Light Brown Skin Discoloration
Light brown skin discolorations occur on people with light or dark complexions; the spots are simply a little darker than surrounding skin. The darkness is caused by local overproduction of melanin, the brown pigment in all human skin. Years of sunlight usually bring them out. They are mostly harmless, says the American Association of Dermatology, but you can remove them. Check with your doctor to see if yours are one of the rare skin cancers.
The best known light brown skin discoloration is a freckle, medically called an ephilis, plural ephilides, most often seen on fair skin, especially on red-haired people, but they can occur on darker skin, too. They are often inherited. The melanin accumulates in skin cells called keratinocytes. Some spots grow larger. According to Dermnet NZ.org, light brown skin discolorations can become dry and scaly, converting to solar keratoses or, when darker, seborrhoeic keratoses, or "senile warts." The larger brown spots on your face and hands, called liver spots or age spots, are medically termed solar lentigines, or if singular, a lentigo. In these, the melanocytes have spread out into surrounding skin.
Dermatologist Elizabeth L. Tanzi, a clinical faculty practitioner in the Dermatology Department at Johns Hopkins Hospital Center in Baltimore, addressing the American Academy of Dermatology's Skin Academy in Washington, D.C., in 2009, says the sun is the culprit in light brown skin discolorations. However, lack of protection against the sun's ultraviolet, or UV, rays allows it to happen. Tanzi advises you to wear a skin cream with a high skin protective factor, or SPF, over 15, whenever you enter direct sunlight. You may enjoy a summertime tan, but after many summers, it might still go away every winter, but only in spots.
Tanzi warns that too much sun, specially sunburn, can allow solar UV to mutate skin cells. These mutated cells, especially the pigment-producing keratinocytes, proliferate wildly and turn into a skin cancer called malignant melanoma. It may be difficult to tell a harmless solar lentigo from an early melanoma, or lentigo maligna. A new freckle or suddenly darkened discoloration with more than one shade of brown and irregular borders requires an immediate visit to a dermatologist.
Brown marks, especially light ones, may fade with sun protection. Anti-aging or "fade creams" may also help. These may contain antioxidants such as vitamin C, retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, azelaic or kojic acids and hydroquinone, according to Dermnet NZ.org. These usually act slowly. Chemical peels, cryotherapy and lasers may work faster and under better control. Scarring is rare, but some treatments can darken the pigmentation.
Skin care authorities all agree that freckles, lentigenes and age spots are harmless, except for cosmetic issues. Some of the fade creams, skin peels and even medically applied lasers can, rarely, cause irritation, discoloration and disfigurement. Do not diagnose your own skin spots. Misdiagnosis can be dangerous, and self-care may be misdirected. Show your doctor any light brown skin discolorations you plan to cover or remove. This report is not intended to endorse any product or treatment.
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