Hotter weather means wearing lighter-weight clothing and exposing more skin to the sun’s harmful rays. But putting on a bathing suit, shorts or tank top, might also reveal skin that is discolored or sun-damaged, or that has visible imperfections.
Some skin flaws are harmless and purely cosmetic concerns, but others are problems that need to get examined by the trained eyes of a dermatologist, said Dr. Lauren Ploch, a dermatologist in Augusta, Georgia.
Here is a look at nine common skin concerns, and how they might be treated by a dermatologist.
These flat, brown spots on the skin, also known as solar lentigines, typically crop up on the areas of skin that get the most sun, such as the face, cheeks, hands, shoulders, upper back and tops of feet, Ploch said. Age spots tend to be more irregular in shape than freckles, she added.
People may develop age spots beginning in their 20s if they have had a lot of sun exposure, Ploch said. As people age, these spots become more common, and well over 50 percent of Caucasians in their 50s and 60s have at least one age spot, she explained. The spots are less common among people who have darker skin, she noted.
These common skin discolorations are caused by an increase in the activity of melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment in skin after sun exposure. An increase in the brownish-black pigment melanin can also cause age spots, as well as freckles; this pigment also gives skin the darker hue seen in suntans. However, doctors aren’t sure why such increases in melanocyte activity and melanin occur.
Dermatologists may examine age spots to see if they are getting larger or darker over time, because the spots may transform into a type of skin cancer known as lentigo maligna.
Wearing sunscreen may help to prevent age spots from forming or ensure that existing spots don’t get darker, Ploch said. Applying topical creams containing ingredients such as retinoids or alpha hydroxy acids may help to lighten the spots a little, Ploch said. Other treatment options include using lasers (light therapy) or freezing temperatures (cryotherapy) to destroy melanin-producing cells, but these methods may cause these areas of skin to discolor, she said. [5 Surprising Facts About Sunscreen]
Dotting the nose, cheeks, arms and shoulders, freckles are tan or brown spots that are more round or oval in shape than age spots are, Ploch said. Blondes and redheads tend to get more freckles than people with dark hair, and freckles also tend to darken in summer and lighten in winter, she explained.
Freckles occur when exposure to the sun increases the amount of the pigment melanin in the skin cells; genetics can also play a role in a person’s freckle count. [5 Health Risks of Being a Redhead]
People typically get freckles early in their lives, usually before age 10, Ploch said.
You don’t need to worry about treating your freckles, because they tend not to turn into skin cancer, Ploch said. Even so, for those with freckles, it’s still a good idea to stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen outdoors to avoid getting more of the marks, she said.
This common infection can be easily treated with anti-fungal medicines, Ploch said. Topical creams, lotions or shampoos that contain anti-fungals may be applied to the skin to clear the yeast overgrowth, she said.
If tinea versicolor covers a large area of the body or is thick, a doctor might recommend an oral anti-fungal medication instead of a topical one, Ploch said. It might take weeks or months for the skin discoloration to go away, and people may wish to wash with an anti-fungal cleanser once a week to help prevent the infection’s return, Ploch said.
Originally published on Live Science.