As we get older and age starts to catch up with us our skin changes in so many ways. It’s completely natural to start seeing fine lines and wrinkles and it’s what we all resign ourselves to and expect but along with our new creases Age Spots also appear.
I’ve always known that Age Spots exist but they’ve always been something that you think won’t affect you or that it’s simply too far away to worry about. However, there are ways to prevent them from occurring or at least reduce the severity of them and these actions should be started from NOW!
This post is targeted towards those of you who need to know how to eliminate Age Spots which are popping up everywhere already but also for those of you who need to know the best way to avoid them in your future.
It’s worth taking a few simple steps or making a few adjustments in your life going forward to reduce the occurrence of these dark brown spots which just suddenly start to appear on the most visible parts of your body.
Before I impart this invaluable knowledge let’s first look at what Age Spots are….
HELP! WHAT ARE AGE SPOTS?
They are tan, brown or black in colour and appear in various sizes. The small ones look like freckles but maybe with more blurred edges.
They unfortunately appear on the most visible parts of your body, usually the areas which have seen the most sun over the years – face, neck, chest, hands, shoulders, arms and legs.
And don’t be fooled, younger people can get them too – it depends how much time they spend in the sun or on tanning beds or if you make a habit of getting sun burnt.
I had no idea about these spots when I was in my teens and twenties. I threw on my bikini and sun-bathed everywhere that I could as soon as the sun came out. I would go on holiday for two weeks and pretty much not leave the beach during daylight hours.
The darker I got, the better. I loved the dark tanned golden look of my skin. I was often mistaken for being Greek or Spanish which used to make me giggle.
WHY DO AGE SPOTS DEVELOP?
Age Spots occur naturally as part of the ageing process for most of us but the severity of them is usually the result of excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays without the adequate protection – this can come from sun-bathing or repeated sun-bed use over the years.
Your skin contains melanin which is what gives skin its colour. It is also the key factor in giving you a tan when you’re exposed to UV light either via sun rays or tanning beds. When melanin is produced in high concentration after over-exposure to UV light this causes Age Spots to develop.
WHO IS MORE AT RISK OF DEVELOPING AGE SPOTS?
Older women are more susceptible to them and skin damage in the sun because as you get older you have reduced amounts of melanin in the skin.
Whilst we are young our skin has the ability to regenerate fairly quickly and easily but as we get older it’s less able to do so and this causes many people to be left with darker patches of skin, especially on the face, neck and hands – these Age Spots are usually unsightly and extremely hard to disguise or cover up.
PLEASE NOTE: If you see any changes ie. spots that have grown or changed in size, multi-coloured or bleed at all you must see a registered Dermatologist. This could be a sign that they are cancerous and need to be treated immediately.
Ways to Prevent Age Spots Appearing
It is crucial to prevent sun damage to your skin – not only for aesthetic purposes but also to stay protected against Skin Cancer further down the line.
- Protect your skin every day from UV rays – whether it’s sunny outside or not!
- A common misconception is that we’re only exposed to UV rays when the sun is out, but even on the cloudiest of days our skin can be damaged by those dangerous rays getting through.
- Essential – use a daily moisturiser with built in SPF of at least 15 but the higher the better.
- On holiday – try staying out of the sun on the hottest part of the day (12pm-3.00pm) and make sure you are wearing the correct sun protection cream to all exposed areas.
- Avoid sunbeds/tanning beds altogether and tan safely by only using a good quality self tanning lotion.
PLEASE NOTE: A good sunscreen minimises current damage but also prevents future damage from occurring. It prevents existing Age Spots getting darker and future ones from forming.
ALWAYS USE SPF30 OR HIGHER!
DON’T TAKE THE RISK
You have two choices, you can lighten or remove Age Spots. The pigment is in the base of the Epidermis – the topmost layer of the skin – so for any treatments to be effective they would need to penetrate this layer of the skin to have any effect.
The first thing you should do is find yourself a reputable, experienced Dermatologist. Dermatologists help patients find the most effective treatment for them.
With so many treatment options available it can be hard to know which route to choose. A Dermatologist has the training, experience and expertise needed to create a treatment plan specifically tailored to your specific needs.
A Dermatologist can also tell you if a spot is actually an Age Spot. Yes, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but other spots also become more common on our skin with age, including Seborrheic Keratoses and Actinic Keratoses.
With various treatments the appearance of Age Spots on the face and body can be significantly reduced leaving you with more even looking skin – but there are quite a few options to choose from.
In general there are 2 types of treatments:
Creams & Lotions
These require discipline to apply. To see results you have to apply the cream or lotion once or twice a day for weeks or months to see any difference.
These procedures work faster but be aware that they cost considerably more and have a much higher risk of side effects.
- Laser Therapy
- Cryotherapy or Freezing
- Chemical Peels
Let’s look at the options more closely.
1. Prescription Lightening Creams
There are stacks of skin-lightening creams that are supposed to rid you of Age Spots. Many need to be bought with a prescription.
Prescription Lightening Creams (Hydroquinone) either used alone or with Retinoids (Tretinoin) and a mild Steroid may gradually fade them but this could be after several months daily use. Hydroquinone works by slowing the production of melanin while Tretinoin is a Retinol cream that can improve skin temperature and reduce pigmentation.
Prior to buying it’s important to know that some of these creams and lotions contain ingredients which can be harmful to you. Some skin lightener creams contain Mercury – this can cause some serious health problems if you’re not careful.
It’s always recommended visiting an experienced dermatologist first. They can assess you and will recommend an effective skin lightener suitable to treat your Age Spots without causing harm to your health. Seeing a dermatologist can also save you buying lots of creams which claim to remove Age Spots but don’t actually do much – you will be given the correct treatment suitable for you first time.
In a study which compared laser treatment to a prescription-strength cream, the researchers found that both treatments successfully lightened Age Spots so it’s worth giving consideration to both, especially if money is a factor. But please be aware that cream will always take longer to achieve results – and application needs to be consistent.
Approximate Costs: Normal prescription charges.
2. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy
This treatment targets the melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) without damaging the skin’s surface.
It is an intense, broad-spectrum light which heats and destroys Age Spots, melasma, broken capillaries and sun spots. This has been proven to be an effective treatment and does not take many minutes to perform. It’s a pain-free, non-invasive treatment.
Please be aware that a patch test is usually required to be carried out at least 2-5 days prior to your first treatment to ensure skin suitability and that no reaction occurs.
What to Expect After Treatment: The darkening of the Age Spot area being treated – this will last around 7-14 days after treatment but will eventually flake/peel off.
You should also expect to see some redness and it may feel a little like sunburn around the treated area. You may even have swelling for a day or two as well. Applying some Aloe Vera Gel to the area will soothe it in no time.
Number of Treatments Required: this varies and depends on the size and darkness of the Age Spot. Usually it takes 1-4 sessions at 4-6 weeks apart.
Approximate Costs: From £90 – £350 per session
3. Cryotherapy or Freezing
This is a very effective, common treatment for Age Spots and can be done a few times a month if required. This treatment is better for single Age Spots or small clusters. It can be performed all over the body, but it’s mainly used to treat the hands, face, neck and back.
During treatment a registered dermatologist injures the cells within the Age Spots. This is done by applying liquid nitrogen or another freezing agent for up to five seconds to destroy the extra pigment. This causes the Age Spots to flake off and as the skin heals it looks lighter.
The treatment itself can be painful but thankfully it’s very quick – the time ranges from 5 to 25 seconds depending on the size of area you need treating. You also need to be aware that afterwards you may feel some pain, have a blister or some swelling.
What to Expect After Treatment: In the first 24 hours your treated area may be pink or red and it’s advised not to touch it. You may also get a blister on the area, but again, do not touch it or burst it. You may also need pain killers for the first 24 hours.
Over the next couple of days you will see darkening of the Age Spot and scabbing. Over the coming 5 days the area is likely to flake and you must let this happen without picking at it. Healing time is usually 7-14 days, apply moisturiser or sunscreen around this time to protect the area from scarring.
When an experienced dermatologist performs Cryotherapy, permanent side effects rarely happen. Therefore, you must make sure that you find an experienced, registered dermatologist who has been carrying out the treatment over a significant period of time. There is a slight risk of permanent side effects such as discoloration or even scarring so please ensure you go to a reputable practitioner.
Number of Treatments Required: This is dependent on the size and darkness of the Age Spot but sometimes it only takes one treatment!
Approximate Cost: Starts at around £90
4. Laser Re-Surfacing
As well as a good treatment for eliminating Age Spots, this is also a great treatment for fine lines and wrinkles!
Ablative laser resurfacing is a procedure where a wand-like laser is used to remove the sun-damaged cells in the outer layer of the skin and reveals newer, younger looking skin underneath. It does this by heating the skin’s layers to promote collagen production, which then stimulates the skin to heal with a smoother, more even appearance.
Prior to proceeding with this treatment it’s important to be aware of the following:
- The procedure can trigger breakouts of cold sores if you have suffered from them before.
- Medications taken for blood-clotting such as aspirin, ibuprofen or vitamin E – must not be taken 10 days before surgery.
- If you’re a smoker it’s bad news…. you MUST not smoke for two weeks before and after the procedure.
What to Expect After Treatment: Firstly, your practitioner will dress the treated area to keep it clean. You will be instructed to clean the area after the first 24 hours and then around 4 times per day for the next few days. You will also need to apply some petroleum jelly after cleaning to avoid scabbing.
You will find that during recovery the area will swell during the first 24 to 48 hours (ice packs can be used to help reduce swelling). It may get extremely red and itchy and stinging is likely to occur within 12-72 hours. The area will scab and peeling will occur.
Healing usually takes between 7-10 days, however it could take up to 21 days in total, depending on the size of the procedure and its location.
Once the area is fully healed, patients should:
- Only use oil-free makeup for 2 to 3 months – if the procedure was carried out on the face.
- Avoid the sun! And apply high factor sunscreen.
- Make sure your new skin is well-moisturised.
Number of treatments required: You’ll be pleased to know – just one!
Approximate Costs: From £800 to £5,000+ depending on size of area
5. Chemical Peel
This treatment is usually very effective treating Age Spots, especially on the hands.
An acid solution is applied to the Age Spot which removes the hyper pigmented outer layer of your skin. As this layer disperses a new layer is revealed that hasn’t been sun-damaged.
There are 3 levels of Chemical Peel – Superficial, Medium and Deep. For Age Spot removal you would usually need Superficial but for more severe, darker spots you may need Medium.
- skin cells are removed from the outer layer of the skin by applying an acid solution
- the solution is then left on for a few minutes
- your skin will usually feel tight for a few hours after treatment
- skin cells are removed from both the outer layer and the middle layer of the skin by applying an acid solution
- the solution is then left on for several minutes
- it may burn or sting if it’s your face being treated
- your skin is likely to go brown or red for several days after treatment
- your skin could take up to 6 weeks to return to normal
Please note: the skin seems to heal faster after a Chemical Peel compared to Cryotherapy but the results of Cryotherapy have proven to be more effective on Age Spots.
What to Expect After Treatment: You can expect to experience a similar feeling to sunburn in the treated area. This may include redness or swelling and sometimes blisters which will scab over and peel off within 7-14 days.
After a Chemical Peel you will be advised to avoid the sun for a few months following your treatment.
Number of Treatments Required: A Superficial Peel can usually be repeated in 1-4 week intervals but Medium depth peels can only be repeated every 6-12 months. Your practitioner will advise during your consultation.
Approximate Costs: Range from £60 – £100
During this procedure a dermatologist will smooth away your Age Spots by removing the dead skin cells in the area. This is done using a handheld device – fine crystals remove the dead skin cells and then they are vacuumed away. The areas that can be treated are the face, neck, chest, back and hands.
The treatment is mainly used to remove minor scars, fine lines, wrinkles and Age Spots. It gives the skin a firmer and smoother appearance. However, it won’t work for deeper scarring and wrinkles.
You will first have a consultation to establish whether the practitioner thinks you are suitable for Microdermabrasion or whether a different treatment would be more suitable or successful.
This is a safe procedure as long as it’s carried out by a fully qualified and experienced practitioner.
What to Expect After Treatment: There may be some redness around the area but this should disappear in a few hours following treatment and the skin may flake a little for a few days. Some bruising may appear but should only last a couple of days.
The area may be more sensitive to the sun than usual and it’s recommended to avoid exposure for a few days and wear sunscreen.
Number of Treatments Required: Usually more than 1 treatment is necessary – expect 2-3 sessions.
Approximate Costs: Around £60 per treatment (Face)
You can purchase over-the-counter fade creams and lotions in Department Stores and Pharmacies or even on the Internet, although please be careful what you purchase if buying on the internet.
Many of these creams improve the appearance of Age Spots but it’s all dependent on how dark they are to start off with and how often and regularly you apply the cream.
Regular, consistent use over several months might be necessary to produce any noticeable results – please be prepared for a long slow process but you should get there in the end.
If buying over-the-counter choose one that contains Hydroquinone glycolic acid or Kojic acid, Licorice Root Extract or Niacinamide. However, be careful – some products, especially those containing Hydroquinone may cause skin irritation – it’s the gold standard of lightening but harsher on the skin!
Top over-the-counter picks to look out for:
– Tranexamic Acid is known for it’s lightening capabilities and is less irritating and harsh than Hydroquinone for some.
– Hydroquinone + Glycolic Acid helps to exfoliate the top layer of your skin.
– Vitamin C Serum on the face – this is an anti-oxidant and helps to protect the skin against sun damage, prevents dark spots and gives an overall brightening effect.
These types of creams and lotions are most effective on Age Spots which are caught early and still on the lighter side.
Approximate Costs: Various
IMPORTANT! PLEASE READ
To carry out any of these treatments you need to ensure that your Practitioner is experienced, fully qualified and hasn’t just completed a short course. You need to research and check reviews on their work.
There are two registers which show which practitioners meet the set of standards of training, insurance and skill:
Check for your practitioner and make sure they are on one or the other of these registers.
Attend a consultation first prior to your treatment – this is so important! It gives you an opportunity to discuss your questions and concerns.
- Discuss what you want to achieve by having the treatment and is this the best treatment for it?
- How many sessions are you likely to need?
- Costs involved – are there special offers for a course of treatments?
- What should you expect after each treatment?
- Are there any side effects, if so, how long will they last?
- What are the risks and how common are they?
- Ask to see “before and after” pictures of THEIR treatments.
Once you are armed with all of the information you need, you can decide whether to proceed with your treatment.
If you did proceed with your treatment here’s what you need to be aware of following your treatment.
Sun protection is essential after treating Age Spots and going forward after that. This is the most important thing you can do, otherwise any treatment you’ve had has just been a complete waste of time and money.
You can prevent this happening by protecting your skin properly from the sun’s UV rays.
- Apply sunscreen every day before you go outside. Not just any sunscreen though! You need to make sure you use a sunscreen which offers:
- Broad Spectrum Protection
- SPF30 or higher
- Water Resistance
- Clothing – on any skin not covered by clothing you must apply sunscreen!
If you have found this post interesting, have a read of Face Exercises to Reduce Wrinkles – it’s all about how Face Yoga can help you naturally combat fine lines and wrinkles – it will save you a fortune on beauty treatments!
We always love to hear from you, so please comment below and tell us what your experience was, which treatment did you choose and why?