How to Get Rid of Age Spots

" Age spots, or solar lentigines (solar lentigo) are more commonly known as “liver spots” . They appear as brown or brown-black spots with grayish pigments, and are flat and well defined (usually oval) in shape. The skin spots usually appear after age 40. In sunny climates they start to appear at age 30 as the result of cumulative sun exposure. They often appear after a sunburn and on sun exposed areas of the body such as the face, forearms, hands, chest, lower legs and upper back. There is a higher prevalence of the condition in Caucasians and secondarily in Asians. The use of sunscreens may prevent  the condition. Although these are often undesirable permanent skin changes, they do not pose a threat to health and do not need treatment, except to improve one’s appearance."   


Causes of Age Spots


The common name “liver spots” may be misleading because age spots are not in any way caused by liver disease or malfunction. The more accurate term, solar lentigines, reflects their true cause, which implies skin damage due to repeated and prolonged sun exposure that increases with age. Although aging itself does not cause the age spots to appear, they are often found in people over 40 years of age because of the chronic exposure to the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays from the sun. For this reason, solar lentigines are commonly found in exposed body parts such as the face and forehead, back of the hands, forearms, and shoulders. Exposure to other sources of ultraviolet rays can also lead to skin damage that includes the appearance of lentigo.

age spots
Age Spots on Arm (called lentigo)
Source: The Meisenheimer Clinic

Symptoms


Lentigo is often seen in people with fair skin, but they can also develop in people with darker skin. These brown spots may appear as freckle-sized spots but may become bigger, up to half an inch or one centimeter in diameter. They can also group together, making the brown areas appear bigger in size. There are no significant symptoms associated with the condition such as pain, itching, or discomfort. They are harmless skin lesions, but if one notices new skin changes that are not typical, it may be best to consult a doctor to evaluate the spot or lesion, especially if characterized by:

  • Dark pigmentation
  • Rapid increase in size
  • Irregular borders
  • Having multiple colors
  • Accompanied by other symptoms like redness, itching, pain, or bleeding

Diagnosis


A diagnosis is easily made by a physician upon physical examination, especially in people over 40, even without doing any tests. However, if the brown spots are irregularly shaped or multi-colored, a biopsy may be done to rule out other conditions such as skin cancer.

liver spots on forehead
Age or Liver Spots on Forehead
Source: Meisenheimer Clinic

Treatment


Over the Counter Home Age Spot Treatment Options

As long as the brown discolorations on the skin do not bother the individual, no treatments are necessary. However, for cosmetic reasons many people seek treatment to improve their appearance. Dermatologists often prescribe retinol and hydroquinone (HQ) creams to lighten the spots. These products reduce melanin production, making brown spots lighter in color. These products are also available as over-the-counter skin preparations in lower concentrations. Doctors also advise using exfoliating products which may contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or papaya extract. Skin brightening compounds or bleaching lotions containing licorice extract, bearberry, and hydroquinone also work with fruit acids to make the dark spots lighter.

A popular option is the Oil of Olay Discoloration Fighting Concentrate that contains an ingredient called Septiwhite that will fade skin spots and inhibit melanin production.  Research backs the effectiveness of this product with 272 tested showing a big improvement in brown spots in 4 to 8 weeks (similar to the result found when using 4% hydroquinone cream).

For Dry Skin try the D-Pigment Dark Spot Lightener. The product has 10x the effect of kojic acid (for natural bleaching). The active ingredient is Melanyde, which inhibits color pigment plus a retinoid (encourages cell turnover) and the antioxidant vitamin E. 

Dermatologist Administered Procedures for Brown, Age or Liver Sports

Aside from topical skin preparations, dermatologists also use office procedures like microdermabrasion, chemical spot treatments, cryotherapy, chemical peels, laser treatment, and phototherapy to improve skin appearance and lighten the brown spots. These procedures may require one or more sessions for satisfactory results.  Specific treatment options include:

  • Clear + Brilliant Laser System: Fractional lasers are used at low-energy wavelengths. The laser is focused on the outer skin layer, leaving a uniform skin tone with little swelling or red skin. The treatment requires 3 to 5 treatments, every 30 days.
  • Illuminase: The Illuminase treatment resulted in a 75% improvement in dark skin spots.  Patients are treated for 12 weeks, 2 to 3 treatments a week using a mild laser and microdermabrasian. Patients also use a nightly application of a topical (Retin-A and hydroquinone active ingredients) for 30 days. Patients are also required to use a 40 SPF sunscreen every morning.

Last, the over the counter treatment called Elure Lightening Lotion is now being used by Dermatologists in  combination with laser treatment and skin peels. The cream is recommended for use 1 month prior to in-office treatment.
 

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References

Mayo Clinic. Liver spots .

WebMD. How to Treat Lentigo

"The Bright Side." Allure Dec. 2012: 142. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 12 Jan. 2013.

Fitzpatricks Atlas and Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology


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