Age Spots

1 What are Age Spots?

Age spots, also known as lentigines, lentigos or liver spots, are dark, flat patches of skin that develop from sun damage.

These patches develop on the portions of skin most exposed to the sun which are the face, neck, hands and shoulders.

Some people are more susceptible to age spots than others. They are more prevalent among older people, although age spots start appearing from childhood.

These spots are harmless and do not require any specific treatment. Treatment is mainly for improved appearance and better self-esteem.

Avoiding sun damage by using sunscreen and accessories is the best way to prevent age spots.

2 Symptoms

Symptoms of Age spots are light brown to black in color spots.

The patches are flat and uniformly colored. These spots are painless and usually found on the face, neck, and shoulders.

They are more prominent in people with fair skin, but may develop in darker skin also.

In some cases, these spots may group together to form a more prominent pigmentation patch.

3 Causes

Age spots are caused by excessive pigmentation of the skin.

The exact reason for the increased production of skin pigment is not known. Some of the possible causes of age spots include aging of skin, sun damage, and UV exposure in tanning beds.

Age spots are most commonly seen in places that have maximum exposure to sun like the face, neck, upper back, and forearms.

Theory states that UV exposure increases the production of melanin, the skin pigment, which gives a darker color to the skin.

Age spots are found in all age groups in both genders. Certain factors like age, fair skin, history of sun exposure, and frequent use of tanning beds increase the risk of developing age spots.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of age spots is based on symptoms.

A physical examination of the skin helps to identify increased pigmentation on skin. A skin biopsy is suggested to rule out chances of other skin conditions.

Some other conditions that have symptoms similar to that of age spots include moles, seborrheic keratosis, and lentigo maligna.

5 Treatment

Treatment is not always necessary for age spots.

They are harmless and do not cause any other complications. Most treatments help to lighten the upper most layer of skin to improve appearance.

Some of the common treatment methods used include:

  • Medications – bleaching creams are used to lighten skin in the damaged area. This can be used alone or in combination with retinoids or a mild steroid. Sunscreen with SPF 30 is also recommended to protect the skin from sun damage.
  • Light therapy – laser helps to destroy the pigment-producing cells of the skin. This procedure does not cause damage to the skin cells. Intense light pulses are also used to reduce the skin color. Age spots fade gradually with these procedures.
  • Cryotherapy – freezing agents are used to reduce the spots. With healing of the skin, new cells appear that are lighter.
  • Dermabrasion – a brush is used to remove the upper layer of cells. New skin cells that are lighter in color form in that area.
  • Chemical peel – with this procedure, acid is used to burn the upper layer of cells. This helps to peel the skin, triggering the formation of a new layer.

Most of these methods have side effects. With any of these procedures, sun protection is very important.

6 Prevention

Age spots can be prevented by:

  • Avoiding exposure to the sun when it is most intense
  • Wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 15 every day. Make sure that it has both UVA and UVB protection
  • Applying sunscreen half an hour before exposure to sun
  • Wearing sun protective clothing like hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Many alternative and homeopathic remedies are used to get rid of age spots.

This includes lemon juice, aloe vera juice, castor oil, olive oil, butter milk, dandelion, rosemary oil, rose water and sandal powder.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

There are different ways to adapt your lifestyle in coping with age spots.

Always make sure to keep the age spots covered to prevent further darkening.

Additionally, keep other areas of the body covered to prevent more spots from developing. 

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications of age spots.

Age spots are harmless skin blemishes that develop due to sun exposure.

Age spots cause emotional distress in some people.

In some rare cases, age spots may develop into skin cancer.