As you get older, you may start to notice age spots on your skin. You may wonder about whether or not you should be concerned about these, or whether they are like freckles: harmless, but indicators of sun exposure/damage. You may also wonder what can be done to prevent and treat them.
Here is what you need to know about preventing and treating age spots.
What Are Age Spots?
An age spot is a small, darkened area on your skin that is flat, tan to dark brown, and typically bigger than freckles, though they range from the size of a freckle to about half an inch across. They usually group together and vary in size. They appear on the face, hands, shoulders, arms, etc, all the areas that get the most sun exposure.
While they are most common in adults over 50, younger people can also get them if they spend a lot of time in the sun.
What Causes Age Spots?
In order to best know how to prevent and treat age spots, you need to understand what causes them first. Age spots are caused by overactive pigment cells in areas that have frequent/prolonged exposure to UV light. This is an overproduction of melanin in an attempt to protect your skin from the skin.
You are more likely to get age spots if you have fair skin, if you have frequent or intense sunburns, and if you have frequent or intense exposure to the sun.
Do You Need To Worry About An Age Spot?
No, you don’t. Age spots don’t need treatment any more than freckles do. They just indicate sun damage. However, if they bother you, you can have them lightened or removed. You can also use makeup to cover them up.
How To Prevent Age Spots
You may not have to worry about age spots, but that doesn’t mean you may want them. Some people are bothered by them, since they can indicate that they are aging. As such, there are things that you can do in order to prevent age spots.
Basically, preventing age spots just involves protecting your skin from the sun.
Wear Sunscreen Religiously
The AAD recommends a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ every day in order to prevent sun damage. This isn’t just for when you are hiking or going to the beach, but quite literally every day. Even if it’s raining or you aren’t going anywhere, UV rays can still get through clouds and windows to your skin.
Don’t forget your lips, as they can get age spots too. There are lip balms that have SPF in them.
Wear Protective Clothing
You can also wear protective clothing and avoid the sun during its peak hours (10am-2pm). There are specific types of clothing with UV protection, typically seen in sports sections. You can also opt for long sleeves, pants, skirts, and broad-brimmed hats.
Don’t Go To Tanning Beds
The same as laying out on the beach without sun protection can lead to sun damage, tanning beds can cause UV damage too. If you prefer how you look with a tan, you may prefer a self-tanning lotion for an option with risk of UV damage. Talk to your dermatologist about what you can do to be a bronzey goddess without suffering sun damage.
Treatment For Age Spots
While age spots are not cancerous and don’t develop into cancer, it’s always a good idea to have your dermatologist evaluate them just in case. If dermatologist is concerned, they will suggest a biopsy, where they take a small piece of skin from the spot and send it to a lab to have it tested for abnormalities. However, if it is a true age spot, this is typically harmless.
This isn’t a treatment, but it can lessen the appearance of your age spots. You can cover them with makeup, such as by using a color-correcting concealer. A makeup artist would be able to give you specific makeup advice, but generally, using yellow or peach-colored concealers on age spots and then using your normal concealer and foundation can work to cancel it out.
It’s good to consult with a makeup artist in order to avoid wasting money on makeup that doesn’t work for you so that you can get personalized advice, recommendations, and be shown what to do.
You can get creams and lotions and the like over the counter. Bear in mind that these are not as effective as professional treatments. It’s also important to note that even with professional treatments, age spots have a tendency to return.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests specific creams and lotions that can help lessen the appearance of age spots. They won’t work miracles, but over time, you can see an improvement.
There are a variety of professional treatment options for age spots. These include prescriptions, like bleaching creams.
Medical procedures can remove/reduce age spots.
- Intense pulsed light treatment. Light waves pass through the skin and target melanin to break up spots.
- Chemical peels remove the outer layer of skin so that new skin can grow.
- Dermabrasion sands the outer layers of skin away so that new skin can grow.
- Cryosurgery freezes spots with liquid nitrogen.
- Your dermatologist can also cut the spot out.
Should You See Your Dermatologist For Age Spots?
While you don’t need medical treatment for age spots, you should have them looked at if they have changed in appearance or turned black in color, as these signs can indicate melanoma (skin cancer). See your doctor for evaluation if the age spot is getting bigger, the border is irregular, it has an unusual combination of colors or is black instead of just a shade of brown, or if it is bleeding.
Remember you still need to protect your skin from the sun even if you already have age spots. This is especially important after treating age spots.
While age spots are harmless, you may not like their appearance. As such, you can take steps to either prevent them or to treat them, if desired. It is always good to talk to your dermatologist about any concerns you have