You may have seen them crop up in spades after a long, hot summer spent outdoors, but dark spots can also appear at any time of the year, and they can be stubbornly difficult to treat. We give the lowdown on dark spots–from what causes them, to how to treat and prevent them. Cause & Effect “Dark spots, as they’re commonly called, generally look like little freckles on your skin and they’re primarily caused by sun exposure,” says Dr. Benjamin Barankin, a Toronto dermatologist and medical director of the Toronto Dermatology Centre. “There may also be a genetic predisposition to developing them as well as age being a factor.” Spot Treat Treating dark spots starts with good skin care, namely, products which include retinol, lactic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin C, and hydroquinone. “They can cause peeling of some of the pigment, and help lighten the appearance of the spots,” says Barankin. “However, age spots can’t be treated with over-the-counter products and need to be removed by a professional,” says Montreal-based dermatologist Dr. Beatrice Wang. Preserve & Protect If you haven’t already, make sunscreen your new best friend, since it’s the first line of defense in preventing dark spots. “We can’t affect age or genetics, but we certainly can be more diligent about using quality sunscreens and reapplying them,” says Barankin. “Avoid mid-day sun, sunburns and tanning salons, and remember to apply sunscreen to the back of the hands.”