Whether you call them age spots, liver spots, or sun spots, they’re all the same thing: unsightly dark splotches or freckles on your face, arms, and hands. But what are these spots, and how can you remove them?
What Are Those Spots?
Age spots are caused by regular exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet rays. Your skin contains specialized cells called melanocytes that release pigment into your skin when exposed to sunlight. Over time, these cells can clump together, causing concentrated patches of pigmentation. The reason they occur most often on your arms, hands, and face is that these areas tend to get the most sun exposure.
Who Gets Age Spots
People with fair skin and freckles are more likely to develop age spots, but they can affect anyone who has spent a lot of time in the sun.
How to Prevent and Remove Them
Although these spots are a normal result of the aging process, it is possible to prevent them by wearing sunscreen regularly and limiting your time in the sun.
If you have already developed age spots, there are dermatology treatments that can remove them, or significantly reduce their appearance.
A chemical peel is a solution that removes the damaged outer layers of your skin to reveal the healthy, smooth skin underneath. Popular treatments for age spots include light or medium chemical peels.
The Light Peel:
- The light peel removes the topmost layer of skin, called the epidermis, and is best for removing light age spots and giving your skin a healthy glow.
- Light peels use mild acids like alpha hydroxyl, salicylic, and Maleic acids.
- You can repeat the light peel as often as once per month.
The Medium Peel:
- The medium peel removes the topmost layer and some of the middle layer, called the dermis, and is best for darker age spots as well as deeper wrinkles and some types of scars.
- Medium peels use a combination of trichloroacetic and glycolic acids.
- You can repeat the medium peel every six to 12 months.
There is also a process called the deep peel. This process is usually used on skin that is severely sun damaged, has deep scars, or pre-cancerous growths. Although this type of peel is not normally used to remove age spots, this option will treat age spots as well as deeper skin issues.
Laser resurfacing is also called ablative laser resurfacing. Similar to the chemical peel, the laser resurfacing removes the epidermis, with the added benefit of stimulating collagen production in the deeper layers of your skin. Collagen is a protein that keeps your skin firm and supple, giving it a youthful appearance.
Considering that sunlight is the major cause of age spots, it would seem counter-intuitive to use light to remove them, but IPL actually uses a different kind of light from the UV light that causes age spots. IPL works by bombarding the spots with wavelengths of light energy delivered in pulses to break up the clumps of pigmented cells and remove the spots.
Unlike the laser and chemical peel, IPL does not remove the top layer of your skin, but it does stimulate collagen production.
Risks and Concerns
Chemical Peels and Laser treatments both carry the following potential risks and side effects:
- Pain and irritation
- Redness and swelling
- Skin discoloration
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL) side-effects are rare, but it could have the following risks:
- Mild pain and skin irritation
- Lightened or darkened areas of skin