Best Ways To Prevent And Treat Age Spots
Age spots (also called solar lentigo or liver spots) and wrinkles are signs of a lifetime of accumulated skin damage. Skin aging is a complex process determined by internal and external factors.
Age spots are flat brown, gray, or black spots that appear in sun-exposed areas, especially the face, back of the hands, shoulders, and back. Age spots appear when excess melanin-producing cells clump in the skin. They are usually oval, round, or irregular, a few millimeters to a few centimeters in size, and are benign.1
Wrinkles result from clumping and loss of collagen fibers in the skin, which also causes sagging. Intrinsic factors such as genetic predisposition and muscle movement, combined with extrinsic factors such as pollution, smoking, and UV light exposure, increase your risk of developing fine lines and wrinkles.
Read More: What Causes Wrinkles and How to Treat Them
Protecting your skin from UV light exposure is the single best way to reduce age spots and wrinkles. Apply sunscreen daily (even on overcast days) with an SPF of at least 30. Reapply sunscreen every two to three hours throughout the day.
Nourishing your skin can help reduce the effects of pollutants on skin cells and help them repair damage. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and nutrients such as protein, vitamins E and C, biotin, and omega-3 fatty acids, support collagen production, and help skin retain moisture. Age management treatment plans are designed especially to reduce the effect of aging on the body and skin.
Check with a dermatologist before self-treating age spots to verify that they are benign. Skin cancers are also more common with age, especially in UV light-exposed areas. Your dermatologist may diagnose age spots simply by looking at them. If the pigmented areas are atypical, they may request a biopsy to rule out skin cancer or other more serious skin conditions.
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There are many tips for having better skin as you age, but the most important ones are to protect your skin from the effects of ultraviolet rays and to consume a diet high in antioxidants.
Home remedies that can help lighten the appearance of age spots include:
- Topical retinoids: Retinoids are naturally occurring or synthetic compounds related to vitamin A. Retinoids increase collagen production and decrease abnormal melanocyte production. Melanocytes are pigment (melanin) producing cells that give age spots their color.
- Hydroquinone: Hydroquinones are skin bleaching agents that lighten the skin gradually. They are usually well-tolerated but may cause dryness, irritation, or skin redness. Prolonged application of higher concentrations of hydroquinones may cause a blue-black pigmentation. In 2021, this product was removed from over-the-counter and is now only available by prescription due to concerns about potential side effects.
- Skin lightening agents: These products contain azelaic acid, glycolic acid, kojic acid, or vitamin C. These products are largely untested.
Topical creams for age spots usually take several months to work and may leave your skin more sensitive to UV damage from the sun.
Medical treatments for age spots may get faster results, but they are typically more costly and have more potential side effects. Some of these treatments are surgical. If you are trying to avoid surgical procedures, read, looking good at any age without surgery.
Medical treatments that can lighten or get rid of age spots include:2-4
- Laser therapy: Lasers use specific wavelengths and frequencies of light energy to target melanin, the pigment in age spots. Laser therapy may need to be repeated. Potential side effects include skin crusting and skin pigmentation changes.
- Microdermabrasion: This procedure uses small crystals to remove the upper skin layers. Microdermabrasion is typically not painful, requires little downtime, and causes minimal facial redness. However, it usually requires multiple applications before age spots fade and can cause redness, bruising, and swelling.
- Chemical peels: This technique causes localized and controlled skin injury by applying acidic substances to the skin. Potential side effects include increased pigmentation, infection, and scarring.
- Cryosurgery: This technique uses extremely cold temperatures to treat skin lesions. It is widely used, inexpensive, and rapid. It can be painful and require more than one application.
It is never too early to think about anti-aging. Take care of your skin early in life and make it a consistent habit, but be aware that not everyone will achieve the same treatment results because genetic predisposition is also a major factor contributing to skin aging.
Use sunscreen regularly to help prevent age spots from forming. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that is water resistant and provides UVA and UVB protection. Apply sunscreen every two to three hours, especially when sweating or swimming.
Other ways to protect your skin from UV rays include:
- Staying out of the sun during peak hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Wear protective clothing
- Don’t use tanning beds
- Wear a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher
- Wear sunglasses
Age spots are harmless accumulations of melanin pigment. Many people treat them because they are not happy with their appearance. Age spots may mimic more serious skin conditions, so it is important to see a dermatologist if you have any concerns about your skin.
- Braun R, Nouveau S. Solar lentigines. Dermoscopedia. https://dermoscopedia.org/w/index.php?title=Solar_lentigines&oldid=16362
- Raziee M, Balighi K, Shabanzadeh-Dehkordi H, Robati RM. Efficacy and safety of cryotherapy vs. trichloroacetic acid in the treatment of solar lentigo. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. Mar 2008;22(3):316-9. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3083.2007.02409.x
- Shah M, Crane JS. Microdermabrasion. StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.