If you've ever noticed little white spots appear on your skin after spending time in the sun, you may have freaked out a little. We're used to brown freckles, not white ones! But experts say you probably don't need to hit the panic button if you see these marks.
According to the Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, the skin condition idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis can cause multiple small, scattered, smooth white spots (about 2 to 6 mm in size) to appear on skin that's been exposed to the sun. These pesky white spots most often appear on the face, neck, hands, and arms.
Though having a "condition" may seem serious, it's definitely not in this case. "While there are no effective treatments for this condition, I would not worry," says dermatologist Christine Poblete-Lopez, MD, in an article for CCHE. "It’s simply the nature of your skin to react to sun in this way. That said, I strongly advise you to use sunscreen. It will prevent premature aging of your skin and, more importantly, skin cancer."
Research shows that it's most often seen in fair-skinned, elderly folks. However, it's important to keep in mind that it can occur in people of all races and skin types. It has also been seen in some young adults in their 20s and 30s. The exact cause of idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis is unknown, but some experts think it's part of the skin's natural aging process. Others hypothesize that it happens after cumulative chronic sun exposure. Most likely, the cause has multiple factors, perhaps including genetics and the environment.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there is no standard therapy for this condition. However, a bunch of different medical and surgical treatments — including skin grafting and laser treatment — have been tested with mixed results. Since idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis is considered a benign condition, it's important to remember that you probably don't need to do anything about it to improve your health (other than continuing to wear sunscreen, of course). However, if you're interested in improving the spots for cosmetic reasons, talk to your dermatologist about your options. They just might have a recommendation for you.