What Are Age Spots?
Age spots are flat, sharply defined, circular blemishes that occur on the skin in areas such as the face, neck, shoulders, and hands. These spots go by a variety of names, including sunspots, livers spots, lentigines, and lentigos, and can be brown, black, tan, or gray in color. While they can look like cancerous growths, age spots are not cancerous, nor do they lead to cancer. Despite their harmless nature, some people elect to have age spot removal.
What Causes Age Spots? What Are Some Risk Factors?
Age spots really don’t have much to do with aging. Sun exposure, specifically overexposure, is the primary cause of age spots. The UV light from the sun accelerates the production of a pigment in our skin called melanin, which is why you get a tan from sunbathing. Conversely, melanin is deposited as a response to injury, just as a scar is a response to a skin wound.
While age spots are very common to develop and appear around age 50 or older, age spots may develop at an early age, even in childhood. Some people have a genetic predisposition to age spots. Anyone can develop age spots, but you may be more likely to develop them if you have a light/fair complexion, red or blonde hair, and a history of sunburns.
What About Prevention of Age Spots? What Are Some Treatment Options?
Before age spot removal, prevention methods have been fairly common practices, such as regular application of sunscreen, avoidance of the sun (especially at the height of its intensity between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.), and covering up exposed skin with long sleeves, pants, and wide-brimmed hats. Once individuals develop the condition, they may opt for age spot removal for a number of physical, emotional, and social reasons, including improving appearance, boosting self-esteem, and promoting better skin health.
There are a number of treatment options for age spots, including:
- Topical fading creams containing hydroquinone or retinol
- Dermabrasion, which can be thought of as “sanding down” the top layer of skin
- Chemical peels, which utilize acids to “burn off” the top layer of skin
- Cryotherapy, or freezing the skin with liquid nitrogen
- Laser or light therapy to destroy the melanin in age spots
How Does Laser Dark Spot Removal Work? What Can Patients Expect?
The PicoWay® laser is the latest innovation in laser dark spot removal and may very well be the best treatment for age spots. This laser destroys the melanin pigment composing the age spots without affecting the surrounding skin. Afterward, the destroyed pigment is naturally eliminated by the body, causing the lightening and eventual resolution of the age spots over time. The PicoWay laser is also FDA-cleared for tattoo removal and wrinkle treatment. Laser dark spot removal with the PicoWay laser requires only a topical anesthetic cream (for patient comfort), can be administered quickly (15 to 20 minutes), has no significant long-term side effects (minor redness and swelling resolves within a few days), and minimal to no downtime.