Removing Dark Spots on the Face
Over the past few years, I noticed that a little dark spot on my face had grown to about the size of a dime. In some ways, it resembled a giant freckle. The spot was cause for my general practitioner to send me to a dermatologist.
The dermatologist took a quick look at it and said the spot was a sunspot or aging spot—a precancerous spot caused by exposure to the sun. These spots are common on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, like the face, neck, and hands. Sun spots can also occur on the legs and arms.
If you visit your dermatologist for their opinion about spots, be prepared for the following questions:
- How long has the spot been there?
- What do you do for a living? (They want to know if you work outside or are exposed to hazards.)
- Have you noticed any changes to the spot?
- Has it become larger, darker, or discolored over time?
The dermatologist is likely to recommend removing the sunspots as soon as you notice them. In some cases, these spots can turn into cancer.
How Sun Spots Are Removed
While there are natural remedies for removal, there is a relatively simple procedure that can be done in the doctor's office if you want to have the spot removed immediately. The doctor doesn't use any anesthesia, so you may feel pain. The dermatologist will use liquid nitrogen on a swab and apply it, using a slight amount of pressure, for about one minute. The liquid nitrogen will burn the sunspot. Over the next few weeks, a scab will form and the spot will fall off.
Often times people are interested in having spots removed for cosmetic as well as health reasons. Once my sun spot was removed and healed, the discolored spot is no longer visible on my nose. For my own vanity, I think it's worth getting them removed, but if I had several that didn't pose a health risk, I think I'd live with the spots.
Other Dermatological Ways to Remove Sun Spots
If you have multiple sun spots or aging spots that you would like to have removed, there are a variety of other procedures that you can have done at your dermatologist's office.
- Chemical Peel: A chemical is applied to your skin to cause a massive exfoliation. Over the next two weeks, the skin on your face will peel off and new skin cells will regenerate. There are three types of peels: superficial, medium, and deep. The type is determined by the depth and severity of the burn.
- Intense Pulsed Light: Mostly used for capillary damage and hair removal, IPL is administered using broad spectrum light therapy.
- Laser Therapy: A laser is used to target pigmentation but not normal healthy skin cells. The laser pulse feels like being flicked with a rubber band.
- Microdermabrasion: The peeling of the skin using crystals.
Natural Remedies for Sun Spot Removal
Apply to sun spot daily for 10 minutes
Lemons are a natural skin lightener and the acid helps remove dead skin cells
Lemon juice can make your skin sensitive to the sun. Be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat when you are treating your skin.
Milk, Buttermilk, or Yogurt
Apply to sun spots multiple times a day for 10 minutes
Dairy products contain lactic acid that helps skin cells regenerate
Vitamins A, E, or C
Apply topically (not orally). Break open the vitamin capsule and apply directly to the sun spot
Vitamins A, E, and C are antioxidants. They restore cell functions and will help aid in the healing of your skin.
Garlic or Red Onions
Open garlic clove or cut onion and apply topically for 10 minutes
The acid in the garlic and onion will cause your skin to peel.
Watch your skin for irritation from the acid and stop if you notice any adverse reactions.
Here is my experience with having a sunspot removed:
- When your face is burned with liquid nitrogen, it creates a sore on the side of your face that is a few millimeters larger than the sunspot.
- The spot on my face started oozing a clear liquid that is somewhat similar to the ooze of a bad scrape or a burn.
- After a few days, the spot will begin to form a scab.
- Expect your pain to subside each day. You might want to take a pain reliever like Tylenol until the pain is gone.
- Resist the urge to touch or pick at the scab because it can become infected.
- The scab will eventually fall off, and the sunspot will be gone. Many people do report that the scar will last for several months before it finally goes away.
- If you have to do many face-to-face meetings, you might want to wait to have a sun spot removed. The sore is pretty unattractive while it's healing.
Preventing Sun Spots
Exposure to the sun causes sun spots. My dermatologist gave me these recommendations to prevent them:
- Wear sunscreen on all exposed skin. If you're out in the sun for more than three hours or go in the water, reapply sunscreen.
- Wear pants and long-sleeved shirts to keep the sun off of the skin.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head and ears.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: What if I refuse the procedure. What would happen?
Answer: It depends on why the doctor is recommending the spot get removed. You’ll have to ask your dermatologist what the consequences could be if the spot remains.
Lina on August 14, 2019:
I have been treated twice and the results ZERO it is worse now and it is bigger than before. I am doing it for third time. Hope this time works !!!!!!
Shannon on August 14, 2017:
I froze my own sunspots off.
Ladyj on July 18, 2017:
I had several spots treated with liquid nitrogen today. Yes you can put make up on while it is healing.
Stephanie on January 15, 2017:
Advanced Dermatology in Centennial just removed quite a few spots from my face with this technique. They are in the blister scab phase now. One spot the doctor treated deeper because it was treated before. The blister on the specific spot is quite large and my face is a bit swollen as well.
Laura Tesdall on November 11, 2016:
Does anyone know where you can have this done in Denver? I have found that liquid nitrogen is a good alternative for this problem, but I cannot find any doctors who will still use this procedure. Instead, they want to use their fancy lasers which I don't particularly like. The laser is very expensive, and they insist that you buy Obagi Clear ($100.00 extra). I have had the laser treatment done, but that Obagi Clear is dangerous stuff, and I found the liquid Nitrogen to be every bit as effective and only 1/5 of the price.
Jo on August 19, 2016:
I had a sun spot removed from my face. The day after it blistered slightly and was quite red and ugly looking. It then scabbed over and healed up within about 10 - 14 days. I was told I could apply alittle makeup over it once it had scabbed - I was happy with this as it wasnt the nicest to look at and as I work around people all day, it was a relief to know it could be hidden. I was told it was best not to put a cover (bandage) over it.
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on March 12, 2015:
It took a while for my spot to heal, but it seems to be coming back. I think that sun exposure seems to bring it back. When I go outside now, I'm trying to remember to put on sunscreen, but I don't always remember.
margaret h on March 11, 2015:
i had brown spots on my face . i let the doctor used liquid nitrogen 3 months ago and i look a mess. now i really have some big big brown spots and i don't know what to do. i wish i would have just left those spots alone
Jennifer on February 23, 2015:
KERRY---I have "tons". In my legs, didn't know what they were-when I did go to dermatologist she did 2 on one leg, their are so many not sure liquid nitrogen would work-- legs are covered and hands---any advice out there??? NEED HELP- jennifer
Kerry on October 30, 2014:
I lived in Boca Raton for 10 years and I'm blonde blue eyed. I recently had 75 tiny sunspots removed off my legs and arms and a few on face with the liquid nitrogen. They blister and peel or fall off. Keep vasaline on them while healing. I never covered mine. They are healed and the skin is pink where they were, but that will fade in time. Legs take the longest to heal. The ones on my face are gone and not pink anymore. Hate I waited so long to have it done.
wendy on December 21, 2013:
So a lot of oozing of that clear substance is normal for the 1st few days?
OzzieMillie on November 08, 2012:
I am now 50 and the sun damage was such, I ended up going to a dermatologist, where they did several very expensive laser treatments to the dark spots, along with proactive dark spot remover and another expensive spot remover the dermatologist sold to me. I did some research after my treatments, and I found the Lady Soma Renewal Serum. As I am now 50, and I have very sensitive-fair skin, along with sun damage, but within days of using the Lady Soma Renew Serum again,there was a marked difference with lightening of the darker spots on my hands and arms, and my face looks more refined and even toned. I stopped using the dark spot remover as I have not needed it. I never got these types of great results from laser treatments. I now use the Lady Soma Renew Serum (on face only) 2 x per day, and 5 days per week. I take 2 days off.
MJC from UK on September 10, 2012:
It was very interesting to read. Thanks for giving the advice about avoiding the sun. We can’t be informed ever enough about this topic.
disgruntled on April 27, 2012:
My dermatologist used liquid nitrogen on my face to remove skin tags. Now my face looks horrible after 3 weeks now, all kinds of black spots over my face. Now I have to wear make up on my face daily to cover it. The spots are bigger than the skin tags I started out with.
Julie on February 19, 2012:
Is there another alternative to having a pink sunspot removed off of my face ? it's at the corner of my eye and hurts to touch it. I don't want the liquid Nitrogen used cause I don't want a scar left there.
Bryan on February 03, 2012:
Do the sun spots ever turn red after a shower for a bit? I believe that what I have is a sun spot on the side of my nose. but not sure.
Christine on January 30, 2012:
2 months ago, I had Nitrogen treated on my face, now I have all this brown circle on my face, it's really embarassing, I don't know if it will ever go away or scar. Does anyone had this experience.
Dee on January 29, 2012:
I got it done 3 days ago to two spots ine in check an one under the eye. It didn't hurt just a tiny sting! However iwas bad and picked at one which i should know better then that itook like i may have a small indent but they
Looked pretty bad! The one under my eye is actually still swollen really pink. I put makeup over but they both look bad. If i had known i shoulda took a couple days off work or shoulda just kept the silly brown spots no ine noticed but me! Well we shall see when they heal up!
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on January 25, 2012:
@rose yes, I had a mis colored spot after the scab fell off for a bit, but it then healed.
rose on January 25, 2012:
I had treated age spot on my face with liquid nitrogen 2 weeks ago. The scab fell of after 5 days. Now the treated spots turn dark brown. I called up the dermatology if i need an appointment for check up but the assistant told me i have to wait 4-6 weeks for healing process. I don't know if still healing or this could be a scar. Is anyone have the same problem.
kat on January 12, 2012:
just got two sun spots done yesterday....my doctor said I could cover it up with make up if needed
sue on December 13, 2011:
I had to removed today on my lower leg. A big painful blister has appeared on both. I have no idea how about the aftercare. as I am a type one diabetic I am concerned any advice
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on November 01, 2011:
You could put a bandage over it while you go out, but I don't think I'd put makeup over the scab while healing.
ln on October 31, 2011:
can you put make up over the area treated while it is healing?
Alex on October 03, 2011:
Great advice. I had 5 treated on my face today with liquid nitrogen. Slight sting but nothing to be concerned about.
Cher Anne from Earth on October 02, 2011:
Liquid Nitrogen sounds dangerous!
whoisbid on September 13, 2011:
This is good info. I think that many people probably don't know this and might be afraid to ask someone so making a public blog about it allows them to get the answer without fear. I reckon tons of people will benefit from this. You have also given me some ideas about what to write in certain places
laserremovaltips on August 14, 2011:
Thanks for the great information! My father keeps having to get these sunspots cut off his head like every three months and they leave a pretty war wound, lol. He shaves his head like mister clean so you can see it when he goes in to have them removed. Thanks again!
Catherine Tally from Los Angeles on March 11, 2011:
Thanks for the nice informative hub! Thank God for sunscreen! I've been using it daily on my face rain or shine for 25 years, but I am bad about my arms, hands, and neck when I am routinely in the garden. These actinic keratoses or "life's barnacles" as my doctor likes to call them really do need to be checked annually. I'm glad you brought the importance of it to everyone's attention!
Shaz on February 15, 2011:
I have had one removed 3 days ago and the nurse put a cover over it so I could return to work. Does any know if this will slow the healing process.
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on February 08, 2011:
It took a few weeks to get back to normal, but it did eventually.
Lynn on February 08, 2011:
I had it done two weeks ago, the scab fell off but now it is pink - when will it be back to normal
rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on May 05, 2010:
nice info. best advice is sunscreen. I'm blonde, blue-eyed, fair skin living in florida. sunscreen is just part of the daily routine. and a dermatologist routine exam once a year.
I've had two pre-cancerous spots removed. don't forget to put sunscreen on the preschoolers. they're outside during prime time. thanks for sharing, Paul.
sheila b. on May 02, 2010:
Might I tell you that honey is really good for your skin? Your body heat warms it, so it's easy to wash off, but it's great for healing without a scar, as well as keeping your skin healthy. (Also the best thing I've ever found for burns)
Nancy's Niche on April 29, 2010:
Thanks for the info on sunspots, which is rarely discussed.
Hello, hello, from London, UK on April 29, 2010:
Very interesting and informative hub. Thank you.
ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on April 29, 2010:
liquid nitro. is that also sold OTC? it might beat out those expensive spot remover or bleaching creams. Us tennis and volley ball players do appreciate the advice.
Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on April 29, 2010:
At least it has gone now Paul. I did not realise they used liquid nitrogen. I had a few skin tags removed from my neck and it was used for that. Ouch
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on April 28, 2010:
I find as I get older, I wish I had taken better care of my skin and teeth. Probably could have been prevented.
Ralph, I bet you see a lot of sun when you sail. Keep the sunblock on!
Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on April 28, 2010:
Good advice. I've had a bunch of them removed over the past 30 years or so.