What causes age spots? Despite the name, there is more to age spots than growing old, although that’s a part of the equation. The good news is that there are treatments available to help lighten or hide age spots. Before you do so, you should understand these marks on your skin so you’ll know which products or treatments work best.
In this article:
- What Are Age Spots?
- What Causes Liver Spots?
- When Do Age Spots First Appear?
- Are Age Spots the Same Thing as Freckles or Moles?
- Are Age Spots Dangerous?
- What is the Treatment for Age Spots?
- How Can You Keep From Getting Age Spots?
Find Out What Causes Age Spots And How To Deal With Them
What Are Age Spots?
Age spots, sometimes called liver spots, are what doctors refer to as solar lentigines. They will appear as well-defined brown or gray blemishes on the following areas:
Most people have at least a few of these marks. Some have a lot more than a few, but what causes them?
What Causes Liver Spots?
The use of the word liver is confusing because it seems to indicate the spots pop up due to liver problems. The medical name utilizes “solar” instead, and that’s more accurate.
Age spots appear due to a combination of:
- Aging skin
- Exposure to the sun
The most popular theory is that the spots are a byproduct of the ultraviolet radiation that comes from the sun. It is based on the fact that age spots tend to appear in the areas of the skin that get the most sun, like the face or hands.
The misrepair accumulation aging theory proposes that age spots are precisely that — spots that develop because aging skin cells accumulate in one small area to create an irregular shape that continues to grow with time. The coloring may appear due to exposure to the sun.
When Do Age Spots First Appear?
There is no set age, but often people notice them after they reach 50. Younger people can get them too though, especially if they spend a lot of time in the sun. It is likely that many factors lead to the spots, which is why people get them at different ages.
Are Age Spots the Same Thing as Freckles or Moles?
They may look similar, but both freckles and moles are different than liver spots. Freckles are some extra pigment that appears due to a combination of genetics and sun exposure. They are common in people with light colored skin.
Moles, on the other hand, are skin growths that show up earlier in life. You can even be born with them. They may change over time and become cancerous. Sometimes they disappear completely.
Age spots are also different than skin tags, another anomaly that appears with age and sometimes as a side effect of obesity. Skin tags are flaps of skin that grow anywhere on the body. They are usually flesh colored.
Are Age Spots Dangerous?
Age spots are harmless, however, they can hide a more serious medical problem, melanoma, which is a severe type of skin cancer. Melanomas and age spots have something in common, they are likely due to exposure from the sun. Melanomas are not the same thing as liver spots, but they can look similar, making cancer easy to miss if you have both.
- Dark with a combination of colors
- Changing, usually growing in size
- Have irregular borders
- Can be itchy and red
It’s important to have a doctor look at any age spots or moles that seem to be changing color or size to rule out melanoma.
What Is the Treatment for Age Spots?
There is no treatment necessary because these spots are not a risk; however, they can be unattractive. Some over-the-counter skin-care products lighten the skin so the age spots fade. Some contain ingredients like mercury that may harm you, so look for quality and natural products. A dermatologist can provide information on the creams that are safe and effective.
To make the toner yourself, add some lemon to a strong of purple tea. Refrigerate and use daily on your face after cleaning it.
Laser treatments are a fast way to get rid of liver spots. They disappear after just one or two treatments.
Cryotherapy is another potential medical treatment for age spots. Cryotherapy involves freezing that area of the skin, which damages the cells. Once they heal, the spots fade. It is not the most pleasant treatment, though, but is over quick. Afterward, you can expect to see some swelling, redness and maybe even a blister at the treatment site.
Microdermabrasion and chemical peeling work by removing the skin cells responsible for the spot. About 40 percent of people who have microdermabrasion see good results and around 47 percent of those getting a chemical peel will find the spots fade.
How Can You Keep From Getting Age Spots?
Most people get a few no matter what they do, so it’s not generally possible to avoid getting them at all. There are ways to keep from getting as many, though. The key is to protect your skin from the sun by:
- Staying inside between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun rays are most dangerous.
- Using a sunscreen when you go outside. Apply it 15 to 30 minutes before leaving and choose a product with both UVA and UVB protection. The sun protection factor should be at least 30.
- Covering your skin up when possible. All it takes is a wide brim hat and light-colored clothing with a tight weave.
Learn more about what causes age spots, sun spots, and more in this video by Dr Dray:
You don’t have to agonize over what causes age spots, but they do mean you might be getting too much sun. Nevertheless, you don’t have to shrug it off completely as well. If you see a spot that concerns you, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist to identify it. If you can, however, try to look for more organic ways to even out your skin tone.
What do you think of age spots? Do you get bothered by them? Share your experience with age spots in the comments section below!