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White Spots

The Truth About White Spots

Reviewed by Marta May 19, 2015 10 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. 

  • July 26, 2016

    by Marta

    Hi LD, I've seen some improvement. I left one untreated comparison. I took a picture and posted it in our forums, which you can see here:

    It is subtle, but inspiring enough for me to be more diligent about keeping up the treatment.

  • 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?

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