Age spots are mostly harmless, and is the result of too much sun exposure and a natural reaction to ageing. They’re characterized by a light-brown discoloration that form spots on the skin. Although it’s common amongst older people, having age spots when you’re younger than 50 is not unheard of.
If you do find a couple of these problem spots on your skin, there’s no need to panic. There are plenty for you to do that can remove age spots and even prevent them from coming back. Here’s everything you’ll need to know about age spots.
What Are The Typical Symptoms of Age Spots?
Age spots, otherwise known as liver spots, are darkened spots on your skin that can vary in size. They typically show up in places that are constantly being exposed to the sun, such as the shoulders, the face, hands and arms. They may look cancerous to some people, but they’re usually harmless, and can easily be cleared out with the right kinds of remedies.
Although it may vary greatly from person to person, age spots do affect older people of every skin type. They are, however, more common amongst people with lighter skin. The skin’s consistency or texture over the spot itself doesn’t change much, except for the darker coloration. These spots can vary in color from tan to brown to black.
Each spot can be as big as half an inch in diameter, and can cluster together, which can make them a lot more noticeable.
Age spots generally don’t need medical attention, but some people might confuse other, more harmful symptoms as regular age spots. Some spots can actually be signs of melanoma, a type of skin cancer. If your age spots seem to exhibit the following behavior, you should visit the doctor immediately:
The spots are too dark.
They’re becoming too big too fast.
The coloration is not typical of age spots.
The spots are accompanied by pain, redness, itching or bleeding
What Causes Age Spots?
The primary culprit behind age spots, aside from ageing, is the sun. They’re basically the result of the pigment cells on your skin being overactive because of the ultraviolet light that comes from the sun. If you have areas of your skin that has frequently been exposed to sunlight through the years, then it’s safe to assume that you have age spots there.
If you don’t expose yourself to the sun that often, but do frequent tanning lamps or tanning beds, then you may also develop age spots on your skin, since they basically produce UV light as well. Of course, age spots are still a common symptom of ageing, so whether or not you limit your exposure to the sun, your pigment cells would still clump up and form the spots anyway.
How to Treat Age Spots
Although the discoloration on some people might be a bit extreme, there are ways to reverse the effects of age spots. Visiting the doctor can give you an insight of what treatment options are available, and which ones are best suited for you. Here are just some of the more common treatment options for age spots.
There are bleaching creams available out there for you to use that are designed to lighten, or totally remove age spots. You can either use them on their own or in tandem with certain retinoids and mild steroids. These medications will gradually fade age spots anywhere between several weeks to a couple of months. Some of these treatments can cause discomfort, however, but the results are usually good.
When you do decide to undergo medication, you may also need to use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. This is to make sure that any new sun spots wouldn’t form, but also since your skin will be a lot more sensitive to sunlight during the treatment process.
This treatment involves using liquid nitrogen, or any other freezing agent to destroy any extra pigment on the problem area. Freezing the discoloration causes the skin to heal that particular area, and as it does so, the skin will lighten. Cryotherapy is usually done on a single spot at a time, or on a small cluster of age spots for the patient’s safety.
This treatment can cause a bit of irritation on the skin, and if not done correctly, may even cause permanent scarring or even further discoloration.
Laser therapy, as well as intense pulsed light therapy, is another good treatment to try. It’s a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure, so you’re not actually going under the knife, or made to undergo potentially harmful treatments that have severe adverse effects. How this treatment works basically involves using lasers to destroy the melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, without causing damage to the outer layers of your skin.
This kind of treatment can be a bit expensive, since you’ll need several sessions in order for it to be successful. Also, you will need to use sunscreen after undergoing this procedure.
This treatment involves sanding down the outer layer of your skin using a rotating brush or another form of abrasive. This encourages a new layer of skin to grow, healing over any discoloration on your skin. You may need to attend multiple sessions in order for this to work out, and you will also have some temporary redness, and even scabs from the treatment.
A less aggressive version of dermabrasion is microdermabrasion, which basically works the same way, except a finer abrasive is used. Although microdermabrasion lessens the amount of discomfort, redness and scab formation you may experience, the treatment’s effects are a lot slower, requiring you to undergo several sessions for multiple months until the age spots are gone for good.
Much like dermabrasion, chemical therapy burns away the outer layer of your skin to encourage new skin growth. Instead of using a small rotating brush or a physical abrasive, however, chemical peels make use of acids instead. This treatment also shares the same adverse effects as dermabrasion, that is, redness, and scab formation, and will require multiple treatments. The use of sunscreen is also highly suggested when you’re undergoing this treatment.
What Can You Do At Home To Lighten Age Spots?
Of course, whatever treatment option you use, it’s still a good idea to change how you conduct yourself at home. This will help prevent new spots from forming, or prevent making the existing spots turn darker. Here are a few things you should do at home that can help lighten age spots.
Avoid the Sun
More specifically, avoid the sun between 10 am and 3 pm. This is the time of day when the sun’s rays are the most intense. If going outside is unavoidable, then make sure that you cover up properly. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, use gloves, wear long sleeves.
Sunscreen is a great way to keep ultraviolet light from causing havoc on your skin. If you’re undergoing any treatment for age spots, make sure you consult with your doctor first on what the best sunscreen is for you. Generally, however, the best sunscreen to use are those with an SPF of at least 30.
If you have to go out, apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go outside, and make sure to reapply at least every two hours. If you’re the type to sweat heavily, or if you plan on going swimming, you will need to reapply sunscreen more often.
Lemons, or any acidic fruits can help lighten up age spots if applied to them at least twice a day. Citrus fruits tend to be mildly acidic, which is enough to burn off the outer layer of the skin and encourage new skin growth. The concept is very similar to chemical peels, except much slower, and more importantly, much cheaper.
Use Vitamin E
If you’ve been spending time out under the sun for a while, you should apply some vitamin E oil on your skin afterwards. Vitamin E is a well-known antioxidant, and can help prevent the degradation of melanin-producing skin cells. It’s also good for limiting free-radical molecules that can cause damage to your overall health.
Don’t Rely On Concealers To Much
While they’re a good way to camouflage your age spots, cosmetics aren’t much use at lightening them, or at treating their underlying causes. Worse, they can make it hard for you to spot them if new ones pop up. Of course, we’re not telling you to stop using concealers, but it’s always a good idea to prevent age spots from happening or treating them as they show up, rather than simply concealing them.