What are age spots?
Age spots are also called liver spots, senile lentigo, solar lentigines, or sunspots. They are flat, brown, gray, or black spots on the skin. They typically form on skin that has been exposed to the sun for an extended period of time. Age spots can be found all over the body but are mainly on your face, hands, neck, and arms. They vary in color and can either occur in a cluster or individually.
What causes age spots?
When exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun’s rays or tanning beds, it accelerates the production of pigment cells known as melanin. Melanin is what gives the skin color. Being constantly exposed to these rays causes the melanin in your skin to clump together and produce higher concentrations.
Who is at risk for age spots?
Age spots are more common in middle-aged adults, but anyone can get them. It is also seen in those with fair skin and at greater risk of sunburn.
You should schedule an appointment with Dr. Chacon if your age spot is one of the following:
- Growing larger
- Changing in color or turning black
- Developing an irregular border
- Cosmetically unpleasant
How are age spots diagnosed?
While most age spots are easy to identify to the naked eye, Dr. Chacon may want to perform a skin biopsy on any unusual age spot to rule out skin cancer. Dr. Chacon will safely remove a small skin sample during a biopsy with a local anesthetic. The skin sample will then be sent to a lab for microscopic examination by a pathologist to check for cancer cells. If anything unusual were to show, Dr. Chacon would contact you.
How are age spots treated?
If you want to remove age spots completely, it is recommended to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chacon to see which treatment option best suits you. It is not possible to remove sunspots unless seen by a professional. They may fade with time and no sun exposure, but they will still be visible.
What are treatment options?
Age spot treatments include:
- Topicals: Dr. Chacon can prescribe prescription creams to lighten the skin. Standard options include hydroquinone, corticosteroids, or retinoids. These creams increase skin cell turnover and collagen, causing a faster rate than your body naturally produces.
- Chemical peels: A chemical peel is an in-office chemical solution that removes the outer skin layer safely. Chemical solutions typically include glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid or carbolic acid. The chemical solution causes “trauma” to your skin, leading to skin layers peeling. Chemical peels vary in intensity. Dr. Chacon will evaluate which chemical peel is best suited for you.
- Laser resurfacing: Laser resurfacing can help lighten and remove age spots. The laser technique directs short, concentrated pulsating beams of light are the age spots. It removes the skin precisely by vaporizing it. This removes the epidermis and heats the layer beneath it known as the dermis. The laser stimulates new collagen fibers, which produce new, smooth skin.
- Dermabrasion: Dermabrasion uses a specialized instrument to “sand” the skin. It is a tool with an abrasive head that improves skin and scrapes the top layer of skin. It helps smooth the skin and helps lighten age spots. Licensed professionals should only perform dermabrasion. To get the best results from dermabrasion, more than one treatment is suggested.
How to prevent age spots?
The most effective way to prevent age spots is to avoid ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light causes sun damage which creates age spots. It is essential to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day and reapply every two hours. You should also avoid the sum from 10 AM to 2 PM when the rays are most intense. Do not use tanning beds. The ultraviolet rays from the tanning bed increase the risk of developing age spots. It is also suggested to wear protective clothing such as linen cloth and broad-brimmed hats.