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Solar keratoses / Actinic keratoses / sun damage / sun spots

Sun damage causes a number of changes in the skin, including thinning and wrinkling, broken blood vessels, discolouration and solar keratosis – rough, red and dry areas in the skin that indicate sun damage over many years, and carry a risk of progressing to skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma.

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How do I know if I have solar keratoses?

Solar keratoses feel like rough, scaly, dry patches, which are often red. They are common from the age of approximately 40, and increase with age. Anywhere on your skin may be affected, but solar keratoses certainly occur more often in more sun-exposed areas, such as your face, neck, exposed scalp, chest and backs of hands and forearms. Initially, solar keratoses may seem to come and go; however, they often then become permanent.

How are solar keratoses treated?

The reasons to treat solar keratoses include improving the look and feel of your skin, as well as removing these lesions carrying a risk of progressing to skin cancer if left unchecked.

Prevention of new solar keratoses is essential, including sun avoidance and careful sun protection. Q Dermatology recommends SPF50 broad spectrum sunscreen, along with physical protection including sensible clothing, a hat and sunglasses. Some skincare ingredients are helpful in reducing solar keratoses, such as prescription vitamin A creams, AHAs (such as glycolic acid) and vitamin B3.

There are a number of treatments available for solar keratoses. Your dermatologist will select and discuss the options best suited to you, and individualise your treatment plan. Options include cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen/‘freezing’), creams, and technology-based therapies. These all have different advantages, and your preference may be guided by specific factors such as downtime, discomfort, cost and effect.