You may notice a growing number of small, dark spots on your skin as each birthday passes. Getting more and more of these age spots as you get older is a typical reaction to sun exposure over time.
They most often start appearing up at or around 50 years old, however younger people can also get age spots if they spend a lot of time in the sun.
So, what are these spots anyway? Age spots are small, flat, dark areas on the skin. They vary in size and usually appear on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, hands, shoulders, and arms. Age spots can also be called sunspots, liver spots and solar lentigines.
Even though age spots are usually no need for concern, it’s crucial to prevent sun damage not only for aesthetic purposes but to stay protected against skin cancer. When it comes to age spots, prevention is everything. Amping up your sun safety habits like frequently applying SPF30+ sunscreen, staying out of the sun at its most powerful hours, and covering your body with clothing and hats can help prevent age spots.
As for the age spots already on your body? There are many things you can do to get rid of them.
The best over the counter option to reduce current (and prevent future) age spots is sunscreen. Not only will sunscreen prevent your age spots from getting darker while simultaneously keep future ones from forming. Experts recommend choosing sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection like SPF30 or higher.
Non-prescription Lightening Creams and Serums
Over the counter lightening creams can be a fantastic method of ridding your age spots. These lightening creams help to reduce age spots by suppressing the production of melanin. They are most effective on age spots that have been caught early and are still on the lighter side.
If you’d like to give this option a whirl, the active ingredients to look for are hydroquinone, glycolic acid, kojic acid, liquorice root extract and niacinamide. Hydroquinone is considered the gold standard for lightening but is known for being harsher on the skin and may trigger side effects. These include skin irritation and rebound pigmentation if it’s applied for too long.
If you struggle with spots on your face, you could try incorporating a vitamin C serum into your daily routine. Since vitamin C is an antioxidant, it helps protect the skin against sun damage, prevents dark spots, and gives a brightening effect overall.
Prescription Fade Creams
Prescription topical drugs can work slowly to lighten age spots. Think several weeks to several months. The two most prescribed are hydroquinone and tretinoin.
Hydroquinone works by slowing the production of melanin while tretinoin is a retinol cream that improves skin texture and reduces pigmentation.
During this in-office procedure, liquid nitrogen (a freezing agent) is applied to the age spots. This freezes and destroys the pigment making cells and result in the spots to flake off. As your skin heals, it appears lighter. This treatment is better if you have single age spots or small clusters and can be done a few times a month, if necessary.
Depending on the depth of the peel, this treatment can be helpful in reducing the appearance of age spots. It involves your dermatologist applying an acid to the area which burns the outer layer of your skin where there are age spots. As this layer of skin comes off, a new layer replaces it. The number of treatments required vary based on the severity of your age spots.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
IPL is considered to be hands down the easiest, most effective option for ages spots. The treatment uses light to target the colour brown on your skin to destroy the pigment and cause the age spot to turn darker and slough off after a week. Most people require up to four treatments for its optimal effect.
Bonus: there’s no downtime and the treatment is virtually pain-fee
There are several types of laser treatments that can help, depending on your skin colour, skin tone, and the location of your age spots. This is the preferred method of removing age spots for dermatologists due to its quick recovery time and long-lasting results.
The laser treatments destroy melanin-producing cells without damaging the skin’s surfaces. This approach usually requires two to three sessions where wounding lasers remove the top layer of skin where the age spots are.