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Everyone knows it. Age spots on our skin make us appear many years older than our true ages. Today, dermatologist Joshua Fox, M.D., says there are many treatments available to reduce or remove these age spots, helping us to look years younger.
Age spots are flat, light or dark brown marks that develop on the skin as we age. They appear mainly on areas exposed most to the sun, including the face, hands, shoulders and arms. Dr. Fox says that age spots, more correctly called lentigines, are caused by overexposure to the sun, which damages skin. Often, once you start to see age spots, he says, you’ll also see other signs of sun damage including deep wrinkles, dry rough skin, fine red veins and thinner, more translucent-looking skin.
Typically considered to affect people over age 40, younger people who spend a great deal of time in the sun may see age spots too. While true age spots are harmless, they may resemble cancerous growths, says Dr. Fox. For that reason, “if you start to see age spots on your skin, ask your dermatologist to look at them to make sure they are not suspicious,” adds Dr. Fox.
“If you notice any new mark on your skin, or if an existing mark has any changes in color or shape, your doctor will determine if it is cancerous or something to be concerned about,” Dr. Fox says. He explains that melanoma is the most dangerous of all skin cancer types, resulting in over 80,000 cases per year. The good news, he adds, is that “most brown spots are not harmful and can be removed or easily treated to improve the skin’s appearance and make you look younger.”
“Once your doctor has ruled out skin cancer, there are several different home remedies and in-office treatments that can help reduce or remove the age spots,” Dr. Fox says.
Once age spots have developed, Dr. Fox says, they can attempt to be lightened safely with skin-bleaching lotions and creams that can be purchased in department stores, drug stores and online. However, Dr. Fox adds that this typically only results in a small improvement. Successful treatment needs to penetrate the topmost layer of skin where the extra pigment is located, so the products must be used regularly over several weeks or months before noticeable results occur. When choosing a nonprescription fade cream, choose one that contains hydroquinone, deoxyarbutin, glycolic acid or kojic acid.
“If these over-the-counter products don’t do enough to reduce the spots, and Dr. Fox adds that most people do not get satisfactory results from these lotions and creams, your dermatologist has an arsenal of other treatments that do a great job of reducing or removing age spots,” Dr. Fox says, listing the top six in-office treatments.
Prescription creams. Bleaching creams containing hydroquinone, used alone or with retinoids and a mild steroid, when used regularly, may partially fade age spots over time.
Q-Switched Lasers. Laser treatments performed in your dermatologist’s office can remove sun spots, brown spots and liver spots. These treatments work by being very specific for brown color and selectively removing the lesions.
Microdermabrasion. In this procedure, the skin is sanded with a special instrument to lessen the age spot. This procedure helps to strengthen and rejuvenate aging skin, and may even help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Cryosurgery. This procedure uses liquid nitrogen to freeze skin tissue and remove age spots.
Chemical Peel. Chemical peels are a powerful treatment that not only help reduce and remove age spots, but can also strengthen the skin to boost collagen production. A chemical peel involves applying an acid, which burns the outer layer of your skin. As the skin peels, new skin forms to take its place.
Laser Skin Rejuvenation. Fraxel and Pixel. A popular cosmetic treatment, Fraxel is a powerful resurfacing laser treatment that smoothes and rejuvenates the skin, removes age spots and reduces the appearance of fine lines. Pixel is a more powerful resurfacing laser which also treats some of the deeper lines.
Dr. Fox adds that “prevention, or reducing exposure to the sun, is the best way to reduce the likelihood of getting age spots. Wear sunscreen all the time on all areas of exposed skin, no matter what the weather or season. If you must be in the sun, even in winter, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (which blocks both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of at least 15.”
“While aging does cause a host of changes to our bodies, our skin doesn’t have to make us look or feel old,” says Dr. Fox. “A consultation with your dermatologist can help you identify the right treatment for you that will reduce or even remove age spots and leave you feeling and looking younger,” adds Dr. Fox.
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