Causes, Treatment & Prevention of Age Spots on the Skin
Age Spots: Causes, Treatment & Prevention
Having age spots on the face or hands can make people look older than they are. They're among the first signs of aging. For many men and women, their age spots can cause them a lot of distress. Some may even wonder if age spots indicate a more worrisome problem. Here's everything you need to know about age spots and how to remove them from the face.
What Are Age Spots?
If you've looked in the mirror recently and noticed dark brown or black spots on your skin, then you may wonder what they are. Some people may be concerned that it’s skin cancer. More often than not, the brown spots you notice on your face and hands are actually called age spots.
They also go by other names, such as:
- Senile lentigo
- Liver spots
- Sun spots
- Solar lentigines
You can typically find age spots on your face and hands, although they appear in any area of the skin that is exposed to the sun. They're typically smooth to the touch. When you press on them, they shouldn't cause you any pain. If they do, then it may not be an age spot.
What Causes Age Spots?
Before you rush to your doctor, you should be aware that age spots are typically harmless. If you notice a particularly dark spot or one that looks odd-shaped, then you may want to visit your doctor to determine if it's skin cancer.
Age spots themselves, however, are harmless. While they may be more noticeable on white skin, even those of Latino and Hispanic backgrounds can develop them. This is because they're caused by UV radiation exposure, though this isn't the only cause.
The underlying factor in play is melanin. If something causes more melanin to be produced than is normal, you're left with a patch or dot of skin that is darker than the rest.
In many cases of age spots, they're formed because of exposure to UV rays from the sun. If you frequently lie out in the sun without protection, then you're likely going to develop age spots.
Yet, according to this study, it isn't just the sun that may cause an increase in melanin. Because your skin is the largest organ of your body, and because its job is to protect the organs inside your body, it is frequently being attacked by toxins and radiation.
While UV rays are the most potent form of radiation that your skin is likely exposed to, there are other toxins that can cause age spots. Exposure to cigarette smoke is one of them. Certain fumes from your job may be another. Even just regular exposure to vehicle fumes may cause age spots.
That's because all of these instances contain toxins or pollutants. When they come into contact with your skin, your body does its best to fight them off. Yet some damage always occurs. As a result, your body may accidentally overproduce melanin and form age spots.
Unfortunately, one cause of age spots may just be the aging process. Everyone ages. The primary mechanism that is currently known to researchers that sparks aging is telomeres. These are attached to your chromosomes and code for the production of certain cells.
Over time, telomeres become shorter and shorter. At present, the body doesn't have the proper mechanism to extend telomeres. As they shorten, they code for fewer and fewer cells to be produced. Once the telomere is gone, the cells code for apoptosis. This means cell death.
Without cells, your body can no longer function.
Even a few less cells can have a noticeable change in your day-to-day life. Wrinkles form because of a lack of collagen-producing cells. Age spots also form because cells are triggered to repair what they can and end up overproducing melanin.
There are also a few people who are more at risk for developing age spots than others. They include:
- Individuals older than 40
- People who receive lots of sun exposure
- Individuals with fair skin
- People who frequently use a tanning bed
While you may not be able to stop the aging process from a genetic standpoint, there are certain treatments that can help restore your smooth and clear skin.
Diagnosing Age Spots
If you're unsure whether an age spot is as it appears or something more malignant, then you should visit your doctor. Diagnosing is relatively easy. Your doctor will examine the area where the age spots are located and look at the spots closely.
If either of you are concerned about whether an age spot is something else, then your doctor can order a biopsy. In this regard, a small sample of the brown spot is removed and taken to the lab to be tested.
How To Remove Age Spots from Face
While age spots don't pose a health hazard, many Hispanic and Latino individuals hate how they look on their faces. For many, it can make them look older than they actually are. Luckily, there are many ways to treat age spots.
One example is through prescription medications. Most likely, you'll be given a retinoid cream that contains tretinoin. This is because tretinoin has been shown to have a powerful effect on reducing melanin and returning the skin to its normal color. It does so by acting as an inhibitor during the melanin-production cellular pathway.
By binding to one of the cells in the pathway, melanin is unable to form in the first place. As a result, the skin color evens out and becomes clearer.
Creams that contain tretinoin can take some time to work. This is because they're usually gentle on the skin and work better with constant applications. However, using a retinoid cream also makes you more susceptible to UV damage. It's vital that you wear sunscreen while using this cream to ensure you don't end up with more age spots.
Another treatment is with medical procedures. One such procedure is light treatment. During this procedure, the age spots are exposed to high concentrations of light energy. The energy passes through the skin and targets melanin specifically. It breaks the melanin up and destroys it. Light treatment isn't always effective on individuals with darker skin because it can be difficult for the light waves to distinguish the problematic melanin from the normal melanin.
Chemical peels using glycolic acid are another great way to remove age spots. This treatment method damages the outer layer of skin to allow new skin to form. It essentially kills age spots, then promotes new growth of clear and smooth skin to form instead.
Some may also consider cryosurgery. This utilizes liquid nitrogen to freeze off age spots.
How To Prevent Age Spots
If you want to avoid age spots altogether, then there are a few methods you can start using today. The first is to stay out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is when UV radiation is at its strongest.
It's also always a good idea to wear sunscreen when going outside for a long period of time. Even if you only plan on being outside for an hour, that may just be enough for the UV rays to damage your skin.
You need to keep in mind that it isn't just about short intervals of contact with the sun's rays. Age spots are created over the course of several hours of sun exposure over your lifetime. Always wear sunscreen to keep the accumulated damage low.
Finally, you can also wear protective clothing. Since you can't easily apply sunscreen on your head, make sure that you wear a hat. This can keep the sun from potentially causing skin cancer on the top of your skull as well as prevent age spots from forming there.
With proper prevention, your skin can look youthful for years.