Understanding Age Spots
If you have flawless skin while you’re young, it doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever. There are factors like ageing and sun exposure that may eventually contribute to age spots and unwanted pigmentation.
Age Spots and Hyperpigmentation
Age spots, also known as liver spots or sunspots, are the light to dark brown, grey, or black spots you can see on the most sun-exposed areas of your skin. They are flat and have the same feel as your skin. You can see them on your face, forearms, shoulders, upper back, or in the back of your hands. It is caused by the overproduction of skin pigment or what we call melanin.
Before any sort of treatment, it is best to consult with a dermatologist to make sure they are age spots and not some other skin disorder that needs a different treatment. Your doctor will visually inspect them, and if necessary, perform a skin biopsy. This will be checked by a pathologist to make sure that it is not cancerous or has other irregularities.
The possible causes of age spots are skin ageing, sun, or other UV light exposure.
Pigmentation is your skin colour made by your body’s skin cells, and if your skin or your whole body darkens with brown patches, doctors call it skin pigmentation disorder or hyperpigmentation. Age spots are a less profound type of hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is located at the top layer of your skin. It is usually harmless but can be caused by a health condition or medication, hormonal imbalance, or skin inflammation and injury. Most often, it is a symptom of ageing by virtue of years of solar exposure, hence the name ‘sunspots.’ They most often appear on your face, neck, or neckline as you get older. Before treatment, you must consult a dermatologist as to what kind of pigmentation you have to provide an effective treatment.
Who Is Likely To Develop Age Spots And Unwanted Pigmentation?
People of all ages, nationalities, or sex may develop age spots. Younger people get them, like the freckles on their nose and cheeks because of frequent sun exposure. Perhaps these should be called ‘youth spots’!
If these freckles become dense, they will cause uneven skin tone and darkness on the face. Also, you are at risk of hyperpigmentation if you are 40 years old and above, fair-skinned, often exposed to the sun or the tanning bed, undertaking hormone replacement therapy, or a younger woman who is taking contraceptives pills.
What Are The Treatments For Age Spots and Hyperpigmentation?
Age spots are not life-threatening or hazardous to your health. If you want them to lighten or be free from them and have flawless skin, these are the clinical procedures, medications, and natural treatments you can benefit from:
This removes the topmost layer of your skin by applying a chemical solution to it. New skin will take its place. You may need to repeat the treatment until you see the full result.
The doctor uses a rotating device with a coarse surface called a dermabrader across your age spots. Large parts of the skin need multiple treatments to improve your skin’s appearance. Like chemical peels, new skin will grow in its place.
Freezing or Cryotherapy
In this treatment, liquid nitrogen is applied to your skin with a cotton-tipped swab for at least 5 seconds or by spray freezing on small groups of age spots. This is to damage the spots. After healing, your replacement skin will be lighter.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy and Ablative (Wounding) Laser
This target the pigment-producing cells or melanocytes by emitting light waves or wounding lasers that go into the skin and break up the spots in the topmost layer but without damaging the skin.
It is a gentler treatment than dermabrasion. The doctor treats mild age spots by spraying fine fragments of sodium bicarbonate or aluminium oxide. Then, sanding the thick topmost layer with an abrasive device and vacuuming the dead skin. It is used to rejuvenate your skin but will need to be repeated at intervals.
Prescribed Medications (Over-the-counter Creams)
The skincare specialist may also prescribe you skin lightening creams with ingredients like alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, hydroquinone, kojic acid, liquorice extract, N-acetylglucosamine, tretinoin, or vitamin B3. It will take a few months to lighten the spots. These creams are available in different strengths. You need to apply them once to twice a day.
Natural Home Remedies
Based on research, the following have natural active ingredients that can help lighten pigmentation by applying to your dark patches:
- Pure aloe vera gel
- Apple cider vinegar
- Black tea water
- Dried skin and extract of red onion
- Green tea extract
- Liquorice Extract
- Orchid extracts
- Tomato Paste
- Red lentils (fine paste)
There are numerous options in treating age spots and pigmentation, but as the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
Included in your beauty regimen, you should avoid intense sun exposure, apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF30 for UVA and UVB as skin ageing and skin burning protection, and wear protective clothing like hats, long sleeves, and long pants.
However, if you have existing age spots that bother you, speak with a dermatologist about the best option for your skin condition, possible side effects, or complications. With ongoing diligence in taking care of your skin, these treatments will help you have younger-looking skin.