While wrinkles are the most widespread skin problem associated with aging, age spots are also a common side-effect of aging skin.
But what causes age spots? And can they be prevented or treated?
What Are Age Spots?
Age spots are irregular increases in melanin that occur in the outer layer of the skin (known as the epidermis).
Though they are generally painless, they do lead to the noticeable discoloration of the skin, and range from light brown to black.
Age spots are also referred to as liver spots, although they are unrelated to the liver or liver functions in the body.
Causes of Skin Discolorations
Skin discoloration is caused by increased pigmentation, a process that is caused by the following factors:
- exposure to sunlight or other forms of ultraviolet light, such as tanning beds or sunlamps
- antibiotics (such as tetracycline)
- foods containing the chemical psoralens, including parsley, lime and parsnips
The medication and foods above cause age spots by increasing the skin's sensitivity to the sun when unprotected, which in turns results in skin discoloration.
Age spots usually appear after the age of forty and are most commonly found on the backs of the hands, face, forearms and shoulders, where sun exposure is strongest.
Diagnosis of Age spots
If a patient is over the age of forty and has had a high exposure to sun over her lifetime, a doctor will usually examine the skin for age spots.
If a spot is thought to be cancerous, a biopsy will be performed.
Always tell your doctor right away if you notice any changes in your skin lesions.
Treatment for Age spots: Removing Age Spots
Because they are generally harmless, no treatment for age spots is usually needed. However, they are a cosmetic concern for many women who are concerned with skin care and can lead to emotional disturbances, such as low self-esteem and feelings of self-consciousness.
The dermatology industry has produced a plethora of anti aging skin care products, including skin care creams and lotions, that can help minimize the appearance of age spots.
Such anti aging skin care products contain the following ingredients:
- microcollagen: creams and lotions that contain micro-collagen can help minimize liver spots
- vitamin C: helps to regenerate collagen and elastin in aging skin
- glycolic acid also helps treat aging skin, as it increases the rate at which the epidermis is shed, promoting the growth of younger-looking skin
- rumux: this ingredient is used in many skin anti aging care products and decreases the production of melanin
- vitamin E: this vitamin is used in many skin care creams and lotions and helps keep skin looking young and fresh
Cryotherapy (freezing) is another option in the treatment of age spots. This form of treatment involves spraying liquid nitrogen onto the skin; after two to three weeks, the skin marked with age spots peels away, as new skin underneath pushes upward. However, this treatment can cause pinkness and scarring.
Laser treatment is an increasingly popular way to get rid of age spots, and, while it is more expensive, it has fewer side effects than cryotherapy. Laser treatment removes liver spots by targeting brown pigmentation in the skin. Its side effects include swelling and sensitivity, but these symptoms are temporary, usually only lasting for a couple of days.
Bleaching creams, chemical peels and camouflage makeup can also be helpful in removing age spots.
Prevention of Age Spots: Proper Dermatology Skin Care
Proper skin care is essential to the prevention of age spots.
The following steps can help prevent skin discolorations, wrinkles and other signs of aging:
- wearing protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirts and pants or long skirts
- wearing sunglasses that block UV
- avoiding sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun's rays are strongest
- wearing a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 or higher, which should be applied 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapplied often. Make sure to wear sunscreen year-round, including during the winter months
- maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet
- drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day.
Remember that the above skin care must be followed, even if you choose to undergo treatment or use anti-age spots skin care products.