Also known as liver spots, age spots are flat, brown discolorations on the skin.
They tend to be roundish, come in a variety of sizes, and are most often found on the face,hands, arms, legs.
What Causes Age Spots?
The overwhelming cause of age spots is repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) sunlight, including the UV light produced in tanning beds. UV light speeds up the skin’s production of pigment (melanin). In fact, that’s what happens when skin tans. Over the years, however, repeated UV exposure can create small, permanent areas of high concentrations of melanin: age spots.
Research suggests that some people are more genetically susceptible to the formation of these skin discolorations.
What Age Spots Are Not
Several skin conditions look similar to age spots. Moles, for example, are also small and brown, although they can be raised as well as flat. Seborrheic keratoses (sometimes referred to disparagingly as skin barnacles) are tan, brown, or black spots that may be flat or slightly raised. Like warts, they often have a scaly texture. Melasma are brownish-colored discolorations that can appear during pregnancy as
a result of hormonal changes.
A form of skin cancer, lentigo maligna melanoma, can also resemble age spots, although its lesions tend to have an irregular shape, a raised texture, and grow and darken over time. Always have your skin checked right away if any spot changes in size, color, shape, or texture; itches or bleeds; or seems unusual to you in any way.
How Are Age Spots Treated?
- Lasers are highly effective at treating age spots. They target and break up the melanin “clumps” without harming the surrounding skin tissue. Many different lasers work on age spots. Your physician will suggest the type that will be best for you. The effects are permanent—as long as you protect that area of the skin from the sun.
- Although not as effective as lasers, chemical peels and microdermabrasion can sometimes help minimize the appearance of age spots. Both these procedures remove the very top layer of the epidermis—and any of it superficial imperfections.