Why Brown Spots Suddenly Appear on Skin?

By Rank Media on June 6 2024

As a leading dermatology clinic in Vancouver, we often see patients concerned about brown spots suddenly appearing on their skin. These spots, also called age spots, sun spots, or liver spots, can be a source of frustration. In this blog post, we’ll explore the common causes of these unwanted skin discolorations and provide helpful tips on how to address hyperpigmentation.


What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is not a serious health concern, but it can be a cosmetic issue that many people wish to address. The condition is characterized by the appearance of brown, gray, black, or pink spots on the skin. These spots can develop due to a variety of factors, including sun exposure, hormonal changes, inflammation, or underlying medical conditions.

Discolouration occurs when the skin produces an excess of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its colour. This can either happen in localized areas, leading to the formation of sun spots, or it can affect larger areas of the skin, resulting in more widespread discoloration.


What Are Brown Spots on the Skin?

Brown spots on the skin are a result of increased pigmentation that typically appears on sun-exposed areas of the body. These spots are a common sign of aging and sun damage. However, this isn’t always the case. They can range in colour from light brown to pink to dark brown or black.


Main Causes of Brown Spots

Brown spots on the skin, also known as age spots, liver spots, or solar lentigines, are a common skin condition that can occur due to a variety of factors. Understanding the main causes of brown spots can help individuals better manage and prevent their appearance.

Exposure to UV Light

One of the primary causes of brown spots is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or tanning beds. UV radiation can stimulate the overproduction of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin colour, leading to the formation of concentrated areas of pigmentation. The consequences of too much sun exposure or regular use of tanning beds typically start to manifest during middle age. This is especially true if you didn’t use sunscreen properly or had many sunburns earlier in life.

Pre-Existing Skin Conditions

Certain health and skin conditions, such as melasma, acne, and hyperpigmentation, can lead to the development of brown spots.


Certain medications can cause dark spots because they make the skin more sensitive to sun exposure. They include:

  • Estrogens — Climara, Vagifem, and Estrace
  • Tetracyclines, broad-spectrum antibiotics, Declomycin (demeclocycline), and Amzeeq (minocycline)
  • Amiodarone, which is commonly used to treat heart issues
  • Certain anticonvulsants
  • Phenothiazines, commonly used to treat mental and emotional disorders
  • Sulfonamides used to treat infections

Other Causes

Certain other conditions may be the reason for brown spots suddenly appearing on the skin, such as:

  • Pregnancy
  • Liver disease
  • Addison’s disease
  • Hemochromatosis (excessive iron)
  • Pituitary tumours

Understanding the underlying causes of brown spots is essential for developing an effective skin care regimen and seeking appropriate treatment, if necessary. By addressing the root causes, individuals can better manage and prevent the appearance of these unwanted skin discolourations.


How to Prevent Brown Spots on the Skin?

Wear sunscreen: Protecting your skin from UV exposure is crucial in preventing brown spots. Use a sunscreen that is at least an SPF-30 and reapply it every couple of hours when spending time outdoors.

  • Limit sun exposure: Avoid prolonged sun exposure, especially during the peak hours of 10 AM to 4 PM. Seek shade, wear protective clothing, and use a wide-brimmed hat when possible.
  • Use skin-lightening products: Topical treatments containing ingredients like kojic acid, vitamin C, or retinoids can help inhibit melanin production and fade existing brown spots.
  • Exfoliate regularly: Gentle exfoliation can help remove the top layer of skin and reveal a more even skin tone. Use a chemical exfoliant or a gentle scrub a few times a week.
  • Manage hormonal imbalances: Hormonal changes, such as those during pregnancy or menopause, can contribute to the development of brown spots. Consult a healthcare professional to address any underlying hormonal issues.


Is There Any Treatment For Brown Spots?

If you’re dealing with the sudden appearance of brown spots on your skin, various treatment options are available. At Pacific Derm, we offer several options to treat brown spots on the skin to address your unique concerns. Some of our common treatments include:

  • Chemical peels: Superficial chemical peels can help fade the appearance of brown spots by removing the outer layer of skin.
  • IPL Photorejuvenation: Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy targets the melanin in brown spots, breaking it up and fading its appearance.
  • Laser therapy: Treatments like Fraxel, excel V, Laser Genesis, MedLite®, or PicoSure® use targeted laser energy to reduce brown spots.
  • Excision: For larger or stubborn brown spots, a dermatologist may recommend surgically removing the affected area.
  • Cryotherapy: Freezing the brown spot with liquid nitrogen can help break down the excess pigment.
  • Skincare products: Over-the-counter and prescription lightening creams and serums can gradually fade the appearance of brown spots.

The best treatment will depend on the severity and cause of your brown spots. Consulting a dermatologist is recommended to develop an effective treatment plan.



What causes brown spots to suddenly appear on the skin?

Brown spots can appear suddenly due to increased melanin pigment, often triggered by factors like sun exposure, changes in hormones, age, or skin conditions.

Can brown spots be a sign of a more serious condition?

In some cases, sudden brown spots may indicate an underlying medical condition like liver disease or diabetes. It’s best to have liver spots or suspicious-looking brown spots checked by a dermatologist.

How do I prevent new brown spots from forming?

Consistent use of sunscreen, avoiding excessive sun exposure, implementing a proper skin care routine, and managing fluctuations in hormones can help prevent the development of new brown spots.

Can brown spots be removed or lightened?

Yes, various treatment options like topical creams, chemical peels, laser therapy, and cryotherapy can help reduce the appearance of brown spots.

Will brown spots go away on their own?

Brown spots may gradually fade over time, but proactive treatment is usually required to see significant improvement.

Do brown spots indicate a vitamin or mineral deficiency?

While deficiencies aren’t a common cause, some studies link low levels of antioxidants like vitamins C and E to increased hyperpigmentation issues.

Can stress cause brown spots to appear?

Stress can indirectly contribute to brown spots by triggering hormone imbalances that stimulate excess melanin production.

Are brown spots contagious?

No, brown spots are not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person.

Do brown spots worsen with age?

Yes, sun spots, age spots, and other skin spots that stem from sun damage and hormonal changes can cause brown spots to become more pronounced over time.

Can brown spots be a sign of skin cancer?

While brown spots are usually benign, it’s important to monitor any changes in size, shape, or colour, as this could potentially indicate a cancerous growth.

When should I contact a doctor?

If you have thick or scaly skin with wart-like lesions in certain areas, often with a red to brown colour, this could be a condition called Actinic Keratosis. This can be an early indication of skin cancer, so it’s important to have it checked out by a doctor.

You should also visit a doctor if you notice any moles that are painful or growing. The sudden appearance of brown spots on the skin can also be a sign that requires medical attention.

Paying attention to changes in your skin and seeking professional evaluation is crucial for catching potential skin cancer early. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your dermatologist if you notice anything concerning.

When should I worry about age spots?

If you notice new brown spots appearing suddenly or they are changing in size, shape, or colour, it’s a good idea to have them checked out by a dermatologist. The rapid development of age spots could potentially be a sign of something more serious. If you’re concerned about brown spots suddenly appearing on the skin, schedule a consultation with one of our qualified dermatologists at Pacific Derm today.