Is There an OTC Cream That's Effect in Removing Brown Spots from Years of Sun Bathing?

I am 51 years old and noticed that I have some small to medium size brown spots on arms, chest and legs’. My face has 2 very small spots. I have sun bathed mostly the past 10 yrs…not in my early years. I am currently trying alpha hydrox spot lightener bought OTC but I haven’t seen any results from this product. Due to the economy right now, I can't afford to see a dr.for this so I was wondering if there an OTC cream that's very effective in removing brown spots from arms, chest and legs?

Doctor Answers 18

I like the Fraxel Restore Dual for a complete treatment and the GentleLase laser for spot treatment.

Over the counter creams are not potent enough to remove these spots. I like the Fraxel Restore Dual for a complete treatment and the GentleLase laser for spot treatment of these spots.  

Salt Lake City Dermatologic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Age spots don't respond to OTC creams

Age spots usually need to be removed by freezing, burning, lasering or peeling them off. No cream will really do much at all. Sincerely, David Hansen,MD

David Hansen, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

How to remove brown spots from sun bathing

One of the most effective (and least expensive) ways to reverse the effects of chronic sun damage to your skin is by using a combination of two prescription strength medications: tretinoin cream and 4% hydroquinone cream. Unlike the unsubstantiated claims made by over-the-counter skin care products, the results of using these creams are backed by real medical science. I recommend the Obagi Nu-Derm System which uses both tretinoin cream and hydroquinone to visibly lighten age spots as well as the fine lines and wrinkles that are due to chronic sun exposure. 

Mitchell Schwartz, MD
South Burlington Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Topical treatment for long standing hyperpigmentation

The first step for treating brown spots is daily use of sunscreen. In some patients this can effectively fade brown spots but not all patients.  OTC topicals tend to be weaker and not as effective as physician-grade products.  In general, topicals take 6 weeks to begin to work (inhibiting melanocytes and production of melanin), so patience is the key.  However, our experience has found that long standing browns often require a more assertive treatment such as intense pulsed light or laser therapy and using topicals to maintain a good result.  Speak with an experienced office to see what options can fit your face and your budget.

Anil R. Shah, MD
Chicago Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 163 reviews

Removing brown spots

So the first thing any of us would say is that someone needs to make sure that you are not dealing with a pre skin cancer or a skin cancer. If not, brown spots can be treated with some of the cosmeceuticals that many of us work with, which are stronger than those in drug stores or department stores.  Some include Neocutis Blanche and Perle; Syneron Beauty Elure; Obagi Nu Derm System; SkinMedica Lytera; and Skinceuticals Advanced Lightener.  Many are available in spas associated with skin care physicians so give them a try.

Michael Gold, MD
Nashville Dermatologic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Effective treatment and products for sun damaged skin

Finding an over the counter product to lighten sun damage and melasma is very difficult. The appropriate product depends on the amount and depth of pigmentation. OTC products do not contain a high enough level of  lightening agent in the product, therefore there will be very limited efficacy.  There are products that can be purchased through a professional that are highly effective. Skin Medica Lytera is a tested non hydroquinone skin pigment lightener that has been shown to reduce pigmentation from sun damage and as well as melasma.  Retinols are also an effective product used in conjunction with lightning products for increased treatment.It is aways important to seek professional advice when treating the skin. 

Steven H. Williams, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

OTC Creams and Sun/Brown spots

The amount and depth of sun/brown spots that you are describing on your body cannot be effectively treated with an over the counter product.  When you can invest in the procedure I would suggest either the Fraxel for the face or the Yag depending on the number of spots that you are treating.  These lasers are highly effective.  Remember to find a board certified dermatologist who has a lot of experience in lasers and cosmetic dermatology.

Michele S. Green, MD
New York Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 76 reviews


I would encourage you to see a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon to make sure that your spots are fine prior to doing any treatment.  In addition to sunscreen, using hydroquinone 4% cream and tretinoin cream can be very effective with lightening these spots. 

Sam Naficy, MD, FACS
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 221 reviews

Removal of brown spots

You really should have your skin assessed by a dermatologist to make sure all of your spots are normal.  You should avoid the sun to prevent more brown spots, use glycolic acid or retinol creams for peeling and a hydroquinone cream for fading.  These products may help fade your spots somewhat over time, but do not work as well as in-office laser treatments.

Martie Gidon, MD, FRCPC
Toronto Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

Treatment Brown Spots Due To Sunbathing

You can use OTC exfoliants as a way to lessen the darkness of the lesions, but unfortunately you are probably looking at needing a combination of medical skin care and possibly laser treatments.  Also, you need to continue rigorous use of sunblock, even if you lighten the areas you are treating.  Sun exposure after correcting sun spots will cause them to return.  I have noticed a big difference with patients who pay attention to sunblock over the course of many months, in that their sun spots lighten quite a bit on their own without treatment.

James Carraway, MD
Virginia Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.