Solar lentigo


Usually found on sun exposed sites such as hands, face, lower legs, but may also follow sunburn in other areas.  It is identifiable as a light or dark brown regular or irregular patch often described as having a moth eaten border.  The surface may be a bit dry and scaly, and it slowly enlarges up to several centimetres over time.  Occasionally it can disappear, but more usually stays as a patch of pigmented skin.  It is usually harmless. Because it is made up of melanocytes (pigment cells), on rare occasions a malignant melanoma can develop within it. Any lumpiness or irregular pigment developing within a lentigo should alert you to seek a medical opinion urgently.


  • SPF 50+ broad-spectrum sunscreen
  • Hydroquinone bleaching cream
  • Alpha hydroxy acids
  • Vitamin C
  • Retinoids
  • Azelaic acid



  • Cryotherapy (freezing)
  • IPL (Intense pulsed light)
  • Lasers
  • Chemical peels
  • Hyfrecation (electrocautery)

There is very little evidence to help you choose between treatment types.  Small studies have shown good results with all four methods of removal.  Persistent treatment with topical formulations also reduces pigment.  Cryotherapy is the method with the longest track record and is cheap. At the Oxford Skincare Clinic, you would be offered the choice of cryotherapy or gentle hyfrecation.  Laser and IPL can be more expensive and several sessions are usually needed to clear the pigment, but can also be very successful.  If you want to consider laser, then check out  Chemical peels cost about the same as cryotherapy but have rather uncertain outcomes.

Around 70% of patients will get considerable lightening of the pigment, 20% will get modest lightening.  As with all procedures which create a ‘wound’ there is a risk of increased pigment.  This occurs in around 10% of patients, and is usually only a problem in patients with darker skin.