Solar Lentigo (Sun Spot, Liver Spot)

What is a solar lentigo?  
A solar lentigo is excess pigmentation in the skin caused by ultraviolet light exposure over time. By definition, a solar lentigo is benign (not to be confused with lentigo maligna, a particular type of malignant melanoma).

What do they look like?
Solar lentigines (plural form of lentigo) are tan, brown or dark brown flat discoloration of the skin usally2 mm to 2 cm in size, most commonly appearing on sun-exposed areas of the body, including the face, neck, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, and legs.

What causes solar lentigines?
The cause of solar lentigines is from chronic exposure of the skin to ultraviolet light. Genetics and the amount of sun exposure will contribute to when you will see them appear on your skin, as well as how many and where on your body. Solar lentigines are not associated with liver problems. The term “liver spot” was coined several years ago because physicians felt the color of a solar lentigo was similar to liver.

Do I need to do anything about them?
Solar lentigines are benign (non-cancerous), so removal is not necessary; however, they can change rapidly and exhibit irregular dark colors, mimicking characteristics of melanoma. Evaluation by a qualified dermatology provider is suggested to confirm they are benign. Occasionally, a skin biopsy is necessary to rule out lentigo maligna, a type of malignant melanoma which is characteristically on sun-exposed areas of the body.

What if I do not like the appearance of them?
Comprehensive sun protection can prevent the appearance of new ones; however once they appear, a cream and/or procedure is necessary to remove them. There are several modalities to remove solar lentigines, including topical medications, chemical peels, cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen), and laser/light therapies. Dr. Liu commonly treats solar lentigines with a combination therapy, including proper sun protection, topical medications, intense pulse light, and/or fractional lasers.

Are the treatments for solar lentigines covered by insurance?
No, because a solar lentigo is benign, there is no medical indication for treatment, so insurance plans do not cover the therapies, including topical medications. Health savings accounts and flexible health savings plans often will reimburse for these procedures, but not always.


After One Multilevel Combination IPL

*actual patient case of Dr. Liu©

Sun Spots-Asian Skin After Two IPL Sessions

*actual patient case of Dr. Liu©



Dr. Liu on the Doctors Show Treating Solar Lentigines on the Hands using Palomar Intense Pulsed Light System


Before and Afters of Patient from Doctor's Video


After Two IPL Sessions
*actual patient case of Dr. Liu©