Age Spots: Causes, Symptoms, and Proven Treatments

Age Spots: Causes, Symptoms, and Proven Treatments

Age spots, also known as liver spots or sun spots, are a common skin concern that many people encounter as they age. Despite their prevalence, there's a lot of confusion about what exactly causes them, how they can be prevented, and what treatments are effective. This blog dives deep into the world of age spots, offering clarity and solutions to help you manage these visible signs of aging.

 

What Are Age Spots?

Age spots are flat, brown, gray, or black spots that appear on the skin. They vary in size and usually occur on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, hands, shoulders, and arms. These spots are most common in people over the age of 50, but younger people can get them too, especially if they spend a lot of time in the sun.

 

Causes of Age Spots

The primary cause of age spots is prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from sunlight or from artificial sources like tanning beds. Over the years, UV light accelerates the production of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. When melanin becomes clumped or is produced in high concentrations, it leads to the formation of age spots.

  1. Sun Exposure: Frequent sun exposure and sunburns increase the likelihood of developing age spots.
  2. Skin Aging: As skin ages, it becomes less resilient to environmental damage, making it more susceptible to age spots.
  3. Genetics: Genetic predisposition may play a role in how susceptible you are to age spots.

 

Symptoms of Age Spots

Age spots are characterised by:

  • Colour: They are usually brown, black, or tan.
  • Shape and Size: These spots can range from the size of a freckle to about half an inch across and often group together, making them more noticeable.
  • Texture: Unlike moles, which can be raised, age spots are flat against the skin's surface.

 

Diagnosing Age Spots

Age spots are generally harmless and don't require medical treatment. However, because they can look similar to skin cancer, it's essential to get a professional diagnosis if a spot:

  • Is darkly pigmented
  • Is rapidly increasing in size
  • Has an irregular border
  • Has an unusual combination of colors
  • Is accompanied by itching, redness, tenderness, or bleeding

A dermatologist can usually diagnose age spots by looking at them. If there's any doubt, they may perform a biopsy to ensure there is no malignancy.

 

Treatment Options for Age Spots

There are several ways to fade or remove age spots, from topical creams to medical procedures. The best approach depends on the severity of the spots and your skin type.

  1. Topical Treatments:

    • Bleaching creams: Prescription-strength hydroquinone, alone or with retinoids and a mild steroid, may gradually fade the spots over several months. It's essential to use sunscreen consistently during treatment as these ingredients can make your skin sensitive to UV rays. Unless as a last resort, we would not recommend this.
    • Over-the-counter skin brighteners: Products containing Vitamin C, Saffron, or liquorice root are great natural options without side effects that can also help lighten spots. This is the first method we recommend trying to fade dark spots and achieve a glowing even complexion.
  2. Medical Procedures:

    • Laser therapy: Destroys melanin-producing cells without damaging the skin's surface. Treatments typically require several sessions and can be costly, but they can be effective.
    • Cryotherapy: Involves freezing age spots with liquid nitrogen. The skin heals lighter, but there’s a slight risk of permanent scarring or discolouration.
    • Chemical peels: Remove the outer layer of old skin, promoting new skin growth which may be less pigmented. A series of peels might be needed to achieve noticeable results. May increase skin sensitivity.
    • Dermabrasion: Sands down the surface layer of the skin so new skin can grow in its place. It may require a healing period of several days.

 

Preventing Age Spots

The most effective way to prevent age spots is to protect your skin from the sun. Here are some tips:

  • Sunscreen: Apply a moisturising broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher every day, even on cloudy days and during winter.
  • Cover up: Wear hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants to protect your skin from direct sun exposure.
  • Avoid peak sun: Try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when it’s strongest.

 

Summary

Understanding the causes and symptoms of age spots is your first step in effectively preventing and treating them. Whether you opt for preventative measures, over-the-counter products, or professional treatments, it's possible to manage age spots and achieve clearer, more youthful-looking skin. As with any skincare concern, patience and consistency are key to seeing results.

Reading next

Why Did the EU Ban Retinol?
5 Stages of Ageing: From Fine Lines to Wrinkles