Age spots, sometimes called “sun spots or liver spots” are the result of uneven and excess melanin caused by frequent exposure to UV rays from either the sun or a tanning bed. Melanin is what causes your skin to have color. Age spots are usually flat, oval-shaped and have brown, black, or grayish coloration. They can occur anywhere on the body, but are especially prevalent on the face, chest, hands, and extremities (the areas that tend to get the most sun exposure).
Age spots themselves are not dangerous, but they are indicative of sun damage, which can result in pre-cancers and skin cancers. Age spots often are more obvious in lighter skin types and create a mottled appearance to the skin. Go to your doctor if you have any new dark spots that have quickly grown or changed, have uneven borders or show changes in color or show combined colors. Although heavily sun-damaged skin (darkly tanned skin) may look great when you’re younger, it actually prematurely ages your skin and is responsible for 80% of damaged skin. That tan may make you look older when you’re young….but it will also make you look even older as you age.
Unfortunately, most damage you see now is related to sun exposure from decades ago, but it’s never too late to prevent further damage. Fortunately there’s a lot you can do to prevent further sun damage, age spots and associated premature aging. Using an SPF 30 daily and wearing SPF treated clothing can help, along with avoiding the sun during its peak strength.
The gold standard for sun damaged skin is Broad Band Light therapy (BBL). The newer machines, like we have at the New You Center, are safer and more efficient in producing heat to remove pigmentation without damaging normal skin. It generally takes 3-5 treatments to see results, as compared with older machines which take 5-8 treatments. BBL heats the age spots and afterwards they dry and flake off in 4-7 days. Another option for tougher areas is the erbium resurfacing laser or fractional laser, which have the added effect of rejuvenating collagen production. Finally, Dr. Mudd can prescribe prescription strength lightening agents which have higher concentrations of the effective ingredients than over the counter products. Depending on the extensiveness of your problem a combination of therapies may be used to produce a stronger effect.
Click here for more information on Broad Band Light Therapy