Age spots : Treatment options and prevention
One of these days, do you find yourself glancing worriedly at your own
hands, face, shoulder and neck.
skin, on being excessively exposed to UV rays- whether from a tanning booth, a
sunlamp or years of going without sunscreen,
protects itself by producing an
overabundance of melanin-the pigmented cells in your skin- resulting in uneven
patches. Age spots known medically as lentigos and seborrhoeic keratoses are
brown patches which commonly appear on the back of the hands the face and the
are certain chemical substances called psoralens, present in foods such as
parsley, limes and parsnips that may cause age spots. When you handle these
foods and then go out in the sun, your skin may be more sensitive and burn more
easily where the psoralens touched it. When perfumes or lotions containing musk
or bergamot oil are applied to sun-exposed areas, they can produce age
Antibiotics such as tetracycline (Achromycin), some diuretics (water
pills) and antipsychotic medicines such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine) will also
cause your skin to produce age spots when it is not protected from the sun
Heredity, to some extent is also responsible for excess melanin production in
The most important thing you can do to stop new age spots from
forming is to wear sunscreen-all the time.
If you have just a few age spots that are not too dark, you can try an
over-the-counter remedy. But for a persistent crop of age spots, your
dermatologist has several very effective treatments.
Prescription bleaching creams containing kojic acid or hydroquinone cause
age spots and irregular pigmentation to fade so that they blend with the color
of the surrounding skin. Reversa HQ and Neo Strata HQ are examples of over the
counter gels containing glycolic acid and bleaching agents which are effective
in lightning age spots and other irregular pigmentation in the skin. It is
important to protect yourself against the sun with a broad spectrum sunscreen
such as Ombrelle 15 otherwise you will defeat the purpose of the bleaching
creams. If you develop a burn of any sort, see your doctor immediately.
Try a fade cream
Porcelana and other creams, including EsotÚrica and Palmer's Skin Success
fade creams, contain hydroquinone, which interferes with your skin's production
of melanin. These products work slowly, however. Prescription-strength
hydroquinone preparations might work faster.
Tretinoin in preparations such as Retin ľA, Stieva ľA, Rejuva ľA, Retisol-A,
Renova and vitamin A acid when applied to the back of the hands daily over a
period of months gradually causes age spots to disappear, evens out irregular
pigmentation, and reduces fine wrinkles giving the hands a more youthful
Acid containing solutions are also effective in removing age spots. They
cause irritation and the spots peel away from the skin. The new underlying skin
is pink and fades to a normal hue after a few months.
Opaque makeup can be used daily to camouflage age spots. Given the excellent
medical options for removing or lightening these discolorations of the skin,
makeup becomes a less desirable alternative.
Surgical treatment options are also available to rid the body of age
Until recently the treatment of choice for age spots was cryotherapy. With
this technique liquid nitrogen (freezing) is sprayed very gently on the spots to
induce a localized frostbite. After two or three weeks the treated age spots
peels off as the underlying skin pushes to the surface leaving a residual area
of pinkness that might last for only a week but could linger on for months.
Scarring may occur.
With the advent of the pigment removal lasers (Q-switched ruby, Alexandrite and
Nd:Yag), cryotherapthy is no longer the treatment of choice because the laser
has a lower risk of scarring is less painful and the recovery time is shorter.
Due to the cost of laser treatments and because not all physicians have access
to a laser nor are they trained in laser surgery many individuals still choose
cryotherapy to treat their age spots. The pigments removal laser have also
superseded the use of surgical removal or vaporization with the carbon dioxide
laser for larger growths provided they are not too thick. If the lesions is
suspected to be cancerous then a biopsy is always taken prior to proceeding with
laser surgery so it can be analyzed by a pathologist. If it is malignant then
surgical removal is used to ensure that the cancer has been completely removed.
The carbon dioxide laser in its cutting mode may be used to do the surgical
The pigment removal lasers act in a similar fashion to a guided missile The
light from the laser has a selective affinity for brown discoloration in the
skin. It passes harmlessly through the top layer of skin and when it hits the
brown pigment cells energy is released causing the melanosomes in the cell to
break into minuscule particles which are removed by the body immune system.
Each pulse of laser light feels like the snap of an elastic band on the
skin. The age spot turns grey initially them within minutes forms a superficial
brown curst. Within 2 weeks the crusts will be sloughed and the skin underneath
will be pink. This gradually fades to the color of the surrounding skin over the
course of 2 to 3 weeks. It takes less time for age spots to turn over on the
face than on the back of the hands. The crust must not be picked or rubbed off
otherwise a scar will results.
Remember that with all these treatments, it is essential to keep using
sunscreen. Otherwise, new age spots are sure to form.
Protection from sun damage is the best prevention for age spots.
Use sunscreen (typically SPF 15) on sun exposed areas. If you see the
beginnings of age spots or melasma, switch to a higher SPF sunscreen than
the one you are currently using
Wear protective clothing and avoid tanning beds.
Reapply sunscreen after swimming or excessive sweating.
Wash your hands thoroughly after handling foods that contain psoralens
and reapply sunscreen before going outdoors again.
Apply your perfume or lotion to areas of your skin that will not be
exposed to sun.