Brown Spots

The skin is the largest organ in the body, with the epidermis forming the outer layer.  They epidermis is comprised of three layers, with the basal layer being the most internal.  The basal layer is where melanin, skin pigmentation is produced. Hyperpigmentation in the form of either Melasma or Solar Lentigo results in those ugly dark spots found on the skin.  Brown spots are caused from melanin, a pigment on the skin, which is displaced irregularly throughout the surface of the skin.  Melasma is caused when melanocytes, the cells that produce pigments are over-stimulated resulting in an uneven production of pigmentation in the body which presents as light brown skin patches.  Lentigos result in darker regions, and are resultant from the epidermis having an irregular collection of melanocytes and melanin throughout.

Melasma presents itself on the skin through brown patches.  These brown spots generally appear on the lip, forehead or cheeks.  Other areas of the body which are frequently exposed to the sun may also have Melasma discolorations appear, such as chin, nose or neck.  The primary pattern of Melasma presents as centrofacial, which simply means visible on the most central portion of the face.  A less common type of Melasma is termed malar, and only affects the cheeks.  A third and most infrequent type of Melasma is called mandibular and only appears on the jawbones.  Melasma can affect all demographics but is most common in women aged between 21 and 40 of brown skin.

Lentigos develop slowly over a course of many years, and appear in colour from dark brown to black.  They are also referred to as age spots or liver spots.  Age spots are most often visible n the face, legs and hands, as well as other areas frequently exposed to the sun such as the back, chest and shoulders.  These brown spots appear as small, coloured areas with either a slightly raised or flat surface. They have a sharp edge and are surrounded by normal skin.  Lentigo simplex is the most common, and can be considered a birth mark.  Solar lentigo is sun-induced, and is of the age spot version.  Ink-spot lentigo presents as a single black spot surrounded by liver spots.  Lentigos are most common in fair skinned individuals.

Both Melasma and lentigos are caused by similar factors.  Sun exposure is the primary cause of brown spots on the skin.  Additional factors may include certain medications or health issues, hormone imbalances caused by pregnancy or menopause or other skin disorders, such as acne.