Also called solar lentigines, age spots refer to the brownish areas that appear over time on your face and body. Age spots occur as a result of overexposure to the sun. Often seen on people over 40, anyone can have age spots.
Usually, age spots do not cause any problems and do not require medical care. If the spots are especially dark or have changed in appearance, have your physician exam them to make sure there is no risk of skin cancer. After a visual inspection, your doctor can determine if the area needs to be biopsied.
Melanin, the dark pigment in the epidermis, gives the skin its pigment. Extra melanin, which protects the deeper layers of skin, causes the darker color of a tan. When extra melanin is generated or it becomes clumped in one location, age spots appear. Usually, age spots develop after years of exposure to the sun, but tanning lamps and tanning beds can eventually lead to the same results. Genetics and the natural aging process can also influence whether you have age spots or not.
If age spots make you feel self-conscious about how you look, talk with your doctor about treatment options to remove or lighten them, including:
- Medications to gradually fade the spots
- Laser and light therapy to wipe out the extra melanocytes
- Cryotherapy to destroy the extra pigment
- Dermabrasion to remove the surface layer of skin
- Chemical peel to fade age spots
Minimizing exposure to the sun will reduce your odds of developing age spots. Follow these tips as well:
- Avoid tanning beds or lamps
- Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50 or greater and reapply often
- Cover skin with hats, long sleeves and long pants
- Limit outdoor time during peak sun hours