Age Spots: Causes, Prevention and Treatment
Age spots are black, gray or brown spots that appear on areas of your skin that are often exposed to the sun such as the face, shoulders, upper back, back of the hands and forearms. They are also known as liver spots, dark spots, solar lentigines, senile lentigo, or sunspots.
Despite being called also liver spots, they do not affect the liver, so that should not be a cause of alarm for you.
If you are anywhere above the age of 40, the occurrence of sunspots on your skin is not unusual. But they can also be found on young people who have spent a lot of time under the sun.
Age spots itself are harmless and do not need to be removed. Prevention and treatment are mainly related to aesthetic purposes and with a higher risk of developing melanoma.
Causes of Age Spots
Age spots appear due to the overactive production of melanin which is what gives color to your skin. Exposure to ultraviolet rays speed up this production process and that’s why you may find age spots on areas of your skin that are frequently exposed to the sun. Keep in mind that this isn’t just limited to the sun. Other sources of U.V light like tanning beds or tanning lights are also responsible for the appearance of liver spots.
As people get older, the skin becomes more susceptible to developing age spots on exposure to the sun, therefore age is one of the main reasons why you can get them.
It has also been suggested that a poor diet, lack of exercise, poor liver functioning, and consumption of rancid oils can be associated with a higher risk of development of age spots.
Risk Factors of Developing Age Spots
Almost anyone regardless of age, race, or sex can acquire age spots but certain factors predispose certain individuals to a higher chance of getting them:
- Having a fair complexion.
- Being above the age of 40 years.
- Constant or regular exposure to the sun
- Frequent use of tanning beds
Prevention of Sun Spots
You cannot completely avoid developing age spots but you can definitely take precautions to reduce the chances of them occurring or at least reduce their number. This will save you a lot in terms of costs you may spend on treatments and the headache regarding worrying about your skin appearance. Take the following measures to limit sun exposure:
- Ultraviolet rays from the sun are usually at their strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in winter and between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the other seasons. Avoid carrying out outdoor activities for extended periods within this time to protect your skin.
- Wear protective clothing like wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, pants, long skirts, or dresses when out in the sun. Consider investing in clothing that is specifically designed to protect against the sun; those with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of between 40 and 50 offer excellent protection. Tightly woven fabrics also offer sun protection.
- Apply sunscreen with at least 30 SPF at all times, whether it’s during summer or winter. Apply it generously 30 minutes before stepping out and after every two hours subsequently. Reapplication should be done more often than this if you are swimming or sweating.
How to Get Rid of Age Spots
As aforementioned, sunspots are harmless. But if you find them bothersome, you can apply treatment to remove them. Most advised is to apply home remedies and natural treatments, other options include letting them lightened by medical treatments or completely removed by surgery.
These consist of bleaching creams that lighten the skin which makes the age spots fade away with time. They mostly contain hydroquinone and retinoids which make the skin extra sensitive to sun exposure. You are therefore advised to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to minimize skin damage. The creams may cause itching, dryness, redness, or a burning sensation. Treatment typically lasts anywhere between to 2 months to one year or slightly longer.
These are carried out by a surgeon or dermatologist to either reduce or permanently remove age spots. Each method has its own side effects, so consult your doctor to help you choose the most suitable one for you. They include:
- Laser surgery: intense laser light is focused on an age spot to remove it. This is achieved by penetration of the skin to the melanin-producing cells and destroying them or breaking up the spot. Age spots fade after approximately two or three sessions. Your skin may be slightly discolored due to the procedure. You will need to protect your skin from the sun after the procedure.
- Cryosurgery: liquid nitrogen is applied onto the age spot to freeze it thus destroying it. It is usually done on one age spot or a cluster of them in one area. The side effects of this procedure include temporary irritation and at times permanent discoloration or scarring.
- Dermabrasion: This procedure involves planing the surface of the skin with a rapidly rotating brush to remove the surface and make way for new skin cells to grow. This process may take up to a couple of months since it’s non-aggressive. Redness or scabbing may occur temporarily during the treatment. It only leaves behind slight blemishes but with smooth surfaces.
- Chemical peeling: a chemical solution such as an acid is applied onto your skin to make it peel away so that new skin can grow in its stead. A number of treatments are necessary for it to be effective. Temporary redness and little skin discoloration are the side effects of this procedure.
Home remedies are always advised for age spots as they work very well in most cases. Like with every treatment you need to be patient and committed to seeing the effects, but they do not have any side effects to your health and have several additional benefits for your skin, like even skin tone and more youthful appearance.
Home remedies include natural products you can easily find in your kitchen and natural oils you can buy from your local shop or web:
- Apple cider vinegar: it contains hydroxyl acids which are natural bleaching agents against sunspots. You can mix it with olive oil to prevent dryness or dilute it with water if you have sensitive skin.
- Lemon juice: the citric acid in lemon juice is a natural lightening agent. Moreover, it’s also a natural exfoliator so it accelerates the fading of age spots.
- Onion juice: fresh onion juice is an exfoliator that is gentler to the skin than lemon juice
- Papaya: it contains hydroxyl acids and enzymes that facilitate skin exfoliation to remove solar lentigines and other skin blemishes. Some people are allergic to papaya so do a patch test before applying.
- Buttermilk: it contains lactic acid that is a natural bleacher that is effective yet it doesn’t cause irritation. For acne-prone skin, add lime juice or tomato juice to the buttermilk.
- Sandalwood: this essential oil contains anti-aging properties which makes it useful in reducing the occurrence of age spots.
- Yogurt: just like buttermilk, yogurt contains lactic acid which not only lightens age spots but exfoliates the skin as well.
- Horseradish: it contains vitamin C which slows down skin pigmentation thus reducing the occurrence of age spots.
You can also find oils that are specially formulated for treating age spots. These natural oils do not include harmful chemicals or synthetic substances and consist only of natural ingredients. One of the best-known oils against age spots comes from Thuja tree and you can find this as the main component in age spot treatment oils – for example in Age Spots Formula.
When to see a doctor
As mentioned before age spots/liver spots / dark spots itself are not harmful, but when not taken care of they can raise the risk of developing melanoma. What itself can lead to skin cancer. Therefore, it’s advised to monitor your skin and watch out for this kind of signs and unusual changes:
- If the spot is quickly getting bigger.
- If there is a strange variation of colors in the spots.
- Bleeding, itchiness, redness, or tenderness of the age spots.
- If the spots are a tad too darkly colored.
If you spot any of these changes or developments its always advised to consult your doctor!
Age spots itself are mostly related to age and the amount of sun you are disposed to. Typically, they are only an aesthetic issue and do not have any harmful side effects. But as described with some attention you can reduce the likelihood of getting them by applying healthy routines and natural treatment.
And as a positive side effect healthy nutrition and natural skincare will always do wonders with your looks!
Read more: 10+ Most Common Skin Problems and their Best Natural Remedies
Read more: How to Get Rid of Moles