As they age, many people are afflicted with dark splotches on the face, arms, and hands. Whether you call them age spots, lentigines, sun spots, or liver spots, these unraised splotches of increased pigmentation are a sure sign of aged, damaged skin. Along with wrinkles and rough texture, they are a major symptom of sun damage. Age spots can be brown, black, or grey, and they generally appear on the parts of your skin that get the most sun exposure. They can range in size from small freckles to circles with a one centimeter diameter.
Although they aren’t dangerous, age spots are certainly unattractive. With care, it is possible to avoid getting age spots in the first place, but if they’ve already made an appearance on your skin, a number of popular treatments have been developed to decrease their appearance.
This article will discuss:
As mentioned earlier, age spots are harmless blotches caused by too much sun exposure. They are related to moles, which are also caused by the sun. Moles are raised spots ranging in color from white, to brown, to black. Unlike age spots, moles appear anywhere on the skin.
Also, unlike harmless age spots, some moles are cancerous and a sign of malignant melanoma. Since early detection of skin cancer is so important, have your dermatologist examine any new age spots or moles as soon as possible, especially if they change color, shape, or size.
Sun exposure, age, skin color, and genetics all contribute to how one is affected by age spots. When the skin absorbs too much sun, it produces extra melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color and produces tans, to protect itself. In time, melanin can clump up and form age spots. Although the spots can from on people of any age, they are most common in people over 40. This results from older people having accumulated more sun exposure and from the fact that some people simply produce more melanin as they age.
How to prevent
The best way to prevent age spots from sun damage is sun avoidance and protection. Try to stay away from the sun between the hours of 10am and 4pm, which is when the suns rays are the strongest. Wear long sleeves and pants for the best sun protection. Sunscreen is more practical because wearing protective clothing in the sun can get very hot. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before coming in contact with the sun, because the sunscreen needs time to absorb. Choose a 15 spf or more broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA rays that cause burning and UVB rays that cause aging and skin damage. Since so much time is spent in cars, install protective film should be installed in car windows. This film protects against UVB rays, the rays causing skin and age damage.
The appearance of age spots can be treated in many ways. However, some treatments can be expensive. Many are not covered by insurance companies because age spot removal is considered cosmetic surgery. Most treatments cause increased sun sensitivity, so a high SPF sunscreen is a necessity.
- Lasers — Laser treatments work by destroying the extra melanin in age spots gradually over weeks or months. The laser procedure often requires two or more sessions and can be expensive. Most people call the treatment painless, but everyone has a different tolerance for pain.
- Medications — Prescription medicines such as bleaching creams containing hydroquinone and retinoids can reduce the appearance of age spots. Results should be see after several months of regular usage.
- Freezing (crynotherapy) — When applied to the age spots, liquid nitrogen or other freezing agents work to destroy extra pigment. With freezing, there is a risk of permanent scarring or discoloration.
- Dermabrasion — This is the process of sanding off a layer skin to remove the age spots; it is one of the most painful treatment options. After dermabrasion, redness and scabs may result before the skin heals to a new, spot-free layer.
- Chemical peel — Acid is applied to the skin to burn away the outer layers of skin. When they peel away, it reveals fresh skin without spots. Several visits are required before the effects of superficial chemical peels are noticed.
- Over-the-counter treatments — Lightening lotions are available at drug stores and online. Some contain lower concentrations of the ingredients found in prescription. They show results after weeks or months of regular use. Lotions containing hydroquinone, deoxyarbutin, glycolic acid, or kojic acid work best to reduce the appearance of age spots. Prolonged use can cause skin irritation.
If you don’t currently have age spots, it’s important to focus on prevention now, particularly if other members of your family have them. Reducing sun exposure and wearing sunscreen are your best weapons to avoid sun damage. If you already have age spots, you can still focus on wearing sunscreen to avoid getting more, as well ask seeking out treatments to fade the discolorations.