The Ultimate Guide to Age Spots

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Mar 15, 2011
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Also called solar lentigines, age spots are flat spots on the skin and can be gray, black or brown in colour. They are the most common signs of ageing, but they can even affect young individuals before the age of 40 years.

Woman with tiny age spotsAge spots vary in size and colour and mostly appear in the areas that are frequently exposed to the sun such as the face, hands, shoulders and arms.Age spots are harmless, but appear like cancerous growths and are mostly ruled out as signs of skin cancer.

Symptoms

  • Flat spots or increased pigmented lesions.
  • Mostly appear in brown, black or gray colour.
  • Appear on areas most exposed to the sun like hands, face, shoulders, etc.
  • Varies in size and can appear in a cluster making it more visible.

Causes

  • Ultraviolet rays from the sun speeds up the production of melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives skin its natural colour. Tanning takes place due to extra melanin which is produced to protect the skin from harmful radiation of the sun. Age spots appear when extra melanin gets “grouped” or manufactured in greater quantity than normal.
  • Ageing too causes over-production of melanin, giving rise to age spots.
  • Genetics play a role on whether you will have age spots or not.

Risk factors

  • A fair skin or light complexion makes you more susceptible to age spots though these could appear on any skin colour.
  • History of continuous sun exposure.

Treatments

Age spots are harmless but should be distinguished from skin cancer. If you are distressed by the appearance of age spots, below are some solutions:

  • Medications: Bleaching creams such as hydroquinone can be used solely or combined with retinoids along with a mild steroid, which may lighten up age spots over a period of months.
  • Laser treatment: It destroys extra pigment producing cells called melanocytes. A number of sittings might be needed for the full treatment. Spots fade gradually over a few months.
  • Freezing or cryotherapy: Liquid nitrogen is applied on the age spots to destroy extra melanocytes.
  • Dermabrasion: This is a medical procedure which involves removing the surface of the epidermis of the skin by abrasion or sanding. The result is a new layer of skin.
  • Chemical peels: This process involves applying an acid on age spots, which “peel” the outer surface of the epidermis of the skin.

In all the above treatments sun protection is advised.

Prevention

  • Avoid extensive sun exposure: Limit your outdoor time under the Sun. Avoid being outside during 10 am to 4 pm as this is the time when the sun rays are extremely damaging.
  • Use sunscreen: Apply a sunscreen with minimum SPF 30 before half an hour from stepping out in the Sun. Apply at regular intervals as per instructions on the label. 
  • Protective clothing and gear: Dress up in long sleeved shirts and long pants with hats in order to cover up your body from the radiation.


Read more articles on Anti-ageing.

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