Age spots are basically flat brown, gray or black spots that vary in size and typically manifest on the hands, face, arms and shoulders. The areas affected are mostly exposed to the sun. Even though age spots are very common among adults older than 40 years old, it can also affect younger individuals as well.
The actual age spots are considered harmless and do not need any treatment but appear cancerous in appearance. For aesthetic reasons, age spots can be lightened by using skin-bleaching products. Nevertheless, age spots can be prevented by avoiding exposure to the sun and applying sunscreen. It is the easiest way to maintain the youthfulness of the skin as well as prevent the development of these skin spots.
Symptoms of age spots
Always bear in mind that age spots usually develop among individuals who have a fair complexion, but they can also manifest in individuals who have dark skin. Age spots are characterized as:
- Flat, oval-shaped areas with increased pigmentation
- Mostly brown, gray or black in color
- Develop on skin that is constantly exposed to sun especially the face, back of hands, feet, upper back and shoulders
In most cases, age spots can vary in size from a size of a freckle up to 1 centimeter or even cluster together.
Causes of age spots
Age spots are mainly caused by years of exposure to the sun. Using tanning beds and commercial tanning lamps can trigger the development of age spots.
The pigment in the epidermal layer of the skin which is known as melanin provides the skin its normal color. Exposure to the sun accelerates the melanin production, resulting to a tan that protects the deep layers of the skin from the UV rays.
In areas of the skin that have been constantly exposed to the sun, the age spots appear clumped or in high concentrations. Aside from the exposure to the sun, the aging process can result to the extra production of melanin. This is why prevention is still the best way to avoid age spots.
The genetic makeup of an individual also plays a role in the development of age spots.
How age spots are treated
If the age spots appear and you find them unsightly, there are treatments available that can help lighten or even remove them entirely. Always remember that the pigment is found at the base of the epidermis, thus any treatment that aims to lighten the spots should penetrate the epidermis.
- Medications such as prescription bleaching creams that can be combined with retinoids and mild steroid can help steadily remove the age spots for several months. If these medications are used, it is important to use sun protection with SPF of 30.
- Laser therapy eliminates the melanocytes without damaging the surface of the skin. This treatment usually involves several sessions in which the age spots gradually fade over several weeks or even months.
Other treatments used for age spots include freezing, dermabrasion and chemical peel. Take note that treatments for age spots are cosmetic in nature, thus it might not be covered by insurance.