Age spots (also referred to as “sun spots” or solar lentigines) are flat brown spots that are caused when the skin is chronically exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or from tanning beds. This spotting occurs after cells in the skin react to UV exposure by overproducing melanin in just one area instead of uniformly across the skin, causing the area to appear darker than surrounding areas. Learn more about Age Spots Prevention and Treatment Options.
Age spots commonly form on areas of the body most frequently exposed to the sun, like the face, hands, neck, décolletage area, arms, and legs.
While commonly mistaken for moles, melasma, or other precancerous pigmentation, age spots are not a precursor to cancer and are not harmful to your health.
However, they can affect a person’s cosmetic appearance, especially over time as the spots increase in number and darken.
Can Age Spots Be Prevented?
Nearly everyone who is exposing to the sun will develop some degree of spotting over their lifetime.
Individuals who have lighter skin tones are most susceptible to age spots and may start to notice their development early as their 20’s. As you can guess, age spots are also more noticeable on lighter skin.
There is, however, one effective way to stall the development of age spots: limit your skin’s exposure to UV rays.
This means wearing a high SPF brand spectrum sunscreen daily, avoiding the outdoors during peak UV hours, and wearing a wide-brimmed hat or UV-resistant apparel when stepping outside.
Treatment Options for Age Spots
Fortunately, many great treatments can reduce the appearance of age spots. Treatment options, from skincare products and in-office procedures, vary in both intensity and effectiveness.
Topical Skin Care Products
Currently, there are a variety of skincare products dedicated to counteracting age spots (among other pigmentation issues) and brightening the skin:
- Exfoliating the skin using an AHA, BHA, or Glycolic Acid containing scrub can help lighten minor sunspots by removing upper layers of the skin (including excess pigment).
- A vitamin C anti-aging product can help prevent future age spots by reducing the skin’s overall pigmentation production.
- Retinol or retinoids like prescription-strength Retina-A work to both exfoliate and brighten the skin.
- Hydroquinone-based skin lightening creams can lighten sunspots.
Individuals with moderate to severe age spots may require more intensive in-office treatment options administered by a skin care professional. Common professional treatments include:
Cosmelan is a non-invasive skin lightening treatment that peels away surface pigment (i.e., age spots) while also blocking the enzyme involved in melanin production from creating further pigmentation. Learn more about Cosmelan.
Chemical peels are topically applied formulas that revitalize the skin surface by creating an even and controlled shedding of the skin cells, replacing sunspot-affected skin with pigment-free under layers.
Also, different types of chemical peels vary in terms of strength. Learn more about chemical peels.
Skin resurfacing laser treatments use laser light wavelengths to cause controlled wounds to the skin. The process can remove age spots and promote the growth of new healthy, and youthful appearing skin.
Common lasers include Fraxel, Clear + Brilliant, and ActiveFX. Learn more about laser skin resurfacing.
A non-invasive procedure that removes the upper layers of the skin through controlled physical exfoliation.
Microdermabrasion uses a handheld device that is guided over the skin to provide light abrasion.
The device also features a suction mechanism that removes sloughed-off skin as it passes, removing pigment-containing skin cells.
Also called liquid nitrogen therapy, cryotherapy involves freezing specific age spots by a dermatologist. The freezing of age spot-stricken skin results in peeling off of the heavily pigmented layers.
Additionally, cryotherapy can lower the skin’s melanin production by diminishing the number of melanocytes in the treated area. Age Spots Prevention and Treatment Options.