As we grow older, we may develop small, dark spots on our skin. There are many terms for these blemishes. They are also called sunspots, liver spots, and solar lentigines.
Age spots are not freckles. Those can fade over time, but sunspots often remain for life. Age spots areas of increased pigmentation, often flat and shaped like an oval. They are normally darker than your average freckle, ranging from a light tan color to a very dark brown. The size of these spots can vary, going from a small dot to something almost ½ inch in diameter. Sunspots can also clump together, creating a noticeable area that looks more like a single blotch than a collection of small blemishes. They can affect anyone of any shade, but they are more likely to affect people with fair skin.
“Liver spots” is a misnomer. These spots are the result of sun exposure. Skin can react to the sun by increasing melanin production, causing discoloration. In a sunny state like California, you can almost certainly expect to develop such spots. They are often found on the top of the feet, the back of the hand, shoulders, and upper back. “Age spots” is also a misleading term. Since these spots are the result of sun exposure, they can affect anyone of any age. Ultraviolet light speeds up melanin production, so tanning beds are also responsible.
Age spots pose no threat. They are do not become cancerous. Skin cancers continue to grow, and they can start to boil or puss. This doesn’t happen with sunspots. Treating age spots is purely cosmetic, and it is understandable. If you’re concerned about removing liver spots from your skin, here are some options for treatment.
There are many creams on the market that are designed to lighten or remove age spots. They have a bleaching effect, lightening and blending the entire area of application. Bleaching is achieved either through hydroquinone alone or with a combination of a mild steroid and tretinoin.
Side effects can include redness, drying, burning, or itching, but these symptoms are temporary and should clear up soon.
There are many options for treating the entire affected area. These procedures call for stripping off the topmost layer of skin. The portion located just underneath with grow and develop, replacing the removed layer. Doing so can remove most liver spots, and they don’t often reach very deep into the epidermis. For peskier spots that go deeper, further treatments may be required.
In this process, a rotating, abrasive brush is rubbed along the skin, removing the thin, top layer. As you can imagine, this treatment can result in scabbing, swelling, and redness. The revealed skin must regrow into place, so your pinkish hue may take a few months to vanish completely.
A less aggressive option, you can choose microdermabrasion. It takes longer, but it doesn’t go as deep or cause as much damage. Redness will be much less noticeable, and skin will heal much quicker. However, this treatment could also be more temporary and require multiple treatments to completely remove spots.
The process operates exactly how it sounds. A thin layer of chemicals is applied to the skin. When this cocktail is peeled away, so too is the thin, top layer of skin. The exposed layer underneath will grow upward, replacing this layer. Redness and irritation can occur.
Rather than treating the entire layer of skin that reveals sunspots, you can also target spots directly. This is a good option for those who have fewer spots spread out across the skin.
There are a couple of ways to use light to treat age spots. Both laser and pulse light treatments exist. Essentially, they break up the melanin in a liver spot, allowing it to fade away. Done correctly, these treatments won’t damage the skin’s surface.
Liquid Nitrogen Treatment
You also have the option to use liquid nitrogen to remove liver spots, much like you would a wart in a dermatologist’s office. Instead of using a gun, doctors apply the nitrogen to a cotton swab. They apply the swab directly to the affected area, burning aging spots away.
We Can Help
Our board-certified doctor is well-versed in cosmetic treatments, including the removal of age spots. If you are concerned about how these blemishes affect your appearance, contact our office for an appointment. We can discuss your options and help you choose a plan that is right for you.
You can reach us by calling (805) 978-8545, or you can contact us online.