While sun spots indicate skin damage, they also reveal your body's defense against the sun's harmful rays. That's because when you're exposed to UV light, cells called melanocytes in the outer layer of your skin produce more of the pigment melanin than usual. This extra melanin gives you a tan, which protects the deeper layers of your skin from more extensive sun damage. However, when your skin makes too much melanin in one area -- or when it's forced to make too much melanin over time -- it can create lasting speckles and spots [source: Mayo Clinic].
Limiting your exposure to the sun is the surest way to prevent damage to your skin. Since sun spots generally show up on the face, arms, neck and shoulders, keeping these areas covered will help you avoid discoloration. But if sitting under a parasol isn't your thing, there are other ways to protect yourself from UV rays.
First and foremost, apply sunscreen every day. Many moisturizers and foundations contain sunscreen, and certain mineral-based cosmetics have a natural sun protection factor (SPF). However, you shouldn't rely solely on your makeup to protect you from the sun. Fifteen minutes before you head outdoors, apply a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 or, even better, with an SPF of 30 [source: UCSF School of Medicine].
If you're in the car a lot, you're likely to get a heavy dose of UVB rays, which are responsible for sun spots. (UVA rays, on the other hand, are responsible for sunburns.) If you can, install an anti-UVB coating on your vehicle's windows [source: The Patient's Guide].
Finally, you've probably heard about the restorative effects of the vitamin A compound, retinol. For nighttime, consider applying a moisturizer that contains this ingredient.
Read on to learn more about reducing the appearance of sun damage to your skin.