Free shipping on all domestic orders over $39

The Truth About White Spots

White Spots
May 19, 2015 Reviewed by Marta 19 Comments

“Nothing can be done” isn’t in my vocabulary. So when I started researching white spots (yes, you read that correctly, white spots, not dark spots) and kept reading that the cause is unknown and there’s no real remedy, I was determined to find out the truth about white pigmentation spots and come up with a treatment.

This all started because I began noticing small white patches on my arms. They are almost perfectly round and about the size of a pea. I have about four on my left forearm and some fainter ones on my right arm. Now we all know about dark spots, but what were these white spots? I set about trying to find out.

Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis

It turns out that these white spots are idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis. They are typically 2-5mm and found on the forearms and shins. Fair and freckly types (like me) are most likely to be afflicted, but they do sometimes show up on darker skin. They are more likely to occur on women and after the age of 35.

Idiopathic means that the cause is unknown. However, speculation that they are likely the result of sun damage seems reasonable. At any rate, they are the result of a gradual reduction in melanocytes in the skin.

Should I be concerned? 

Probably not. The general consensus is that white spots are harmless. They are not due to any trauma or infection. A little surprisingly, they do not predispose to cancer (although it’s a good idea to dial up the sunscreen, if only that this may prevent more spots showing up).

Out, damn spot!

The fact that these things are harmless is a bit of a double-edged sword since it means that the medical profession doesn’t deem them worthy of finding a cure.  Typical lists of potential treatments include the following:

Light cryotherapy. This is called cold therapy and involves freezing the tissues. At this point, this seems a little drastic and, anyway, I haven’t come across any results (negative or positive).

Localized superficial dermabrasion or microdermabrasion. Since I have a microderm device and am testing a new one, this seemed worth a try.

Pinch grafts of normally pigmented skin. OK, I’m esthetically bothered by white spots, but not enough to go for a skin graft.
Tretinoin cream. Now Tretinoin is a prescription form of retinol and is more than a little controversial. But it did get me thinking about retinol serums.

Topical steroids. Possible back-up if all else fails.

Cosmetic cover-up. Concealer does not work (surprisingly, since my concealers do tend to camouflage dark spots). The other option is self tanner, but that seems like a lot of work to keep up every day.

My White Spot Treatment Regimen

Before resorting to Macbeth’s witches’ brew, I decided to try a simple regimen. It seemed to me that the suggestions for microdermabrasion and Tretinoin pointed to exfoliation being the key. I also came across a study suggesting that “therapeutic wounding” using a spot peel works (over three months).

Microdermabrasion: I have a PMD Personal Microderm ($179) that is up for the job. Otherwise, fellow white spot sufferers could try the Riiviva Microderm Device ($299). Incidentally, I am also testing an at home microderm device by Trophy Skin. I’ll be posting my review very soon.

Spot peel: For the spot peel, I am experimenting with Arcona Pumpkin Lotion 10% ($35) with exfoliating pumpkin enzymes and 10% glycolic acid and Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel -Sensitive. I also have some Sweetsation Lumi*Essence Body Organic Advanced Brightening Repair Treatment ($48 in the shop) and am trying that as well.

Retinol: I happen to have had Sciote Advanced Retinol Crème ($64 in the shop) with 2% retinol. Also worth checking out is Skinfinite Platinum PM Cream 1% Retinol ($79 in the shop).

Vitamin C: My gut tells me that vitamin C is going to be helpful. Sciote’s Peptide+Defense Firming Youth Crème ($95 in the shop) looks interesting, especially as it also has glycolic, lactic and other acids for exfoliating and the airless pump packaging makes application super easy.

I did come across a study (still ongoing so there are no results yet) trying ultraviolet light with wavelengths of 308nm. I don’t know whether the violet/blue light on my Truth Vitality Lux Renew ($279 in the shop) 415nm at is close enough. But that could be worth a try as well.


  • June 15, 2018

    by Hashna

    I'm just 19. And this white spots appears in my leg and it's EVERYWHERE. I'm so depressed due to this problem. I also noticed that the white spots spreading all over my leg. And that's so scary. I've tried a cream that actually recommended by my doctor, but it's useless. People start noticing this white spots. I did read alot of articles about this skin problem and they did mention about woman and age more than 40. Come on. I'm just 19. I'm still young and I'm having this tiny white spots all over my leg. That's so depressing. I just wish this spots vanish forever from my life.

  • June 9, 2018

    by Jas

    Having this makes me more depressed and sad. I can't wear skirt or short like the usual teenager. because of this, I'm lack of confidence to face people. I started having it when I was 12 yrs. old. I don't know where it came from. I'm still young to experienced this. can you give me a little advice or the treatment that you think is the best.

    P.s sory to my grammar, I'm not that good!



  • February 20, 2018

    by Adel Merola

    I'm going to be trying a tincture in Autumn that my acupuncturist will make up for me.

    I'm full of these spots on both my arms and legs. I get quite disheartened and i'm like you Marta - i believe there's a solution. My acupuncturist believes so. Autumn is chosen because i'll have my arms and legs covered during this time...

  • February 19, 2018

    by Marta

    Hi Amy, microdermabrasion definitely helps. I am not as religious about as I should be. You have to be disciplined and do it daily, which I don't. But when I am on the case I can see an improvement and so I am resolved to get back to doing it daily.

  • February 18, 2018

    by Amy


    Has anyone seen an improvement on treating the spots? I keep reading it’s common in women over 35, well I’m only 28 and I’ve had my spots since I was 21.. more keep appearing every year! Please let me know if you’ve seen improvements on your remedies as I am desperate to slow the progress of mine down!

    Amy X

  • August 2, 2017

    by Marta

    Hi LD, I've seen some improvement. I left one untreated comparison. It is subtle, but inspiring enough for me to be more diligent about keeping up the treatment.

  • July 26, 2017

    by Help

    Help im so depressed these spots have made me a hopeless sad person

  • June 30, 2017

    by Natalie

    Hi Marta
    Thanks for that.i have it bad on my legs and I was going to try tretinonin but I will give microdermabrasion a only 37 and think tanning bed use is the cause of mine.also I noticed it really bad after a sunsign first I thought it was the ocean and sand had exfoliated my legs but the white bits stayed a lot whiter than the other depresses me and I keep my legs covered all the time now as I feel they look like a 60 year old legs and not a 37 year old.have u ever heard of ipl/laser working?

  • June 25, 2017

    by Marta

    Hi Natalie, what I found was the exfoliation - particularly microdermabrasion does have a subtle impact. I haven't been quite as diligent about keeping it up as I should have been, but have started up again these past few weeks. So far, I think this is the best way to go.

  • June 25, 2017

    by Natalie

    Hi Marta
    Did you have any success with the idiopathic guttate treatment regime?

  • July 26, 2016

    by L.D.

    Welllllll? It's been over a year. What's the verdict?

  • June 15, 2016

    by Nathalie

    Hi martha, i read your article about the White spots. I have many on my arms and legs unfortenately. I hate them. I am curious if any threatment is working by you. I am from the netherlands and i'm 32 years old. To young to have this spots, bevause i think there will be more of them. Ik still hoping there will be any therapie that works. Greets nathalie

  • June 9, 2016

    by Marta

    Hi Nat, I've honed in on microdermabrasion (about 3 times a week) and Stacked Skincare's body peel ( A little progress has been made, but I must admit it is slow.

  • June 9, 2016

    by Nat

    Hi Martha
    I'm in my late 20's and have started to see tiny white spots appearing- is there a follow up with your review of the products?

  • May 22, 2015

    by Kathy

    I am so in need of neck assistance! I am 51, my face looks really good, but my neck has been neglected (unfortunately) Sagging and rings around my neck. I need a heavy hitter to start making some headway on my poor neck.. SImy Skin Intensive Lift Neck Serum Phase 1 sounds like it is just the ticket!

  • May 22, 2015

    by Rebecca

    I'm in my late 30's (and third pregnancy) and have just noticed in recent photos that my neck is less taut, prominent neck rings and loss of elasticity...quite a shock but not unexpected! I am hoping that if I start to combat this with hard hitters now that I'll have some chance of success. SimySkin Intensive Lift Neck Serum Phase 1 sounds like a great candidate to start the battle!

  • May 20, 2015

    by Toni

    I turn 50 this year and never thought about creams for my neck and declitee until now. I started noticing lines and sagging skin on my neck in the past few months and need help knowing which products work. I will try the Simyskin Lift Neck Serum and hope to see a difference. Thank you Marta for providing this helpful feedback because I would not know where to start.

  • May 19, 2015

    by ilene

    It seems to be a great product. Works on many types of skin issues, and is well worth trying.

  • May 19, 2015

    by Kelly

    Thanks Marta for doing the hard work for us on the question of those white spots.
    I'm up for trying the new SimySkin Intensive Lift Neck Serum Phase I. The name is awfully long but the ingredients list sure looks promising to help with the lines and wrinkles in my thin skinned neck!

Join the discussion! Leave a comment below.

My Comment

Add a comment...

-or- Cancel Comment
* Required Fields
truth in aging's five best

Truth In Aging's Five Best

The very best to choose from for your skin concerns.

Read More

truth in aging videos

Truth In Aging Videos

Helpful how-tos and reviews from Marta and friends.

Watch Now

meet our contributors

Meet Our Contributors

The TIA community consists of our trusted reviewers.

Meet Them

be inspired

Be Inspired

Inspiring thoughts and women who are aging gracefully.

Read More