What Are These White Spots on My Skin?

What Are These White Spots on My Skin?

One of the more noticeable and unwanted signs of ageing is colour changes in skin. For most, they appear as brown spots that can dot your face, hands, arms, and chest. For some people, they’re accompanied by small, flat, white, circular spots. Colour-wise these spots are the total opposite of brown spots, but they’re caused by the same thing.

What Causes White Spots?

If you guessed the cause was sun exposure, you’re right; it’s believed that the same accumulated sun damage that causes brown spots also leads to white spots.

Brown spots happen when pigment (melanin) in the skin is stimulated to the point that it’s consistently overproduced, causing dark discolourations. With white spots, instead of making more melanin, certain areas of the skin stop making melanin altogether—the melanin is destroyed. Although they can be bothersome, these white spots are harmless.

How Can I Get Rid of White Spots?

Unfortunately, the options for getting rid of white spots are not as varied as they are for brown spots. That’s because it’s just not possible to get the pigment back. While that can be discouraging, you can help stave off additional sun damage.

The first and most important step is to wear a sunscreen every single day, rain or shine (you can still get sun damage on a cloudy day), along with other sun protection measures, like wearing a hat or SPF-rated clothing. Because ongoing sun damage is what causes these white spots, preventing any additional damage is key.

There are also cosmetic ways to make the white spots less apparent; applying a small amount of self-tanner to just the spots helps them blend with the surrounding skin. Use a makeup brush or a cotton swab to put it on, then wait a few hours to see if the colour looks appropriate. If you need to apply more, go ahead. To maintain the colour, reapply self-tanner as it fades over time.

It’s also a good idea to consult a dermatologist to see what options are available. Though there isn’t much they can do to improve white spots, it’s worth seeing a doctor about what the latest advances might be.

References for this information:
Dermatological Cryosurgery and Cryotherapy, Springer, 2016, pages 407–411
Principles and Practice of Photoprotection, Springer, 2016, pages 61–74

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!