What Is Solar Lentigo? Is It Harmful?

Have you ever wondered what those spots are on your grandma or grandpa’s hand and arm? and when you asked them, they’ll say solar lentigo or liver spots, and you will be left hanging asking yourself what is solar lentigo? confused and lost as you are, I was too.

That’s when I ended up searching for it and asked my dermatologist about it. Now that I have an abundance of information to share about it, I plan on giving it to you guys for free, just for a better education overall.

What does a solar lentigo look like?

Solar lentigo, also known as age spots, liver spots or senile freckles look like spots on the skin with brownish colour, sometimes skin colored or a light tan.

The shapes range from irregular shapes to round and oval shapes, usually flat on the skin.

They can be as small as a few millimeters to as big as a few centimeters on the surface of your skin. People with dark and light skin can have it, but its more visible on light skinned people.

Most of the time the spots are formed in lesions or group, seldom individually. The face and the arm is where you’ll get them the most, also called the sun-exposed side of your body.

The Cause Of Solar Lentigo

There are a ton of things that comes along when we get older, and solar lentigo or liver spots are one of them. Solar lentigo is caused by sun exposure, but not just because of exposure to the sun.

When we get older our skin gets weaker and thinner, somehow the sun has the ability to make it worse for us.

The pigment in our skin will start to change due to our skin getting exposed to the sun over the years.

When the pigments start to accumulate, you will start to see brownish spots forming called solar lentigo or liver spots.

The pigment is called melanin, and melanin is produced by the skin cells in our body when our skin gets damaged by the sun’s UVA and UVB.

This goes to show how incredibly harmful the sun’s UVA and UVB can be. These age spots will fade over time, but they will not disappear from the skin, you can see it as a scar(sort of). It doesn’t hurt to buy a sunscreen and apply it before you go out.

Liver spots are more common in older people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get it in your 20s or 30s…

Prevention And Treatment

What you do with your skin in your early years has a lot to do with how your skin grows and become afterwards (50 and up), just like your overall health. If you are someone that works out regularly and eat enough healthy food then perhaps you should consider treating your skin the same way.

If its possible, try to avoid the sun during this time, from 10:00 am till 3:00 pm. That’s when the sun shines at its brightest thus making the ultraviolet lights emitted from the sun stronger and more harmful.

Usually there is no treatment necessary for this, but if you want, you can consult with your doctor, he/she can prescribe a medication for you to lighten up the mark. If you are worried, consult your doctor to rule out the possibility of skin cancer or some underlying condition

Are Solar Lentigo Harmful?

Solar Lentigo is one of the many types of lentigos. There are 4 different types of lentigos as we know:

  • Solar Lentigo
  • Reticulated Lentigo
  • Lentigo Simplex
  • Lentigo Maligna

In general, Lentigos are not harmful, but it can be cancerous in some cases. Of all the types of lentigos, Lentigo maligna is the one you should be looking out for. Dermatologists say that the lentigo maligna may appear as freckles, but without proper examination, its hard to determine whether the lentigo maligna is cancerous.

That’s why it is recommended by dermatologists to have your skin checked at least once a year, to see if the pigment changes have anything to do with skin cancer. If the lentigo maligna stays untreated, there’s a pretty high chance it could turn into malignant carcinoma.

So with that said, even if 90 percent or more may not be harmful, there is still the possibility of it turning into something harmful. See your doctor if you notice sudden changes in skin colour caused by one or more skin conditions. Professional examination is the only real way to determine whether it is harmful.

Difference Between Solar Lentigo And Freckles

Many of us get confused and think they are the same, solar lentigo, liver spots and age spots are the same, but freckles are different. Freckles are different in the sense of what causes it.

Let’s talk about the similarities between solar lentigo and freckles first.

  • Both are brownish, dark colored mark on the skin.
  • Both have a common bond with the sun’s UVA and UVB

But here’s the difference, liver spots or age spots are usually formed in older adults above the age of 30. Their main cause is the sun’s ultraviolet light. Most of the time solar lentigos are a lesion of marks, and they usually fade a little when not exposed to the sun.

Freckles on the other hand is said to be genetic. If one or both of your parents have freckles, the chances are, you might have them as well. People that have freckles usually have paler skin and red hair, because the gene responsible for freckles is also responsible for red hair.






  • Richard

    Hello Isaac,

    The effects of the sun and the need for us to protect our skins from an early age cannot be emphasized enough. I have one or two of these spots and have known them only as sun spots but your post has not provided me the scientific name for it.

    Do you consider it necessary to protect ones skin in Northern hemisphere countries where the sun is not very strong or is it a good idea to do this regardless of where on lives?

    Thanks for the help.


    • Isaac

      Yes, and a big yes. Regardless of where you are, always protect your skin from the sun. Even when it doesn’t seem all too shiny outside, trust me, light is light. I hope that helps, wishing you all the best!

  • Chris

    My mother has developed a few patches of this condition over the last three years or so, she constantly points them out – I’ll make sure I show her this article. 

    I’m surprised to hear that they do subside over time and leave more of a scar situation, is there any way you can speed up this process and get them to disappear quicker?

    • Isaac

      Hey Chris, in my opinion I think you should have her checked to rule out any possible harm, just to be on the safe side.

      You need not worry about it too much, there are ways to remove it, but that will be costly. Unless it is really bothering her, perhaps you can consult with your doctor. Best of luck!


  • AnxietyPanda

    Awesome! I’ve always wondered about liver spots!What a pleasant surprise to come across this article – it answered all the questions I wanted to know 🙂

    It’s just something I’ve always thought of as part of growing old. I don’t remember ever questioning it, but I heard people referring to it, so I just accepted it as such. It’s great to know what it’s all about now, and what to do to keep things on the safe side.

  • Barry

    Hello Isaac. I hope you are having a good time. Thank you for sharing this information on Solar Lentigo and if it is harmful. The truth is I never knew that term before now. I have seen those mark on old people but never knew it was solar lentigo until now. This article is so educative regarding the lentigos and it’s brothers. Keep educating us brother. Thanks.

  • Shaunna Leclair

    Great information, in a beautiful format!

    You have brought this type of ‘skin disruption’ into focus, and it should be! Prevention is the first line of defense here, and you brought that foreward! 

    In your harmful section, you might want to include that change of shape in a lentigo should be checked out as well.

    Thank You for this article! 


  • JJ

    Hi Isaac, this is such an informative article. I am 65, female and I live in the tropics. The sun shines all the time and, especially in the months June to October, there is always concern about the effect of the 85 degree sun on our skin. Right now I have a dark patch on the left side of my face, but I have not been paying much attention to it, apart from making sure to apply sun block. I think I will now make an appointment to see my dermatologist, just as a precaution. Thank you

  • Anita

    Thank you for this post, I have always seen people with this spots and have always termed them as sun burns. Now I know that they are referred to as Solar Lentigo. They are very popular in my area since the sun is always burning bright on most days, even my mom has some. Good to know that they are not harmful but are they treatable? Can they be eliminated? What about freckles, can they be reduced or eliminated other than hiding them with make up?

    • Isaac

      Dear Anita, I appreciate your comment. Yes, solar lentigo are the same as liver spots or age spots. They usually don’t need treatment, but im sure if you consult with your dermatologist, he/she will recommend some available options. Best of luck!


  • cjciganotto


    Very interesting the topic that you speak in your article. 

    I was never a person to take a lot of sun and every year that passes I try more to avoid it. 

    I did not know that the solar lentigo was caused when we exposed our skin to the sun.

    Nor did I know that there are some cases that can turn out to be a lentigo maligna. 

    Conclusion reduce the exposure time of our skin to the sun.

    Perform a medical check all those people who have brown spots on their skin as a prevention.

    Thank you very much for sharing!


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