Age spots (also called liver spots or solar lentigo) are collections of pigment caused by exposure to the sun. They also sometimes result from bruising that leaves blood pigments behind. They are most common in people over age 55. The spots commonly appear on the hands but can occur almost anywhere, especially sun-exposed areas such as the face, back, arms, feet, shoulders and face. These spots are common on the backs of the hand, face and legs. Those who tan
extensively will also have them over the shoulders, back, chest and many other areas of skin. Lentigines are superficial collections of skin pigment called melanin which have accumulated within the top layer of skin called the epidermis. Ephelides are common in lighter type skin in individuals who sunburn easily. Lentigines usually appear later in life and can occur in all skin types.
Age spots are caused by prolonged and repeated sun exposure or sun burns and usually appear later in adult life. Ephelides occur even in children after brief periods of sun exposure. Both types of pigmented spots only rarely occur in non sun exposed areas. Sun avoidance and the use of good sun screen protection can help lessen the appearance of both lentigines and freckles. Liver spots are different than freckles. Freckles are caused by melanin pigments which react to the sunlight in fair-skinned people. Liver spots are the result of a "ceroid" pigment build up in the skin of older people.
These latter spots are the outward signs of free radical destruction within the body. There is pre-oxidation of fats—in the cells instead of in the liver. Free radical damage produces waste materials in cells throughout the body, including the brain and liver. The causes are poor diet, eating rancid fats, lack of exercise, excess exposure to the sun, autointoxication, and sluggish liver function.
Age spots removal and treatment
Age spots can be treated with freezing, acids, skin sanding, electric needle and any other methods which causes a superficial destruction of the skin. These methods frequently leave white spots and occasionally scars. Lasers are much more precise and less damaging to the skin because light is used to selectively remove the pigment without damaging the normal surrounding skin. There is also less pain and less healing time required to recover from laser treatment than with non-laser treatments.
Bleaching solutions such as hydroquinone can be useful for people with fair skin, though hydroquinone can sometimes irritate and temporarily redden the skin. This possibility of irritation with hydroquinone makes it unsuitable for people with darker skin tones. It is possible that the irritation associated with hydroquinone can overstimulate the higher concentration of melanocytes found in dark skin types. This can lead to hyperpigmentation (dark spotting). Bleaching solutions work by killing the melanin in hyperpigmented areas. Over time, this will lead to a fading of spots. It will not afftect the natural color of the skin (meaning it will not lighten the skin beyond its genetically determined color). If a hydroquinone formula is used, it is imperative that the treated area is completely protected from the sun. Exposure to sunlight will kill the hydroquinone and render it useless. Make sure you wear a full-spectrum sunblock at all times (such as Solbar AVO 32 or Total Block).
For persons with dark skin, hydroquinone alternatives are recommended, such as kojic acid. Other topical treatments include the use of vitamin C products and mandelic acid products. These may help speed up the process of fading the spots, and the use of mandelic acid or kojic acid can do it with little or no irritation.
Kojic Acid is also a newly discovered, successful treatment of age spots and other pigment problems. It is not an alpha hydroxy acid, but rather has the same mechanism of action as Hydroquinone. It is derived from a variety of different fungi and organic substances (such as soy and mushrooms). Research shows Kojic Acid to be an effective lightening agent that inhibits the production of melanin (brown pigment). Its low risk of oxidation creates a more stable product, resulting in a longer shelf life.
The newest treatment for age spots is alpha hydroxy acid gel and beta hydroxy acid gel. The gel is applied to the spots each night. This will lighten discoloration of the skin such as freckles, age spots and pigmentation that may occur in pregnancy or from the use of oral contraceptives. Another treatment for age spots is Retin-A. Retin-A cream is applied to the spots once a day for six months. This will cause lightening of large age spots and will make small ones disappear. Age spots can also be treated with alpha hydroxyacid peels. This involves applying a mild acid to the skin and then allowing the skin to heal. Chemical peels work best in people with blue eyes and light hair, but can be effective in all skin types. This is the second fastest way to get rid of age spots. Liquid nitrogen therapy is the quickest way to get rid of age spots. Liquid nitrogen is air that is so cold that it is in liquid form (-321ºF). The esthetician sprays the liquid nitrogen onto the age spot and this causes the mark to turn white a month or so after treatment. When liquid nitrogen is sprayed onto the skin, it can sting and may cause a permanent white spot or scar.