What are age spots? Age spots, also known as liver spots, are tiny spots that appear on your body with age.
These can be small and multiple in number or larger and fewer. These spots appear on the areas of the body most exposed to sun, such as face, shoulders, arms and more, if a person is prone to sun bathing without proper protection.
Age spots are seen more commonly in adults older than 50, irrespective of gender. In some cases, younger adults do get them too, especially if they are spending greater lengths of time in the sun. Using tanning beds frequently is another way to get these age spots, earlier in life.
These spots are more commonly seen in people with light skin. Age spots appear as flat, oval areas of increased melanin pigmentation, which results in their black or brown presentation. They can range from the size of a freckle and up to a ½ inch across, and can also group together, resulting in being more noticeable.
While these spots can appear scary, and look like cancerous growths, age spots are benign (harmless) and don’t need treatment. However, since they usually occur in very visible parts of the body such as the face, shoulders, arms and hands, they can affect one’s perception of their own beauty and confidence and cause emotional distress. People can opt to get them removed for cosmetic reasons and there are several treatment options to choose from.
Age spots can be prevented by regularly using appropriate HPF value sunscreen and reapplying it every two hours if you are outside for longer duration. It is also important to reduce exposure to direct sunlight for long hours without protection, by covering up arms and legs with tight woven clothing. The use of tanning beds should also be avoided. And while they are harmless, if you notice that your age spots have darkened or changed in appearance (increasing in size, irregular border, has become tender or is bleeding), it is best to get the changes evaluated by your doctor.
There exists a few methods of treating age spots, each with its own sets of pros and cons. These range from creams and lotions, and include chemical peels as well as laser therapies, which is what we specialize in.
Laser therapy has become a viable treatment option for many individuals seeking a safe solution to effectively treat unwanted skin lesions and dark spots. Our laser system, the Cutera Laser Excel V ranks amongst the best of them and has won several awards for its innovative technology. Essentially, the dermatologist ‘zaps’ the skin spots with a high energy light. This works by destroying the pigment making cells under the epidermis (top-layer) of the skin, without damaging the surface itself. This is non- invasive, quick and reliable method of removing dark spots which allows the dermatologist to only treat the specific spots, and spare the surrounding skin.
Treatment with our Cutera Laser Excel V system can be completed in 2 – 3 sessions, on a walk – in basis, and requires no off time from work. The duration of a session is determined by the area size undergoing treatment and the extent of the age spots. An average session can last anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. The only necessary precaution afterwards is to protect the treated area from direct sunlight and heat for a short duration. In rare cases, the laser can also cause side effects, such as temporary darkening of age spots or crusting on the skin, but they tend to fade quickly.
Treatment with a laser system tends to work faster, and is a more permanent solution as compared to creams and lotions. However, this treatment option will be costlier as compared to other alternatives as mentioned below.
Other Treatment Options:
There are a few other treatment options for age spots, and they are mentioned below:
Creams and ointments: There are plenty of skin-lightening creams and lotions available in the market that claim to treat age spots. Most of them are available for purchase without requiring a prescription. It is however, better to consult a dermatologist before starting any treatment regime as certain products contain ingredients that are harmful to your health.
Using creams and lotions requires a lot of discipline and daily application for a very long duration to be effective.
Chemical peels: This is procedure which involves application of acid on the skin, which essentially burns the outer layer, including the age spots. The procedure triggers new skin to grow, and a few treatments may be necessary before any noticeable changes takes place. Sun protection is strongly advised, as well as there is a risk of temporary redness and a slighter risk of permanent changes in skin color.
Further still, other options include abrasion of skin using a rotating brush (dermabrasion and microdermabrasion) and freezing (cryotherapy) which employs a freezing agent to destroy the extra pigment.
Age spots are a very natural phenomenon to occur as we age due to exposure to UV sunlight and it affects us proportionally to our exposure to sun light and other sources of UV rays. Although they are harmless, they can cause emotional distress due to their appearance on parts of our bodies, visible to others, which can reduce our self-confidence. There are ways to reduce its development or to prevent further age spots by protecting our skin from sunlight by using sunscreen and proper clothing. In case we wish to treat them, for aesthetic and cosmetic reasons, laser therapy is a modern, effective, relatively painless method to permanently treat the age spots. It requires only 2 – 3 sessions and delivers long lasting results.
Consultation with a dermatologist is the best way to confirm the diagnosis of age spots, and he or she can advise appropriate treatment options for you, based on the extent of the age spots and your insurance coverage. Prevention still remains the best way to keep age spots from developing in the first place.