January 18, 2023
As you age, certain changes to your skin are almost inevitable, such as wrinkles and age spots. Although you cannot completely avoid the natural aging process, there are certain actions you can take to prevent and mitigate the problem.
Ultraviolet (UV) light speeds up the production of melanin, a natural pigment that gives skin its color. On skin with years of sun exposure, age spots appear when melanin becomes clumped or is produced in high concentrations. The use of commercial tanning lamps and beds also can cause age spots.
By recognizing what causes age spots, you can reduce your risk and find the right product to reduce the appearance of dark spots on your skin.
Age spots are small to medium brown spots that appear on the skin, primarily the face and hands, as you age.
They are often referred to as liver spots. They are caused by UV damage to the melanin production of the skin cells, which causes certain skin cells to appear darker than others.
Age spots can range in size between miniscule to more than a 1/2 an inch, and will appear as tan, brown or black in color. They can also group together, which creates a more significant appearance.
They are typically harmless and benign, making them mostly a cosmetic problem. However, if an age spot grows or changes rapidly, then you should get it checked out by a dermatologist to ensure it is not cancerous.
Here are some examples of what age spots can look like: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-age-related-growths
The main difference between freckles and age spots is the age of the person and the size and location of the spots. Freckles are small, can appear anywhere, and are directly attributed to sun exposure in those susceptible; they are also inherited.
Freckles can appear on anyone of any age, especially children.
Age spots are not hereditary, can occur to anyone of any skin type, tend to develop on the hands and face, can also be larger in size, and begins to be noticed in middle age.
Freckles are small brown spots on your skin, often in areas that get sun exposure. In most cases, freckles are harmless. They form as a result of overproduction of melanin, which is responsible for skin and hair color (pigmentation). Overall, freckles come from ultraviolet (UV) radiation stimulation.
There are two categories of freckles: ephelides and solar lentigines. Ephelides are the common type most people think of as freckles. Solar lentigines are dark patches of skin that develop during adulthood. This includes freckles, aging spots, and sunspots. The two types of freckles can look similar but differ in other ways such as their development.
Read: What's the Difference Between Freckles and Age Spots?
Age spots develop due to excess UV exposure, either from the sun or tanning beds. They appear in the areas that have been most exposed to the sun, including the face, hands, and shoulders.
Melanin is the pigment in skin cells that provides it with its color. UV light accelerates the production of melanin, which is what leads to tanning.
However, the UV rays also damage the skin cells. Over time, this damage alters the production of melanin in the skin cell, causing a high concentration of melanin in a particular area, which creates age spots.
Age spots are more common in those with pale skin, but those with a darker skin pigment can also develop age spots, as well.
Once you do begin to develop some unsightly age spots, you can start treatment to reduce their appearance.
The best way to treat age spots is prevention, which includes wearing sunscreen whenever you are in the sun, avoiding tanning beds, and other excess exposure to UV rays. If you already have developed age spots, then you can treat them with a skin-lightening cream.
Avoid dangerous and potentially toxic ingredients such as kojic acid and hydroquinone when choosing skin-lightening creams. Instead, choose all-natural ingredients, such as licorice root extract and vitamin C, which will lighten the skin and keep it healthy.
These creams lighten the skin gradually and take time.
If the age spots do not respond to treatment, then you can discuss more invasive procedures, such as laser therapy or dermabrasion, with your doctor.
The dermatologist may suggest one of the following procedures:
These procedures all carry risks and can scar the skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), a specially trained dermatologist should perform them.
These removal techniques can also make the skin extra sensitive to sunlight. Anyone who has undergone one of these procedures should take extra precautions in the sun and follow their doctor’s advice.
Topical creams can also reduce the appearance of age spots. Research suggests that creams containing one or more of the following ingredients may help:
Just remember, that it takes time for the skin to heal and return to normal once you have begun treatment.
Age spots don't require medical care. Have your doctor look at spots that are black or have changed in appearance. These changes can be signs of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.
It's best to have any new skin changes evaluated by a doctor, especially if a spot:
You can take precautions when you are young to avoid getting age spots as you age.
1. Avoid direct sunlight. Depending on where you live, the sun is at its worst at certain times.
2. Use sunscreen while in the sun, which has broad-spectrum protection, water resistance, and SPF 30 or higher. If out in the sun for longer periods, reapply sunscreen every 2 hours according to
3. Cover, cover, cover - wear hats and clothes protecting your skin from the sun, and baseball caps and sun visors don't count. They don't cover enough of your skin.
Consider wearing clothing designed to provide sun protection. Look for clothes labeled with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 40 to 50 to get the best protection.
Age spots are not cancerous. They can sometimes resemble skin cancer types, so it is important to be aware of the differences.
Age spots can look like actinic keratosis (AK) growths, which are precancerous. However, age spots are flat, while AK growths usually feel rough.
If a person suspects they have AK growths, they should visit a doctor for an examination.
Have a question about your scar or dark spot? Leave a comment and we’ll be happy to answer!
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