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Gerrie Summers

What Are These White Spots on My Skin?

By August 25, 2011

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white age spotsA few years ago I noticed what resembled a white freckle had appeared on my leg. It looked like a tiny dot of brown skin had been completely removed. When a couple more dots began to appear, I asked an African American doctor about it. He assured me that it was nothing to worry about, just something that we (black people) sometimes get on our skin.

Since then a few more these minor discolorations have formed. It wasn't until earlier this year that a dermatologist informed me that this is actually a sign of sun damage.

The condition is known as idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis, an acquired benign leukoderma that can appear on the shins and other parts of the legs, arms and other sun-exposed areas of the body. Though the exact cause is not known, theories link the condition to the normal aging process and long-term sun exposure. Yet another reason to use sunscreen year round!

Be sure to read White Age Spots for further information about idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis and possible treatments.

Photo: © Gerrie Summers


February 8, 2012 at 9:45 pm
(1) Clara says:

well I have white spots on my legs they are about the size a pen and I notice more and more every year ….I do not expose my skin in the sun so I just don’t understand….

February 10, 2012 at 11:16 am
(2) multiculturalbeauty says:

Hi Clara. It’s not known what causes these small, white spots (called idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH). Sun damage is just one of the theories as well as non-sun related sehorrhoeic keratosis. Have you tried any of the treatments in the article? Maybe those will help. And if one of the treatments works for you, please let us know. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to do research on this subject.

April 2, 2012 at 10:50 am
(3) sangeeta says:

Please tell me whether I should use or not use sunscreen lotion over the body, after affected by idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis .

April 9, 2012 at 9:32 am
(4) rose vargas says:

I have brown skin and I’m Asian. I now live in Israel. After 13 years here, I suddenly saw white spots on seven places on my skin. Why do I have this and what is the cause of this disease?

May 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm
(5) Katia says:

I am 28 and I have noticed these spots for over 5 years now. I was wondering if this was a hereditary issue. Although small, they’re still noticeable.

May 20, 2012 at 11:21 am
(6) Doris says:

I have white spots on my legs and arms. I am African-American. I am very concern because more spots have appeared this year than last year. I don’t spend a lot of time In the sun. Different races of people have this problem. Is there a cure?

May 21, 2012 at 11:29 am
(7) multiculturalbeauty says:

Hi Doris. I think it would be a good idea for you to see your doctor or a dermatologist to find out what this skin condition is. You should have your skin checked on a regular basis anyway. The white spots could be a number of things. I’ve answered some questions about idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis and you can learn more about this condition in this article about white age spots.

Again, if you notice changes in your skin (moles, discolorations, etc) I really advise having a skin care professional take a look at them.

June 30, 2012 at 5:50 am
(8) Linda says:

I am Asian. I have a fair skin. I usually got these white spots. It first appear as reddish spots then it gradually became white. I got these from the sun in the beach. Sunburns. This is natural here since we are in the tropical area of the earth. People here got sunburns when exposed to sun especially at the back.

October 23, 2012 at 11:25 am
(9) Michelle says:

I’m soooo glad I read this. I have the same issue. My mom does too.

I am definitely a beach bunny. But she is not, so I’m not sure why she’d have this issue.

I am so thankful the spots on not on the face. I will be more diligent about sunscreen from now on.


Will start looking online now for something I can use all over each day.

November 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm
(10) La Ray Honeycutt says:

I was born and raised in SF California where there is no sun but a few months of the year, so if these are sun spots, why do I have them? Could this be because I sit behind a desk and a computer all day and I’m not getting the exercise I need for more circulation? Now that I’m over 60 and I’m sure there are a lot more of us out there with the same problem, is any doctor out there working on this problem?
I almost feel like a leper from the Christian days.

November 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm
(11) multiculturalbeauty says:

Years ago a dermatologist told me that these white spots were just something that happened to black people, as we get older. Years later another derma told me it was from sun exposure. The fact is they’re really not sure. It could be hereditary; it could be from sun exposure. But using sunscreen and avoiding too much sun exposure helps prevent skin cancer and other skin problems, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to protect your skin. And remember you can still get too much sun exposure on a cloudy day, in any area of the world and in any climate. In addition, UV rays can come through office, home and car windows.

As for exercise, that’s a good idea for your overall health, including healthy skin.

If you have a lot of these marks on your skin, perhaps you should see your doctor (or a dermatologist) about them. It could be something else. Please see the article White Age Spots for more information.

December 28, 2012 at 11:43 am
(12) aalia aziz says:

I have one on my leg and on my hands but my hand one is big like a Blackberry phone in size and the one on my leg is like a pen. It’s fine and long not too long …..I was born with those things ..and as I’ve grown it is getting bigger and bigger.

December 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm
(13) multiculturalbeauty says:

Aalia, I was about to say that the marks you describe sound like birthmarks, but if the discolored areas are getting larger, perhaps you should see your doctor or a dermatologist about them.

January 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm
(14) Rajnneesh says:

Sun spots are spots on the skin that occur after sun exposure. Sun spots can be dark or white. White spots can have several causes, and they all share one thing in common, they prevent melanin from being produced in that specific area of the skin, and therefore, cannot alter its pigment. In other words, the skin cannot tan in those small areas.

February 24, 2013 at 4:57 am
(15) LLG says:

I first noticed my spots at the age of 8. I am now 36 yrs old, They are all over my body. I just love myself for who I am.

May 24, 2013 at 7:57 pm
(16) Pamela says:

I am an Africian American woman and I noticed these spots, I guess 10 years ago and now I am 52 and I noticed a lot more on my legs and arms (example: with my palms up the inside of my arm next to my body just from my armpit to my elbow.) My mother has spots as well and now she is 81 years young and she has a lot over her legs ,especially below the knees to ankle.
I have never been exposed to the sun a lot. I am thinking this could also be inherited. If anyone out there hears of anything that can be done, please share. Thanks so much, I will continue to search too.

June 4, 2013 at 11:59 pm
(17) Flo says:

See a dermatologist as soon as possible.

July 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm
(18) kerriann martin says:

I have these same spots on both my legs and I think I will see a dermatologist I don’t like them.

July 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm
(19) pagers says:

Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.

Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

August 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm
(20) Chanti says:

I have them in areas that are very seldomly exposed to sun. I always use spf from head to toe when in the sun. My elderly grandmother has them as well as my aunt. This leads me to believe it is hereditary. We are of African descent.
We have all gotten them looked at by various Drs and the spots are merely a cosmetic issue. Cosmetic tattoos could be a solution if I saw the spots as a problem but I see it as natures family tattoo.

September 8, 2013 at 1:50 am
(21) Vivian says:

I am African American and I have these white spots all over. Mostly, on the inside of my arms. My father had them all over as well. I agree with the previous post, I think they are hereditary. My torso is never exposed to the sun. My father was in the sun a lot but wore long sleeves to protect him from the sun. Same as me, he had a lot of white spots on areas that were not exposed to the sun. I’ve been to a dermatologist and he prescribed some cream, cannot remember the name, it did not help. I am 53 and started seeing the white spots about 18 years ago. They have slowly increased over the years and the older ones have gotten slightly larger and more transparent. In my opinion, this has something to do with age. I am grateful for this blog it helps me to understand something that has puzzled me for years.

December 5, 2013 at 9:21 pm
(22) Wayne Noray says:

why do you people continue to talk so much crap? African people have been crossing the Sahara for years without any sickness. How come now if you stand in the sun for a few minutes You’re gonna get skin cancer,white spots on the skin or what have you?Tell me? How come? I’m from the Caribbean. Trinidad to be exact and all the people i know that work in the sun all day have none of those sicknesses. My grandmother,grandfather and all the people of that generation worked from sun up to sun down in the sun and they lived well into there 90′s & 100′s without any of those problems. The secret is,no GMO,no Hydrogenated oils and no Transfats. Start using Extra Virgin cold Pressed coconut oil in your diet. Put it on your food. Drink one tablespoon morning and evening and apply to your skin and you would see very positive changes in your overall health and skin.

December 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm
(23) multiculturalbeauty says:

I agree that good nutrition is key to overall health. However, years ago we didn’t have as many things contaminating our environment and our food. Better safe than sorry. I’ll continue to protect my skin from <em>excessive</em> sun exposure.

February 23, 2014 at 11:17 pm
(24) nellie says:

I have these really tiny small spots on my leg, mostly on the calf. Week after week, i noticed more and more appearing. I want to know what it is and what caused it. They are really super tiny and its hard to see from a distance. There are like 1mm to 2mm small only. Im really scared and would like to hear from you soon! :)

March 17, 2014 at 4:03 am
(25) Bev says:

Hi, I have noticed these tiny white spots on my legs, a few randomly. I am 39 and never in the sun. The only time I am in the sun is when I drive to work and back in the afternoon. I sit in an aircon office. I also noticed these tiny spots appearing on my face around the cheek bone area. Its just been a month or so that I have notices this….worried that this might spread. Nobody in my family has these spots…..Has anyone been to a dermatologist to find out? If so please enlighten me as I would like to know more about it…..

March 22, 2014 at 1:04 pm
(26) lacy says:

I’m African-American and I have the white spots on my legs that are small and one on my upper thigh thats the size of a quarter and getting bigger. I don’t believe they are caused by the sun because that area never gets sun.

April 19, 2014 at 11:27 pm
(27) mere says:

I’m a pacific islander with brown skin. I started noticing these spots when I turned 13. Now at 30 it has spread to my arms. My students often ask me about it but I have no clear answer. I have another type on my waist which is just a huge white patch that my mother said I was born with…however it is growing bigger each day.

May 10, 2014 at 5:28 am
(28) Chaitanya says:

White spots on body part most of them on joints. All Strats form lips near about 8 to 10 years

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