During the summer months we are (or should be) concerned with applying sunscreen to prevent sun damage to our skin. What about the damage that has already been done? Age spots are one form of sun damage that can be an unwelcome reminder that we haven’t always taken measures to protect our skin.
As we age, spots of dark brown pigment resulting from cumulative photo damage begin to appear on our skin, usually in body areas that have been over-exposed to the sun – our hands and arms, face, neck and shoulders. Thankfully, these so-called “age spots” don’t have to be permanent. If you want to “erase” your age…spots, there are now several professional treatments available that can remove them.
Age Spot Removal: Your Options
Dermatologists offer a variety of age spot removal therapies, including laser treatment, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, cryosurgery and creams. The option you choose may depend on the number of spots you have, your skin tone and your budget, among other factors.
Here are 6 age-spot-removal options for your consideration:
1. Laser Treatment – Commonly referred to as “the treatment of choice” for age spots, laser treatment results in permanent removal after two or more sessions. There is minimal pain involved from the heat of the laser, and treatments typically last 20-30 minutes.
2. Chemical Peels – A dermatologist will apply a chemical solution to the surface of your skin that will dissolve the surface tissue, and any age spots along with it. Your body will soon replace your damaged skin with a new top layer of skin; one that is smoother, more youthful and free of spots. During treatment patients may experience itching or tingling – sensations that will decrease once the chemical agent is neutralized and removed. You should expect to require more down time to heal from a chemical peel, as your skin is likely to be red and irritated for a time.
3. Microdermabrasion – This method of age spot removal involves “sanding” the surface of your skin and can be carried out in several ways. Dermatologists may use abrasive creams that are scrubbed onto skin, crystals that are rubbed across the skin with a suction device, or diamond-coated devices that scrub away the topmost layer of skin. Microdermabrasion can be used in combination with chemical peels or other methods for better results.
4. IPL – Intense Pulsed-Light therapy (IPL) utilizes broad-spectrum light applied to the deeper layers of your skin. This encourages new skin growth, and is associated with less damage or down time than laser treatments, chemical peels or microdermabrasion. Treatments are short, but you may need quite a few over a period of weeks to get the spot-free results you are after.
5. Cryotherapy – This method, also called “cryosurgery,” involves freezing the skin cells. The freezing material is either sprayed on or applied with a swab. The treatment session is short and there is not typically any downtime, though some patients develop blisters, bleeding, hyperpigmentation or scarring. This method is often used to remove cancerous skin cells.
6. Creams – A wide range of bleaching creams are available by prescription or over the counter, though results can be mixed. Because bleaching creams tend to bleach the entire area around an age spot, they are not an ideal treatment option. Since it is nearly impossible to restrict bleaching creams to individual spots, they are better used for large areas of skin discoloration.
Avoiding the sun is always the best way to avoid age spots. If you must go out in the sun, you should be diligent about applying (and reapplying) sunscreen and wearing a hat and protective clothing.