If you’ve spent summers soaking up weekends at the beach or in the mountains, then you may have more to show for it that family photos. Age spots are a condition that affect both men and women, and become increasingly common with age.
“Age spots can be a result of too much ultraviolet exposure either from tanning beds, multiple sunburns or chronic sun exposure. These are the same things that can contribute to skin cancer, however age spots are typically medically benign but cosmetically bothersome,” explains Kara Capriotti, MD, dermatologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
Although age spots are more likely to affect individuals with fair skin, they can affect anyone and usually show up on areas of the skin most often exposed to the sun, like the face, backs of hands, chest and lower legs.
Age spots: How can I prevent them?
Age spots may be common--and they are typically harmless--but that doesn’t mean that anyone is excited to see them popping up on their face, hands or chest.
“Treating age spots is usually more of a cosmetic issue than it is a health issue,” says Dr. Capriotti.
Below, Dr. Capriotti explores some of the options available for women—or men—who are looking to help reduce or eliminate the appearance of their age spots.
Topical Treatment: Although you’ve likely seen advertisements touting serums and creams that offer to reduce the look of age spots overnight, it’s best to check with your dermatologist to see what topical treatment is right for you before beginning a routine. He or she may suggest a prescription or over the counter anti-aging regimen depending upon your individual skin type. Regardless of what topical treatment you choose, this is often the most cost-effective option.
Chemical peels: Chemical peels improve the appearance of age spots by, as its name suggests, peeling off the outer layer of skin with a chemical solution to reveal a smoother, less wrinkled, and more even color of skin beneath.
Laser therapy: In this treatment, dermatologists use fractionated lasers or pulsed-light therapies on the skin to fade the color of age spots. After a series of treatments, you should notice diminished discoloration but—be warned—laser therapy must be performed by an experienced operator.
Dermabrasion: Dermabrasion involves a ‘sanding down’ of the skin using a rotating brush, which helps to remove the outer layer of skin, which can lessen the discoloration of age spots over time. This is a simple procedure with little down time.
Cryosurgery: It might sound like a tricky name, but cryotherapy involves freezing off age spots using a liquid nitrogen solution, which causes darkened areas of skin to peel off of the body. If you have age spots in a concentrated area or one or two that need to be removed, this option may be best for you. It also can cause discoloration, depending on your skin type.
Each of these treatments can help reduce or eliminate the appearance of your age spots should they appear but, what can you do to help prevent them in the first place?
“If you have age spots or you want to prevent getting them, the best thing you can do is monitor your sun exposure,” says Dr. Capriotti. “Avoid time in the sun when it’s at its highest—between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm—and use sunscreen or cover up appropriately if you are outside.”
And, while age spots are totally normal, keep an eye out for these signs that your age spot may be something a little less normal:
- Very dark in color
- Rapidly increasing in size
- Irregular in shape
- Crusted, red, tender or bleeding
These may be signs that your age spot is a sign of skin cancer. Talk to a dermatologist if you have questions or concerns about your skin health.
Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Make sure you’re protecting it. If you have questions about your skin health, or it’s been awhile since you’ve had your skin checked for skin cancer or skin allergies, make an appointment with a dermatologist. Visit our website to find a list of Main Line Health dermatologists in your area.