Age spots — those darker spots that are on your skin occur when these areas produce more melanin than usual. Melanin is a pigment that is produced by a type of cell structure called melanocytes in the skin of most animals, including humans.
Depending on the genetic makeup of the individual, melanin comes in different shades. Individuals who are exposed to UV light (such as the sun) will produce more melanin than those who are sheltered.
Age spots are usually not a cause for concern and are usually removed for cosmetic reasons. These spots, which can range from light to dark brown are most common on the face, shoulders and the back of the hands. They also vary in size and can develop anywhere on the body. What are the causes of these age spots?
SUN DAMAGE: Spots caused by the sun are also called sunspots, solar lentigines or liver spots. This type of discoloration is caused by exposure to the sun or tanning beds. Areas of the body such as the face, hands, scalp or arms are the most likely areas to develop these types of spots.
HORMONAL CHANGES: Small patches of skin discoloration can occur in a condition known as Melasma. Melasma is typically triggered by hormones.
MEDICATION SIDE EFFECTS: Certain medications can increase skin pigmentation and result in dark spots. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), tetracyclines and psychotropic drugs are examples of common culprits.
SKIN INFLAMMATION: Eczema, psoriasis and acne are all common examples of skin inflammation, which can lead to dark spots.
IRRITATED SKIN: Insect bites, burns, small cuts and irritation caused by skin or hair care products may produce discolored areas on the skin.
DIABETES: Diabetes may be responsible for certain conditions that are mistaken for age spots. Acanthosis nigricans for example, or diabetic dermopathy. These cause darker spots which may look like age spots.
So now that you’ve seen a few age spots on your skin, what can you do to lessen the look, or get rid of them altogether?
The first type of treatment you may want to try are creams and lotions. There are ample skin-lightening products that claim to get rid of age spots. However before you try any of these, you should consult with a dermatologist to determine any allergic reactions. A dermatologist may also be able to prescribe you a cream that is safe and is more effective than over-the-counter types.
Laser treatments are another option, though precaution should be taken with this method. One or two laser treatments can lighten age spots quickly and the results are usually longer lasting than those with creams and lotions. The drawback, however, is prolonged redness and swelling of the skin. Skin blistering, scarring, scabbing and other infections are also symptoms. Costs can also be prohibitive.
Cryotherapy, which is a treatment where a dermatologist injures the cells in the age spots by freezing them. The skin gets lighter as it heals. Treatments can be somewhat painful, but the procedure is quick.
Microabrasion involves a dermatologist smoothing away age spots. Some redness may result from this procedure though it tends to go away in a few hours. Microabrasion coupled with a chemical peel can produce better results.
Chemical peeling can treat age spots quite effectively, especially on the hands. In a study that compared chemical peeling with cryotherapy, researchers found that 47% of the patients receiving the chemical peel had a 50% lightening of the age spots. While the patients who had cryotherapy had slightly better results, the skin tends to heal faster after a chemical peel than after freezing (cryotherapy).
SilcSkin anti-wrinkle silicone pads can also be a great arsenal against some age spots. Since silicone is a great exfoliator, removing the dead skin cells on the skin’s outermost surface.
Exfoliation is used in all facial treatments during microabrasion and chemical peels, and using SilcSkin Multi-Area pads, or any of their medical grade pads that are available, can help with small age spots that aren’t as dark.