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What Are White Age Spots?

Updated on November 25, 2014

Why Do They Appear?

White skin spots, known clinically as Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis (IGH), are a widespread pigmentation disorder that commonly affects fair skinned, middle-aged women, but is being seen more-and-more among those who have a lengthy history of sun exposure (all kinds of skin are susceptible).

An outbreak usually occurs earlier in women that it does in men (as early as age thirty), but is equally common and universal among the elderly. While the root cause remains unclear, the link between cumulative sun exposure and white spots is well documented. The resulting discoloration is believed to be the result of damage to the melanocytes in the skin, rendering them unable to produce the normal quantity of pigmentation.

Dealing with white spots is purely a cosmetic issue, the outbreak itself is not a symptom of an underlying damaging condition, and is not considered to be a warning flag with regards to developing skin cancer. For those wondering how to get rid of white spots on the skin, please refer to the end of the article!


Be Sure To Double Check

Not all white spots are indicative of IGH, although the vast majority are, some white spot outbreaks can be symptoms of rare and potentially damaging conditions. It is always advisable to double-check with a qualified professional who will be able to give you the most up-to date diagnosis and therapy (should you require it).

Where Do They Appear?

White age spots generally appear on areas of the skin that are most exposed to the sun's rays without adequate protection (usually the outside of the arms and legs). These white patches appear to be flat, relatively small and drop-like (hence the term guttate, which means "droplike" in Latin). They neither itch or hurt and are considered a very normal part of the ageing process (much like graying hair).

How Do I Prevent IGH

Due to the link between sun damage and skin hypo-pigmentation, the only way to safely prevent developing a rash of IGH is by taking the necessary steps to protect your skin from the sun. This includes wearing the appropriate sun block, especially during the hours of the day when the sun's rays reach their peak intensity. For those who enjoy being tanned, using artificial topical sun-tanning lotions is a good alternative, and modern solutions are cosmetically comparable to a real tan.

Bear in mind that no amount of sun block is likely to protect the skin from white spots in the long-run, due to the fact that cell damage is a normal characteristic of the ageing process.

A curious case of sunblock guttate! Yes, that was a joke (I'm not very good at them -- sorry).
A curious case of sunblock guttate! Yes, that was a joke (I'm not very good at them -- sorry). | Source

How Do I Cure White Age Spots?

There is no known way to reverse or naturally cure the cellular damage at the heart of white age spots. However, there is a rising trend in medical therapies and home remedies aimed at limiting their conspicuousness. Almost all of these require medical care, and can be quite costly. These include:

  • Cryotherapy (cold shock response).
  • A Tretinoin acid-based topical cream.
  • Normally pigmented skin graft transplantation.
  • Make-up.
  • Micro Dermabrasion.

For those who wish to forgo medical attention and prefer over the counter solutions, Cynthia Bailey MD recommends that her patients use anti-aging body kits in order to slightly help the discoloration.


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    • my_girl_sara profile image

      Cynthia Lyerly 5 years ago from Georgia

      Would like to have seen more pics of the spots since I think I have them. Very interesting. Thanks!