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Age Spots & Sun Spots, Frequently Asked Questions

What are age spots or sun spots?

Age spots which sometimes are called liver spots and sun spots are flat, usually round areas of increased pigmentation on your skin. Their color is from tan to brown.

These small dark areas on your skin are usually located on the most sun-exposed areas of the skin meaning on the face, back of the hands, shoulders and arms which are areas with highest rate of exposure to the sun.

What is the size of these age spots?

Age spots are different in size and range from size of a freckle to about 10 millimeters. Sometimes they gather in group together, making them larger and more noticeable.

Who may get age spots or sun spots?

Age spots are more common in elder people. However, younger people can get them too, particularly if they spend a lot of time in the sun. That’s the reason they are called sun spots as well. Besides, Age spots may affect people of all skin types, but they're more common in people with lighter skin tone.

Are age spots cancerous?

Age spots are usually harmless and don't need treatment and treatments are usually for cosmetic purposes. However if the spots are growing fast or have multicolor or change their shape it is best to have them evaluated by your doctor, particularly:

  • If the size is growing rapidly

  • If it Is becoming darker or already is very dark

  • If you noticed any changes in the appearance of your spot

  • If it has irregular border

  • If it is becoming multi-colors

  • If it is painful or has itching, redness or bleeding

What causes age spots or sun spots?

Ultraviolet (UV) light has a stimulatory effect on pigment producing cells in skin. It means that UV accelerates the production of melanin by Melanocytes. During ages on the areas of skin which have had years of frequent and prolonged sun exposure, over activity of these melanocytes lead to accumulation of these pigments locally.

With the same mechanism commercial tanning lamps and tanning beds can also contribute to the development of age spots.

How can you prevent the age spot or sun spots?

To help avoid age spots and new spots after treatment you need limiting your sun exposure:

  • Use sunscreen 15- 30 minutes before going out. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that provides protection from both UVA and UVB light with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two to three hours.

  • Avoid outdoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Because the sun's rays are most intense during this time. It is better to schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day.

  • Cover your skin. For protection from the sun, wear clothing that covers your arms and legs and have a broad-brimmed hat to cover skin of head and your face

What are treatment options for age spots or sun spots?

If for cosmetic reasons you want your age spots to be less noticeable, treatments are available to lighten or remove them.

  • Medical treatment: For medical treatment you may wish to consult with your doctor. They may prescribe Prescription bleaching creams alone or combined with retinoids, AHAs or BHAs, glycolic acid or kojic acid which in any case they gradually fade the spots over several months. Use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 is strongly recommended.

  • Laser and intense pulsed light therapy.

Laser and intense pulsed light therapies destroy melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) without damaging the skin's surface. Treatments with a laser or intense pulsed light typically are very effective and require two to three sessions. After treatment, age spots fade gradually over several weeks. Sun protection is definitely necessary after laser or intense pulsed light therapy.

  • Freezing (cryotherapy). This procedure involves using a cotton-tipped swab to apply liquid nitrogen or another freezing agent to the age spots to destroy the extra pigment. As the area heals, the skin appears lighter. Freezing is typically used on a single age spot or a small grouping of age spots. The treatment may temporarily irritate the skin and poses a slight risk of permanent scarring or discoloration.

  • Microdermabrasion.

Microdermabrasion consists of removing the surface layer of your skin with a rapidly rotating sand brush or diamond. This procedure removes the skin surface, and a new layer of skin grows in its place. You'll need a series of procedures over months to get the full effect. If you have rosacea or tiny red veins on your face, this technique could make the condition worse.

  • Chemical peel. A chemical peel involves applying an acid, which burns the outer layer of your skin, to the age spots. As your skin peels, new skin forms to take its place. Several treatments may be necessary before you notice any results. Sun protection is strongly recommended following this treatment. Temporary redness is likely, and there's a slight risk of permanent changes in skin color.

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