Age spots, also called liver spots (even though they have nothing to do with the liver or the liver function) are flat, gray, brown or black spots that appear on the skin. Age spots normally appear after the age of 40 and are most prevalent on the face, hands, shoulders or arms although they can show up on other parts of the body as well.
Most age spots are permanent changes in the skin and appear on areas of the body most exposed to sun or other ultraviolet light, such as tanning lights or beds. Your skin produces melanin, which gives your skin its normal color. Ultraviolet light speeds up the production of melanin and this causes clumps which turn into age spots. Using sun screen and protecting your skin with sunglasses, large brimmed hats and light clothing is the best way to prevent age spots. Your genes may also play a role, based on family history you may be more susceptible to developing age spots.
Age spots are physically harmless, painless and most people do not require any treatment. Some people are bothered by the appearance of age spots and use surgery or over-the-counter products to lighten or remove the spots.
Medical procedures, such as chemical peels and laser resurfacing can reduce or eliminate age spots. Prescription creams, which contain hydroquinone or tretinoin, can be used to lighten age spots, although hydroquinone is the most often prescribed and has been approved by the FDA to treat age spots. Tretinoin can cause redness, scaling and itching in the first few weeks. Another prescription medication, Adapalene gel is approved to treat acne but is sometimes used off-label to lighten age spots.
Non Prescription Treatments
Non-prescription lightening creams, especially those that contain hydroquinone, can help to lighten the spots. You may need to use these creams (dab only on the age spots) for several weeks or months (sometimes up to 8 months) before seeing any noticeable difference. According to Good Housekeeping Magazine, over the counter products contain a solution of 2 percent, which is safe to use, however, you should discontinue using the products once your age spots lighten.
For those who do not want to chemically lighten the spots, using a concealer beneath your foundation can help hide spots on your face. You can also use a self-tanning cream to darken other parts of your skin, such as on your arms, to create a more even tone.
While not normally dangerous, age spots can sometimes look similar to skin cancer lesions. If you notice changes in the shape or size of age spots or are concerned that spots may be signs of cancer, talk with your doctor. He should be able to tell you, just by looking at the spots, whether there is any cause for concern or whether additional tests are needed.
For more information on aging and skin care:
"Age spots (liver spots), 2011, Staff Writer, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
"Conquer Complexion Imperfections," Date Unknown, Beth Janes, GoodHousekeeping.com
"Liver Spots," Updated 2010, Oct 28, Updated by Linda J. Vorvick, M.D., MedLinePlus, A.D.A.M. Medical Encylclopedia
"Topical Treatment for Age Spots," 2007, Dec., Staff Writer, Harvard Health
Published On: December 07, 2011