What is Actinic Keratosis?


Actinic keratosis is a rough scab on the skin that occurs after years of sun exposure. They are spots or patches of scaly skin on the upper layer of the epidermis that often appears on the face, lips, ears, forearms, scalp, neck or back of hands. Over time, they can harden and have a wart-like surface.

Also known as solar keratosis, an actinic keratosis develops slowly and usually appears for the first time in people over 40 years of age. You can reduce the risk of suffering from this skin condition by minimizing your exposure to the sun and protecting the skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays.

If not treated, the risk of actinic keratosis becoming a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma is approximately 5 to 10 percent.


Actinic keratosis occurs due to frequent or intense exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays or sun beds.

Risk Factors

We can all develop actinic keratosis. But your risk is greater if:

  • You have red or blond hair and light or blue eyes.
  • You have a history of intense sun exposure or sunburn
  • You have freckles or burn easily when you expose yourself to sunlight
  • You are over 40 years old
  • You live in a sunny place or work outdoors
  • You have a weakened immune system


Sun protection helps prevent actinic keratosis. Another way to prevent it is by using natural soaps and creams free of aggressive and chemical ingredientsTake the following measures to protect the skin from the sun:

Reduce the amount of time you spend in the sun. Avoid exposing yourself to the sun, especially between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. In addition, avoid staying in the sun for an extended period of time, as this could cause a sunburn or an excessive tan.

Use sunscreen. Before spending time outdoors, apply a water-resistant broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, even on cloudy days, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology. Use sunscreen on all exposed skin and use lip balms with sunscreen. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before leaving and reapply it every two hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating. The use of sunscreens in babies under 6 months of age is not recommended. It is preferable to keep them away from the sun, if possible, or protect them with shade, hats, and clothes that cover their arms and legs.

Cover areas exposed to sunlight. To better protect yourself from the sun, wear tight-fitting fabric garments that cover your arms and legs. You may also wear a wide-brimmed hat, which provides greater protection than a baseball cap or a visor.

Avoid tanning beds. Exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the tanning bed can cause the same damage to the skin as a tan acquired in the sun.

Check your skin regularly and report any changes to the health care provider. Examine the skin regularly to check for new growths or changes in moles, freckles, bumps and existing birthmarks. With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Also examine the upper and lower part of the arms and hands.

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