What Are Age Spots?
Age spots are flat, brown, gray, or black spots on the skin.
They usually occur on sun-exposed areas of the skin. Age spots are also called
liver spots, senile lentigo, solar lentigines, or sun spots.
What Causes Age Spots?
Age spots are the result of an excess production of melanin,
or skin pigment. Doctors don’t always know why age spots develop. Skin aging,
sun exposure, or other forms of ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, such as
tanning beds, are all possible causes. You’re most likely to develop age spots
on the areas of your skin that receive the most sun exposure, including:
- your face
- the back of your hands
- your shoulders
- your upper back
- your forearms
Who Is at Risk for Age
People of any age, sex, or race can develop age spots.
However, age spots are more common in people with certain risk factors. These
- being older than 40 years old
- having fair skin
- having a history of frequent sun exposure
- having a history of frequent tanning bed use
What Are the Symptoms of
- range from light brown to black in color
- have the same texture as the rest of your skin
- are painless
- are usually on sun-exposed areas of the skin
How Are Age Spots
Your doctor will usually diagnose age spots by looking at
If your doctor is worried that a dark area isn’t an age
spot, they may perform a biopsy. They will remove a small piece of skin and
check it for cancer or other abnormalities.
How Are Age Spots Treated?
Age spots aren’t dangerous and don’t cause any health
problems. Treatment isn’t necessary. However, some people want to remove age
spots because they don’t like the way they look.
Your doctor may prescribe bleaching creams to fade the age
spots gradually. These usually contain hydroquinone, with or without retinoids
such as tretinoin. Bleaching creams usually take several months to fade age
spots. You will need to wear sunscreen at all times during treatment. Bleaching
and tretinoin creams make your skin more sensitive to UV damage.
There are several medical procedures that can treat age
spots. Each medical procedure carries a risk of side effects and complications.
Ask your dermatologist or plastic surgeon about which treatment is the most
appropriate for your skin. Medical procedures for age spots include:
- laser treatment to destroy the cells that
- chemical peels to burn the outer layer of your
skin, allowing new skin to grow in its place
- dermabrasion, which sands off the outer layers
of the skin so new skin can grow in its place
- cryosurgery, which freezes age spots with liquid
Always wear sunscreen after treatment to protect your
healing skin from UV damage.
There are many over-the-counter
creams available that are marketed for removing age spots. These
creams aren’t as strong as prescription creams. They may or may not effectively
remove your excess skin pigmentation. If you want to use an over-the-counter
cream, choose one that contains hydroquionone, deoxyarbutin, glycolic acid,
alpha hydroxy acid, or kojic acid.
remove age spots. Instead, they cover them. Ask your dermatologist, plastic
surgeon, or makeup counter salesperson to recommend brands that effectively
conceal age spots.
Preventing Age Spots
You can’t always prevent age spots. However, you can reduce
your chances of getting them by doing the following:
- Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when
the sun’s rays are most intense.
- Wear a sunscreen every day. It should have a sun
protection factor (SPF) rating of at least 15 and contain both UVA and UVB
- Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before sun
exposure. Reapply every two hours, more often if swimming or perspiring.
- Wear protective clothing such as hats, pants,
and long-sleeved shirts. These help protect your skin from UV rays. For the
best protection, wear UV-blocking clothes with an ultraviolet protection factor
(UPF) of at least 40 or 50.
What Is the Long-Term
Age spots are harmless changes to the skin and don’t cause
pain. On rare occasions, age spots can make skin cancer more difficult to
diagnose. The appearance of age spots can cause emotional distress to some
people. You can often remove or reduce them with treatment.