, then rinse off with just water.


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