Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Rupali Goswami (Beauty Expert) on 23rd Feb 2021
What are Age Spots? How to remove & prevent Age spots?
As we grow old, our body starts to change internally and externally. All the essential organs of our body begin to lose some function as we grow old. Changes due to aging occur in all of our body's organs, tissues, and cells. Just like it affects our internal parts, it also affects the external parts of our body.
From childhood, adulthood to sensitive old age, our skin goes through many issues and keeps changing over time. The skin elasticity decreases and becomes thinner, and the level of fatty tissues located underneath the skin decreases. Our skin starts to become more prone to damage, fragile and gets bruised more easily. Along with old age, people can experience more dryness in their skin than any other young or middle-aged people due to a decrease in the production of natural oils in the skin.
To overcome all that dryness, our skin starts to produce more melanin to provide the skin with enough moisture, which can cause more damage and contribute to more problems like fine lines & wrinkles, acne breakouts, pigmentation, age spots, and many other issues.
Age spots can result from certain factors, including sun exposure, skin aging, other forms of skin treatments that consist of ultraviolet light exposure like tanning to treat psoriasis and other things. In this article, we take you on a journey of what age spots are, what you can do to remove them, and the expert's views on preventing them.
What are Age Spots?
Age spots can be pretty common when you enter old age. Rather than having a bumpy texture, they appear flat on the skin and have a black, brownish, or tan color. It mostly appears brighter on people with fair skin and mainly emerges on the regions exposed to the harsh sun, such as the face, neck, hands, shoulders, legs.
Just like excessive melanin production can cause hyperpigmentation, it can also result in age spots.
The appearance of age spots also indicates that the skin has gone through a lot of sun exposure. To avoid any further damage from the sun, our skin forms a protective shield by causing these spots. Age spots do not give cause any harm to the skin and do not necessarily require any treatment but can be treated from a cosmetic point of view.
Possible Causes for Age Spots
1. Sun can be both a friend & an enemy:
As the sun can provide our bodies with essential vitamins, it can also cause many unwanted guests in your life to show up on your face, arms, shoulders, and even all over the body. With hyperpigmentation, sunburn, damaged skin, and others, too much sun exposure can also cause age spots.
2. Using the wrong products:
You should avoid using products that don't suit your skin, be it a cosmetic product or skincare product, or even a hair care product. Using products that have been considered a no-no by your skin and the continuous usage of such products can cause your skin to react in irritation, leading to acne breakouts, pigmentation, sensitivity, age spots, and there is a never-ending list.
3. Side effects of certain medications:
We can not tell what medicines can cause side effects, but almost all medications have certain side effects that react differently. Simultaneously, sometimes it can be severe; other times, it only causes mild side effects. Just like that, certain medications can contribute to the development of hyperpigmentation and age spots.
4. Hormonal imbalance:
Hormonal imbalance is a journey that goes hand in hand throughout our lives. Hormones act differently depending on a person's gender, age, and situation. They are responsible for so many things, including metabolism, growth of an individual, fertility, immune system, and individual behavior. Hormones are also known to influence some hyperpigmentation that can lead to age spots.
Several treatments can help you get rid of age spots
There are various methods available to treat age spots that can help lighten them or completely remove them.
1. Over the counter medications:
In many cases where the appearance of age spots is on the milder side and can be treated with over-the-counter medications, a skin-lightening or bleaching cream can be used, which can help fade away the age spots. Many of these skin-lightening creams contain retinol that encourages new blood vessels in the skin, improving skin color and fading away age spots. Skin-lighteners should strictly be used under a professional's supervision to cause side effects like sensitivity, dryness, redness, itching, and burning.
2. Chemical peels:
As age spots are mainly located on the top layer of the skin, a chemical peel can help remove that entire layer. The chemical peel contains a solution that can be applied on the affected areas such as the face, neck, arms, or shoulders, and it eventually strips off the layers of the skin, bringing out a smoother, softer, and even skin tone. While chemical peels can be a great method to get rid of age spots, they can also be overwhelming with all the side effects that come with it that can cause skin darkening, blemishes, infection, and redness. Chemical peels can take some time to show any improvements on the skin.
Cryotherapy works by using a freezing agent called liquid nitrogen (which is popularly used for creating foods, works as a coolant in gadgets, and also for different treatments). The cryotherapy method includes taking a small amount of liquid nitrogen and applying on to the age spots to destroy the pigments caused by them. The skin will gradually start to appear brighter with each healing day. Cryotherapy can leave your skin with certain side effects, including numbness, irritation, skin discoloration, redness, and tingling sensation.
4. Laser therapy:
Laser therapy claims to have long-lasting results than using over-the-counter medications in treating age spots. There are different kinds of laser therapies available for age spots and can be used according to their skin type and condition. The laser therapy process includes demolishing the cells that produce melanin (one of the main reasons for age spots). Like a chemical peel, it removes the skin's top layer with a different process and without causing any damage to the skin's surface. Several appointments might be needed to reach the desired results. Flaky skin, scarring, and discomfort are some of the side effects of laser therapy.
This treatment is most popular to improve the appearance of the skin. Dermabrasion is a serious surgical procedure that a doctor should only use. It requires using a specific device containing a rotating tool (more like a brush) to exfoliate the top layers of the skin. The method of dermabrasion may require several sittings. Some side effects like roughness, redness, and swelling can be seen under this treatment. Along with treating age spots, dermabrasion can also help treat other skin conditions like sun damage, fine lines & wrinkles, uneven texture, and acne scars.
Microdermabrasion works differently than dermabrasion as this treatment is much gentler on the skin. While dermabrasion functions by exfoliating the skin, microdermabrasion works by spraying tiny amounts of some compounds on the skin that help remove the skin's top layers more gently, leaving skin with a softer feel and a brighter look. Side effects of microdermabrasion include mild blemishes, redness, and tingling sensation. This type of treatment gives the best results when done under the supervision of a professional.
What can you do to prevent age spots?
Besides the above treatments, there are some things which you can do to reduce the chances of getting age spots.
1. Steer clear of the sun:
Letting your skin and body soak some vitamin D is good, but too much sun exposure can not only cause age spots but can damage your skin in several ways. You can't completely ignore the sun, and you shouldn't go anyway. But you can always try to avoid the sun when it's high in the sky, and its radiations are the strongest, especially between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
2. Never forget your sunscreen:
Always! Always! Use sunscreen. As much damage as the sun can cause to your skin. It can all be avoided if you wear enough sunscreen before stepping out of the house. We can not stress enough sunscreen importance in preventing age spots, early aging, and skin pigmentation. Applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above can make a huge difference in the skin's texture & appearance.
3. Just once is not enough:
Like every other skincare product, sunscreen also needs an appropriate time to sink into the skin, so it is ideal for applying it 15-30 minutes before you are ready to face the sun. Since sunscreen sits on the top layers of the skin, it will gradually break down when it comes to sunlight. The sun also wipes away all the actives and minerals from the skin, and that's why it is essential to reapply the sunscreen every two to three hours.
4. Think about other body parts too:
It is not just your face that faces the sun but your whole body, and as our skin is always protecting the entire body, it is important to cover those parts with any piece of clothing such as maxi skirts, full-length pants, and shirts with long sleeves.
5. Spot correction:
Suppose your age spots have only started to occur, and you are not looking for any surgical treatments and can devote enough time to treat age spots. In that case, you can also opt for spot correction creams that are easily available online or in any beauty store. These creams can provide your skin with enough moisturization to reduce age spots, fine lines & wrinkles.
Although age spots are not an indication of any disease, you should still get them checked if you are unsure about it. Age spots are mainly the effect that comes with aging or occurs due to too much sun exposure.
It is very common to have age spots on the skin. They are harmless and require no treatment unless you want them removed for personal/cosmetic reasons. Many surgical treatments are available to get rid of age spots according to their skin type and condition. If you are not ready to go through surgical treatments, then you can leave them as it is. To avoid any further damage, there are some things that you can take care of to prevent the occurrence of age spots.
Research properly and take advice from the experts as to what treatment you should go for. Always remember to wear sunscreen even after going through the surgical treatments as per the doctor's recommendation.