Age Spots, also known as liver spots, are flat dark pigmentations on the skin. It is typically seen on the face, hands, shoulders and other parts that are most exposed to the sun. It is because Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can trigger the production of melanin that resulted to dark pigments on the skin. The use of commercial tanning lamps and tanning beds cam also cause age spots.
Age spots are commonly not harmful and needs no treatment. It is usually removed or treated for cosmetic reason. Older people, mostly 50 years old and above, have the highest potential of having age spots. However, younger people may also experience age spots especially if they are frequently exposed to the sun.
Melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer, may appear like age spots. It is important to see a doctor if you have noticed that your supposed age spots have changed in appearance.
Age spots may vary in size and color but are usually:
- Light brown to black in color
- Have the same texture as the rest of the skin
- Usually seen on sun-exposed areas of the skin
The doctor may diagnose age spots by simply looking at your skin. However, if the doctor suspects that your age spots is something more serious like cancerous, he or she may suggest skin biopsy. In skin biopsy, a sample of your skin is removed to check for abnormalities. Once other conditions are ruled out, age spots is something you really don’t need to worry about.
Usually, age spots doesn’t need immediate medical attention, however if it become bothersome you may use:
- Prescription Medications – Bleaching creams may gradually fade age spots after several months. However, this can make your skin more sensitive to UV damage so you have to take precautionary method if you’re going out in the sun. Applying sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 is strongly advised if you use medication treatments.
- Medical Procedures – This option is used if the age spots may be too many or if the person don’t have enough patience for the bleaching creams to take effect. Medical procedures may include:
- Laser Treatment – It destroy melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) without damaging the skin’s surface.
- Chemical peel- This involves burning the outer layer of the skin by applying acid. The idea is new skin forms takes place as the skin peels.
- Dermabrasion- This procedure sands down the surface layer of the skin and removes it by the use of a rapid rotating brush.
- Microdermabrasion- It’s a less aggressive approach than Dermabrasion that leaves mild skin blemishes with a smoother appearance.
- Freezing (Cryotherapy)- Liquid nitrogen or another freezing agent is applied to the age spots to destroy the extra pigment.
Age spots can’t be prevented however you may lessen your chance of getting it by:
- Limiting sun exposure. Avoid staying in direct sunlight between 10 a.m and 3 p.m.
- Applying sunscreen with atleast SPF 15.
- Wearing of protective clothing such as hats, pants and long-sleeved shirts.