I always want my patients and clients to have knowledge of why things happen, or change, their skin so they understand the treatment associated with prevention and correction. I have repeatedly been asked, “How do I get rid of these age spots (commonly called sun spots) and help with uneven skin tone?”
Why do we get SPOTS?
This may surprise you, but age spots and uneven skin tone aren’t caused by getting older! Instead, they are caused by the sun ( and nearly every other form of unwanted pigmentation). Sunshine and the harmful UVA/UVB rays are an attack on the skin, and one way the skin defends itself is to make pigment.
Age spots, technically known as "solar lentigines," are well-defined, uniformly colored areas of brown or grayish pigment that generally show up on the hands, face, neck, and chest. Despite the name, these spots are not caused by age. Rather, they come from sun damage.
Who is at risk for age spots?
People of any age, sex, or race can develop age spots. However, age spots are more common in people with certain risk factors. These include:
● being older than 40 years old
● having fair skin
● having a history of frequent sun exposure
● having a history of frequent tanning bed use
There are several medical procedures that can remove or reduce age spots. Each medical procedure carries a risk of side effects and complications.
Medical procedures for age spots include:
● intense pulsed light treatment, which emits a range of light waves that passes through the skin and targets melanin to destroy or breakup the spots
● cryosurgery, which freezes individual age spots with liquid nitrogen
There are many over-the-counter creams available that are marketed for removing age spots and help with uneven skin tone. However, these creams aren’t as strong as prescription creams. If you want to use an over-the-counter cream, choose one that contains glycolic acid, alpha hydroxy acid(plant extracts) and kojic acid.
Avoid over-the-counter products containing Hydroquinone. This ingredient is best used under a doctor’s care. Hydroquinone is a topical agent for reducing skin pigmentation. It is available in over-the-counter strength of up to 2 percent and higher concentrations by prescription. People typically use hydroquinone to lighten areas of skin affected by hyperpigmentation disorders, as well as for freckles and age spots. Hydroquinone also is a component of the herbal remedy uva ursi. Because of dangers associated with the substance, several countries have banned hydroquinone, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed a ban on most prescription and over-the-counter hydroquinone products.
None of these markings mean you’ll get skin cancer, but they could be a sign that you’re at a greater risk for skin cancer due to excessive sun exposure. At the very least, they’re an indication that you should be using more sunscreen, or a formula that’s more potent. (Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30 and that blocks UVA and UVB rays. Two ounces should cover your face, neck, and arms.)
And to be safe, see your dermatologist once a year for a spot check to make sure your splotches aren’t actually moles, which may appear as dark, flat or raised growths.
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