Did you know that “age spots” are not the exclusive result of aging? Also known as “liver spots” or “solar lentigo” in technical terms, these light brown and flat patches may take some time to show up, making them more common in older adults. However, they are also the result of prolonged sun exposure over years, or even exposure to UV light from tanning beds. If you are concerned about age spots that have been popping up on your skin, you may want to consult a dermatologist to rule out more serious causes.
Reducing the Appearance of Age Spots
Although there is no medical need to get age spots removed, you may decide to make them less noticeable through applying creams and undergoing treatments. Below are some of the most common ways to reduce the appearance of age spots:
- Applying prescription creams that contain retinoids or hydroquinone. Temporary side effects can include itching and redness. On top of that, applying sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 is recommended when using topical creams to mitigate the effects of any additional sun damage.
- Spray freezing treatment, also known as cryotherapy. Liquid nitrogen is applied on the age spots for less than five seconds. This treatment comes with a mild risk of permanent scarring.
- Chemical peels to remove the topmost layer of skin and reveal unblemished skin underneath. Several course of treatment can be needed to see results and side effects can include scarring and infections.
- Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion, where the top layer of skin is sanded down with a rotating brush so that new skin can grow. Microdermabrasion is a slightly less aggressive, smoothing down the appearance of blemishes. At least a few sessions are required to observe modest results.
- Laser therapy targets the melanin in the epidermis or surface layer of skin. Intense pulsed lights target the cells that produce melanin without damaging the skin.
Diagnosing and Living with Age Spots
Age spots are perfectly harmless and do not affect your quality of life. However, some people may have concerns that what they presume to be age spots are actually a sign of a more serious condition such as skin cancer. If that is the case, it always makes sense to get checked out by a dermatologist. Below are some ways your doctor will determine if you have age spots or something else:
- Visual and physical examination of your skin, such as feeling for any raised surfaces. Age spots are flat and you should not feel anything when running your hand across them.
- If anything looks amiss, your doctor may decide to carry out a skin biopsy. Using local anesthetic, a small part of your age spot will be removed and sent for further testing.
If it turns out that what you have are simply age spots, you can be assured that they do not pose a threat to your health and that the only reason you may consider getting them removed is cosmetic.
Dr. Behrooz Kasraee is a holder of a doctorate of dermatology issued from Geneva’s Medical University. Dr. Kasraee is currently the Director of the Swiss Vitiligo Center and has been acting as an expert in the practice of melanocyte grafts since 2006. He is also the founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Scientis. He is highly specialized in skin pigmentation disorders, and is highly regarded as inventor of Cyspera stabilized Cysteamine 5% cream.