If you’re over 50, you almost certainly have at least one or two age spots. These brown marks, also called solar lentigines or liver spots, most commonly appear on skin exposed to the sun like the face, hands, forearms, and upper chest. But despite their name, age spots can form on people of all ages, even the quite young.
Over time, ultraviolet (UV) light causes melanin, a skin pigment, to clump together and form tan or brown spots. These age spots are particularly noticeable in people with fair skin, though they can appear even in the dark-complected.
Although they sometimes cause alarm as they are mistaken for early skin cancer, age spots are completely harmless. Yet while there is no medically-related need for their removal, age spots can make you appear older than your actual age. They also contribute to an uneven skin tone, and some may consider them to be unattractive.
Fortunately, there are many effective methods of addressing age spots, and you will likely be able to reduce their appearance or even eliminate them completely. Here are some of the treatments we frequently perform at The Breslow Center.
Dermatologists and aestheticians use chemical peels to treat a variety of skin conditions. You can also have a chemical peel applied to healthy skin to improve its texture or create an evener skin tone.
Since age spots are usually situated near the skin’s surface, it’s possible to remove these marks through one or a series of chemical peel treatments.
A weak acid is used to eliminate dead skin cells and the topmost layers of the skin. Although not especially painful, a chemical peel can cause some discomfort. First, your skin becomes dry and red. You may also notice tenderness, and blisters may form. Peeling generally occurs a few days after the treatment.
You will need to avoid sunlight and other UV light for a few days, as your skin will be sensitive and prone to soreness. You will also have to wait several weeks between treatments.
LED Light Therapy
Light-emitting diodes (LED) are seeing a surge in popularity due to their environmentally-friendly impact and versatile applications. One of these applications is age spot treatment.
The light emitted during an LED facial is harmless. It can, however, help break up pockets of melanin and stimulate the skin to carry away the pigment. LED light is weak, though, and several treatments are usually necessary to achieve noticeable results.
On the other hand, LED treatments do not produce the side effects of chemical peels and other age spot removal methods. You will only need to wear goggles to protect your eyes. Otherwise, you will experience no skin irritation, redness, or sensitivity.
RELATED: Red Light, Blue Light — A Quick Guide to LED Facials
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
IPL photo facials are another form of light-based age spot treatment. The process works similarly to LED treatment. Light is attuned to the correct wavelength to break up melanin pigment. The skin then gradually absorbs this destroyed melanin on its own.
Most patients need about three or four treatments to see the best results. The treatments are spaced around a month apart to give your skin time to heal. As with several other age spot procedures, you may experience some soreness or sensitivity of your skin after an IPL session. However, these side effects are typically less common than with a chemical peel or laser treatment.
You will need to protect your skin after an IPL treatment. This means wearing sunscreen and using a moisturizer to soothe dryness.
Laser Skin Resurfacing
A laser is intense, focused light. Lasers have multiple medical applications, from surgery to tattoo removal. In age spot removal, laser skin resurfacing is very similar to IPL in terms of both effectiveness and treatment length.
At The Breslow Center we use Sciton’s erbium laser, which is widely recognized as the best skin resurfacing laser on the market. Erbium laser skin resurfacing is an excellent solution for age spots, but it is also used for moderate to deep wrinkles, acne scars, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea.
The skin may appear red and swollen following the treatment — this is perfectly normal. You will need to take steps to baby your skin after a laser session. Sunscreen is a must, and be sure to use a good quality moisturizer to rehydrate your skin. Recovery time: approximately one week.
Microneedling is a technique that has seen great popularity in recent years.
During this procedure tiny needles are used to create controlled micro-injuries to the skin, stimulating collagen and elastin production. At The Breslow Center we use the Eclipse MicroPen®, a medical-grade automated micro-needling device, to make many shallow punctures in your age spots. This minor damage breaks up the pigment while also stimulating your skin to heal itself. Your age spots fade as a result.
Most patients will need four to six microneedling sessions for their age spots. You will also have to wait about four to eight weeks between sessions. The good news is that the skin irritation from microneedling is usually far less than that from chemical peels or laser treatments.
You know how you can use sandpaper to remove the varnish from wood furniture? Microdermabrasion uses the same concept applied to your skin. A small sanding device is used to remove the outermost layers of your skin along with concentrations of pigment.
At our medical spa, we offer Dermalinfusion’s combined exfoliation and facial approach to slough off dead cells while simultaneously infusing the skin with customized serums.
It typically takes several microdermabrasion treatments to address age spots effectively. Your skin may be a bit sore immediately after each session. You should also know that microdermabrasion isn’t always recommended for patients who suffer from rosacea and certain other dermatological conditions.
A custom facial is one of the less expensive options for fading or removing age spots. These facials range from at-home treatments to professional offerings only available from a medical spa or dermatologist. However, all of these facials usually have at least a few ingredients in common.
Most will contain some form of weak acid like vinegar (acetic acid) or citric acid along with a skin nutritive like vitamin E. If the facial does not have a moisturizer included, you should be sure to apply one afterward to replenish any lost moisture.
To be assured of the most effective and safest facial for age spots, it is best to visit a licensed practitioner. Although many beauty spas will advertise age spot facials, you cannot be certain that these are completely safe or appropriate for your unique skin type. However, a medical spa with a licensed physician on staff is a good choice.
Without question, the best way to prevent age spots is to limit UV light exposure. In other words, avoid tanning beds altogether and use sunscreen. Also, cover your skin when outdoors during the daytime by wearing hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves.
Not only will you reduce your chances of getting age spots but you will cut your risk of skin cancer as well.
Additional Reading and References
- Mayo Clinic: Age Spots
- American Society for Dermatologic Surgery: Chemical Peels for Age Spots
- Dermapen: Microneedling Dark Spots