Age spots are also known as solar lentigines, sun spots, liver spots, and freckles. They are a result of sun exposure over time, and therefore they become more common as one ages. In this animation you will learn the symptoms and causes of age spots, ways to limit them from forming, and methods for removing or lightening them once they’ve formed.
Age spots are flat, tan, brown, or black flat spots that are darker than the surrounding skin. Age spots, which are called lentigines, differ from another type of light tan freckles, called ephelides, that disappear or fade after seasonal sun exposure. Age spots are permanent freckles that generally tend to arise after around age 40 and occur most frequently on areas that receive the most sun exposure. Age spots are simply a concentrated region of your skin’s natural pigment, and it is not essential to treat or remove them. However, although age spots are harmless, certain forms of skin cancer can start out resembling them. Any new or questionable spot, especially any freckle that changes appearance, grows, or causes discomfort, should be examined by a dermatologist
Your skin is made of two primary layers; the epidermis is the surface, and the dermis lies beneath it. Located near the base of the epidermis are specialized cells, called melanocytes, which produce the pigment melanin. Melanin gives your skin its normal color, and it is transported into new skin cells where it serves a protective role by absorbing harmful rays of sunlight that would otherwise damage the cells. The body actually produces extra melanin in response to sun exposure, and this is why you tan in the sun. However, after years of sun exposure, melanocytes in certain areas of the skin may overproduce melanin. As accumulating melanin gradually becomes more visible, an age spot develops. Genetics also influences how likely a person is to develop age spots.
Preventing Age Spots
Although age spots are a natural occurrence related to your lifetime sun exposure, they are also rough indicators of aging, and many people would rather avoid developing them. Avoiding unnecessary sun exposure is the best prevention. Using a daily sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater that protects against two forms of ultraviolet light: UVA and UVB is also recommended. Certain sunscreens that use metallic compounds, such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide, to block, rather than absorb ultraviolet light may be the most effective at preventing sun damage. Unfortunately, age spots result from past sun exposure so even taking preventative steps now won’t prevent all new age spots from forming. However avoiding sun exposure and protecting yourself with sunscreen also greatly reduces your chance of developing skin cancer.
Age spots that have formed won’t disappear without treatment. Fortunately, there are several ways to treat age spots: topical skin treatments, physical removal, and light treatments and laser. Consulting with a skin care provider will help you determine the specific treatment type and method to suit your particular need for treatment time, cost, and recovery. To view examples of types of treatments that can improve your age spots, roll over any of the treatment types on your screen.
During your consultation you will be given an indication of the number of treatments required and at this stage may require a patch test. Subsequent treatments will take place every 6-8 weeks.