Age spots are marks that usually appear on the skin after prolonged exposure to the sun. They are harmless, but some people want them to disappear for cosmetic reasons. These marks are flat and darker than the surrounding skin. They may be tan, brown, or black, and may look like freckles. Here are the causes and symptoms of age spots and safe ways to get rid of them.
What causes age spots?
Age spots are the result of excessive production of melanin by the body. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its color. When skin is exposed to the sun, the body produces excess melanin to protect it from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. The more melanin is produced, the darker the skin becomes.
Age spots appear when excess melanin in the skin clumps together.
Symptoms of Age Spots
Age spots usually appear in areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun, including:
– the face
– the back of the hands
– the back
– top of the feet
Age spots can develop singly or in clusters. They vary in size and can have a diameter of 0.2 to 2 centimeters. Age spots tend to form in people aged 40 and over, although they can also appear in younger people who frequently sunburn or use tanning beds. These spots can form on any skin, but they are more common in people with fair skin who are more sensitive to the sun.
Treatment of age spots
A doctor may suggest cryotherapy to remove an age spot. Age spots are harmless and do not require treatment. However, as they can look like skin cancer, it is important that a doctor examine them.
If a person wishes to remove a confirmed age spot for cosmetic reasons, they have several options.
Topical creams can lighten age spots. However, avoid lightening products that contain mercury, as they can pose a serious health risk. A healthcare professional can prescribe a safe product for you.
A topical cream prescribed to lighten age spots may contain:
– retinoids, such as tretinoin
These creams lighten the spots gradually over time. They can sometimes irritate the skin, so it’s best to discuss side effects with a doctor before choosing the right cream.
Certain cosmetic procedures can also lighten or remove age spots. Before having a procedure, discuss the options with a dermatologist, or doctor who specializes in skin care.
The dermatologist may suggest one of the following procedures:
– cryotherapy, which involves removing the stain with a cold substance, such as liquid nitrogen
– laser surgery or pulsed light therapy, which involves using high-intensity beams
– microdermabrasion, a non-invasive treatment that consists of exfoliating the skin
– chemical peeling, which consists of applying a chemical solution to the skin to exfoliate it, then removing the dead cells.
These procedures all carry risks and can leave scars on the skin. They must be performed by a specially trained dermatologist.
These removal techniques can also make the skin very sensitive to sunlight. Anyone who has had one of these procedures should take extra sun precautions and follow their doctor’s advice.
Natural remedies to reduce age spots
Natural remedies can also help lighten age spots. They understand :
– Aloe vera: Some research suggests that applying aloe vera to age spots every day can lighten the marks.
– Red onion: Results of a study indicate that dried red onion skin can lighten age spots. A person can look for topical creams that contain Allium cepa.
– Orchid extract: The authors of another study concluded that orchid extracts can lighten age spots. Extracts are ingredients in some skin care products.
Topical creams can also reduce the appearance of age spots. Research suggests that creams containing one or more of the following ingredients may help:
– azelaic acid
– Vitamin E
– vitamin C
– alpha-hydroxy acid
How to prevent the occurrence of age spots
It is recommended to use a water resistant sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
It is often possible to prevent the appearance of age spots.
Better to use a sunscreen with a minimum protection of 30. It should be water resistant and offer UVA and UVB protection. Apply sunscreen to exposed skin 15 minutes before going outside.
Daily use of a 30 cream can also prevent age spots from darkening in spring and summer.
Other ways to protect the skin and prevent age spots include:
– reapply sunscreen every two hours or after sweating or being in the water.
– cover your skin with a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, long pants and sunglasses
– do not expose yourself to the sun during the hottest hours of the day, generally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
– refrain from using tanning beds
– wear a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or more
– wear gloves when cycling or gardening for prolonged periods in the sun
– take extra care near water, snow or sand, as these surfaces reflect the sun’s rays
– wear clothing with a protection factor against ultraviolet rays (UPF) of 40-50.
Avoiding overexposure to the sun also reduces the risk of skin cancer.
Are age spots linked to cancer?
Age spots are not cancerous. However, they can sometimes look like types of skin cancer, so it’s important to know the differences.
Skin cancer is more likely to develop in areas that have been exposed to the sun for an extended period.
Age spots can look like actinic keratosis (AK) growths, which are precancerous. However, age spots are flat, whereas actinic keratosis growths are usually rough. If a person suspects they have keratin growths, they should see a doctor for an examination.
Age spots are harmless and do not require medical treatment. Some people choose to lighten or fade them for cosmetic reasons. Anyone concerned about the appearance of new marks or other skin changes should see a doctor for an examination.