What Is a Lentigo?

A lentigo is an area of darker pigmentation including age spots and liver spots

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A lentigo is a darker area of skin. It can be flat or slightly raised. There are many different types, including age spots and liver spots. Other types are present from childhood. Lentigines (the plural of lentigo) are harmless but can be easily confused with more dangerous conditions, including skin cancer. Some people are bothered by the appearance of a lentigo, so they seek treatments that can diminish their appearance by brightening the darker patches of skin.

This story will outline information on lentigines, including types, causes, treatments, and when to seek medical help. 

Older man's hand being examined by a nurse

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Lentigo is a singular word. Lentigines refers to more than one lentigo. Some people also use the term lentigos.

Types of Lentigines

There are many different types of lentigines. Identifying the type you have can help you recognize the cause and whether there are treatment options available. Here are common types of lentigines. 

Solar Lentigo

A solar lentigo is a dark spot that is caused by exposure to UV rays from the sun. Solar lentigines are often called age spots or liver spots (although they have nothing to do with liver function). People over 40 years old are most likely to have solar lentigines. They appear most often on the face, hands, shoulders, and other areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun.

Lentigo Simplex

Lentigo simplex is a type of lentigo that appears during childhood. It’s not associated with exposure to the sun. Researchers don’t know what causes lentigo simplex. However, there’s some evidence that lentigines may be more common in kids with atopic dermatitis (eczema).

Lentigo After Exposure

Certain types of lentigines appear soon after exposure to UV rays. These include:

  • Ink spot lentigines, which appear after a sunburn. These can also appear after time spent in tanning beds.
  • PUVA lentigines, which appear after starting PUVA therapy, which can treat eczema, psoriasis, and other skin problems. 
  • Radiation lentigo, which appears after exposure to radiation, including types that treat cancer. 

Lentigo maligna melanoma

Lentigo maligna melanoma is a type of skin cancer. Though it shares part of a name, it’s not a benign lentigo. It appears most often on people over 40 and in areas of the body that are exposed to the sun, like the face and hands. Because lentigo maligna melanoma mimics benign age spots, it’s often misdiagnosed. This type of skin cancer has a good prognosis but requires treatment, so it’s critical to get an accurate diagnosis.

Lentigo Symptoms

The most common symptom of a lentigo is a darker area of skin. The area of skin is darker than your surrounding skin tone. They may appear tan, brown, or black. A lentigo usually has clearly defined edges and a consistent color throughout. Unlike freckles, lentigines do not fade during the winter or other times of reduced UV exposure.

A lentigo does not cause pain or present physical discomfort. However, you may find that the changes to your skin appearance impact your self-confidence. 

A lentigo maligna melanoma is associated with other symptoms including:

  • Itching
  • Color variation throughout
  • Changing or undefined edges
  • Pain
  • Burning sensation
  • Bleeding

If you experience these symptoms from a lentigo, see your dermatologist to discuss your concerns. 


The causes of lentigines vary. Most often, they are associated with exposure to UV rays. Solar lentigines are caused by exposure to sunlight over the course of our lifetime. That’s why they appear most often in people who are over 40 and appear on exposed areas of the skin, like the face and hands. 

Other lentigines are caused by exposure to different types of rays, including UV rays in tanning beds, through PUVA therapy, or from radiation. 

Researchers aren’t sure what causes lentigo simplex, which is not associated with UV exposure.


Lentigines are diagnosed after a physical exam by a primary care physician or board-certified dermatologist. Your healthcare provider may diagnose them by examining your skin and discussing your symptoms. If they are concerned that your lentigines may be cancerous, they may perform additional testing for skin cancer


Most lentigines do not require treatment. However, some people want to lighten lentigines for aesthetic reasons. This is most common with solar lentigines. 

A lentigo will respond to treatment more effectively if you begin treating it when it first appears. Although treatments often can’t eliminate a lentigo entirely, they can help make them less noticeable, which may improve your self-confidence.

Over-the-Counter Treatments

Over-the-counter skin products that are designed to lighten lentigines or age spots are common. Products that contain kojic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin C, and hydroquinone may help. You might need to use them for a long time before you notice a difference.

Prescription Treatments

Your healthcare provider can prescribe hydroquinone, a topical treatment that lightens the skin by reducing the production of melanin.  


A dermatologist can also guide you toward procedures that may lighten a lentigo. These procedures can be more effective than home remedies for lightening a lentigo. However, they may come with cost considerations and other side effects, so it’s important to have a frank conversation with your doctor about their benefits and drawbacks. 

The procedures that can help with lentigo include:


A lentigo is a patch of darkened skin. It is harmless and often appears with age and chronic exposure to the sun. A lentigo has even color throughout and does not fade after you spend time out of the sun. A lentigo usually does not have physical symptoms. If you experience symptoms like itching, burning, or pain, it may be a sign of skin cancer. Though lentigo does not require treatment, over-the-counter and prescription creams as well as procedures can help make the appearance less noticeable. 

A Word From Verywell

Changes to your appearance can be vexing. but they're a normal part of aging. Though they are not harmful, it’s important to make sure that you see your dermatologist if you experience any signs of skin cancer, including spots that are itchy, painful, or changing shape.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes lentigo?

    A lentigo is often caused by exposure to the sun or UV rays. However, some lentigines appear in childhood for reasons that aren’t understood. Most often, lentigines appear in people who are 40 or older and on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun, like the face, shoulders, and hands. 

  • Is a lentigo cancerous?

    No, a lentigo is not cancer. However, there is a type of cancer called lentigo maligna melanoma, which looks like a lentigo but is cancerous. If you have concerns about cancer, see a dermatologist. They are qualified to help distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous skin markings. 

  • Can lentigo turn into melanoma?

    Yes, it is possible for some types of lentigo to turn into melanoma. This generally takes a long time—more than 28 years on average. Not all lentigo will turn into melanoma—many are truly harmless. However, because it can be difficult to tell which can develop into cancer, it’s important to stay in touch with your dermatologist, who can monitor for any concerning symptoms. 

  • Can you remove lentigines?

    It’s not possible to remove lentigines, and it’s often not possible to make them disappear completely. However, there are prescription and over-the-counter treatments and procedures that may reduce the appearance of lentigines. 

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Lentigines.

  2. MedlinePlus. Liver spots.

  3. Ngan, Vanessa. Lentigo simplex. DermNet.

  4. ScienceDirect Topics. Lentigo.

  5. Bottoni U, Nisticò S, Amoruso GF, et al. Ink spot lentigo: singular clinical features in a case series of patientsInt J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2013;26(4):953-955.

  6. Rhodes AR, Stern RS, Melski JW. The PUVA lentigo: an analysis of predisposing factorsJournal of Investigative Dermatology. 1983;81(5):459-463. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12522663

  7. Xiong M, Charifa A, Chen CSJ. Lentigo maligna melanoma. StatPearls. 2022.

  8. Lehrman, Craig. Can you get rid of age spots? The Ohio State University.

  9. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Lentigo malign melanoma. May 27, 2022.

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.