Age spots, sometimes referred to as “liver spots” or solar lentigo, are gray, brown or black spots found on the skin. They vary in size and usually appear on the face, hands, shoulders, and arms. Age spots are caused by consistent sun exposure, and therefore generally occur in adults 40 years of age, but can affect younger people as well. Most age spots are harmless and do not require treatment.
If you are not happy with the appearance of age spots, there are a variety of treatment options that aim to open the color or remove those spots. Because the pigment that causes discolored skin is in the upper layer of the skin, or the epidermis, treatments that are intended to brighten age spots must penetrate this layer of skin.
Some of the treatment options available include:
- Medications: Prescription whitening creams applied over several months can gradually fade age spots. During this treatment, sunscreen is mandatory.
- Laser therapy: Laser therapy destroys additional melanocytes, which create black pigment. This treatment does not damage the surface of the skin and has few side effects. Laser therapy generally requires several sessions.
- Freezing (cryotherapy): During cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen or other freezing agent is applied on the age spots to destroy additional pigment. The skin appears lighter and the area heals. Cryotherapy is generally effective and does not present the risk of scarring or permanent discoloration of the skin.
- Dermabrasion: This procedure involves “sanding” or smoothing the superficial layer of the skin with a rotary brush. The surface of the skin is removed, and a new layer of skin grows in its place. Side effects may include itching and temporary redness or irritation.
- Chemical Peeling: Chemical peeling can also help to blot age spots. There are two types of chemical peeling: superficial and medium depth. The superficial one requires several treatments before the results can be observed, while the medium-deep peeling acts deeply, and the results become evident earlier. A chemical peeling consists of applying an acid to the skin, which burns the outer layer of the skin at the affected place. A new skin grows in its place, leading to the disappearance of unsightly stains.