It's no secret that if you've had a lot of fun in the sun, your skin could end up paying the price. But there's a lot more to worry about than just a temporary burn. Over time, excessive sun exposure may result in lasting patches of discoloration called solar lentigines -- more commonly known as sun spots [source: Journal of Drugs in Dermatology]. These marks are also referred to as age or liver spots, though they may have little to do with age and nothing at all to do with the liver. They're often brown or gray and accompany other signs of sun damage, such as wrinkles and dry, thinning skin [source: Mayo Clinic].
Sun spots can vary in size, shape and color, and they often show up on the parts of the body that get the most sun, such as the hands and face. People with fair skin are more likely to get them than people with darker skin. In fact, more than 90 percent of light-skinned people over the age of 60 have sun-related age spots [source: Skin Resource Center, Mayo Clinic]. However, people with dark skin are not immune to sun scarring. On deep skin tones, the damage may appear in the form of gray or ashy areas [source: My Skin Care Connection].
While sun spots are generally the result of years -- even decades -- of chronic overexposure to harmful UV rays, young people can develop them, too. Tanning in booths or beds -- a popular way among many teens and twentysomethings to get golden complexions -- sometimes causes skin to "spot" prematurely. These spots may darken over time and can blend together to create large patches of discoloration.
The good news is that, while they may say more about your sun-speckled past than you'd like, sun spots are generally not dangerous and can be treated effectively in a variety of ways. However, as with most health-related issues, prevention is really your best bet. Read on to find out more about how to avoid ever getting sun spots in the first place.