Age spots, also commonly known as liver spots, range in size and in color from light brown to black and appear on the skin where it is frequently exposed to the sun. Despite their name, age spots are not caused by age or liver dysfunction, except that the longer you live, the more likely they are to occur.
Age spots appear most often where the skin is repeatedly exposed to the sun, such as the face, hands, neck, exposed scalp, and arms. Age spots can mimic cancerous growth but in nearly all cases, they are harmless beyond any self-conscious reaction to their appearance.
Age spots are most common in adults over the age of 50. Younger people can also get them, especially if they spend too much time in the sun.
Many age spot risk factors aren’t related to age at all. For instance, you’re more likely to get age spots if you:
• Have a fair or light complexion
• Have a history of severe sunburns
• Use indoor tanning beds
When ultraviolet (UV) light hits your skin, it speeds up your body’s production of melanin – the substance that gives your skin its pigment. On skin with years of sun exposure, age spots can appear when melanin is produced in high concentrations or clumped together.
Some people also develop age spots after certain medical treatments, such as radiation therapy.
Age spots sometimes look like cancerous growths, but they are not harmful. They are simply the skin’s attempt to protect itself from further sun damage. Most age spots:
• Range from tan to dark brown in color
• Range from the size of a freckle to about ½ inch across
• Can group together, making them more noticeable
It’s best to have any new skin changes – including age spots – evaluated by a dermatologist. If you have a spot that’s black, growing in size, bleeds, or has an irregular border, visit us immediately. These changes could be signs of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.
Most treatments for age spots fall into two categories: creams and lotions or procedures.
Creams and lotions cost less but take longer, sometimes weeks or even months. Procedures tend to work faster, although they cost more and have a higher risk of side effects. Your Forefront dermatologist can help you decide which type of age spot treatment to try.
There’s no shortage of over-the-counter products on the market that claim to fade age spots. If you’d like to use a cream or lotion to treat your age spots, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends seeing a board-certified dermatologist first.
Your Brownsboro dermatologist can examine your skin and confirm that your age spots are actually age spots, not skin cancer or any other condition. Next, we’ll determine which prescription-strength cream or lotion is the best choice for you, such as corticosteroids or retinoids.
Your options include:
Cryosurgery – A dermatologist freezes the age spots and your skin develops a more even tone as it heals. After treatment, you may experience temporary pain, blistering, redness, or swelling.
Chemical peel – The top layer of your skin is safely removed by a chemical solution. While cryosurgery has slightly better results, skin tends to heal faster after a chemical peel.
Microdermabrasion – This procedure smooths away age spots and can be quite effective, especially after a chemical peel. Research shows that age spots disappear in about 40% of microdermabrasion patients. You may have mild inflammation for a few hours afterward.
Laser treatment – Lasers can destroy melanin-producing cells or safely remove the top layer of your skin. Many people only need one or two sessions to get rid of age spots. Side effects include crusting or temporary darkening of the age spots, although they should fade quickly.
They can, depending on the treatment. New age spots are more likely to develop if you don’t protect your skin from UV light. Avoid the sun between 10 AM and 2 PM, wear a hat outdoors, and always use 30 SPF sunscreen or higher.