Age spots are harmless marks that appear on the skin due to prolonged exposure to the sun. Although the removal of age spots is not necessary, those who dislike their appearance can try a range of home and medical treatment options.
Before a person tries to remove an age spot, they should see a dermatologist to ensure that there is no sign of cancer.
People can use the term age spots, or liver spots, to refer to either solar lentigines or seborrheic keratosis.
This article will focus on how to remove solar lentigines and prevent them from returning.
Solar lentigines, or age spots, are harmless, flat patches of darkened skin.
The primary cause of age spots is exposure to UV radiation, which speeds up the production of the pigment melanin. When melanin production is high, age spots can appear.
These marks develop in areas that get more exposure to the sun, such as the:
- backs of the hands
- upper back
People can attempt to treat age spots at home using over-the-counter (OTC) topical creams and lotions.
These products may help lighten the skin and cause the age spots to fade.
Skin-lightening products may contain the following ingredients:
- 2% hydroquinone
- azelaic acid
- glycolic acid
- kojic acid
- vitamin C
Are they effective?
Bleaching agents, such as hydroquinone, can be an effective treatment option for solar lentigines. However, they are not suitable for seborrheic keratoses.
Dermatologists state that people may start to see results after 4 weeks and that a person should stop the treatment if there has not been any improvement after 3 months.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) note that a person may need to apply the cream or lotion once or twice daily for several weeks or months before they notice any results.
A dermatologist can recommend a prescription-strength skin-lightening cream, which may be more effective.
Before purchasing any skin lighteners, it is important to note that some ingredients may cause side effects.
For example, products that contain hydroquinone may cause skin irritation. A person should first test the cream or lotion on a small part of the skin before applying it to a large area.
Also, skin lighteners containing mercury can lead to severe complications, such as kidney and nerve damage.
A person should avoid using a skin lightener containing any of the following ingredients:
- hydrargyri oxydum rubrum
- mercuric amidochloride
- mercury salts
- mercury oxide
Several medical treatment options are available for solar lentigines, including:
Using a handheld device, a dermatologist will gently remove the top layer of the skin.
A person may need a series of treatments to see results. The AAD note that most people receive between five and 16 treatments.
After the procedure, a person may find that the treated area of skin is irritated and swollen. They may also experience temporary bruising, burning, stinging, and sensitivity to sunlight.
The dermatologist will advise the individual to apply moisturizer after the treatment.
Cryotherapy involves the use of extreme cold solutions, such as nitrogen, to freeze age spots using a cotton-tipped swab.
The procedure destroys pigment, leading to lighter skin after the area heals.
After the treatment, a person may experience irritated skin, pain, a blister, and swelling.
Permanent side effects can include:
- lightening of the skin around the age spot
- a scar
- darkening of the age spot
However, these effects are rare when a board-certified dermatologist performs the procedure.
During this procedure, a dermatologist applies a chemical solution to the affected area to destroy and peel off the uppermost layers of the skin. New skin will then grow to replace it.
The procedure may have side effects, such as:
- irritated skin
- changes in skin color
It can take 1–7 days to recover from the procedure, and a person should apply lotion until the skin has healed.
Laser treatment targets melanin without damaging the surrounding areas of the skin.
A person may need one or two sessions to get rid of age spots.
No matter which treatment method a person uses, age spots can return over time. Therefore, a person needs to take steps to protect their skin from the sun.
Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 may help prevent more sun damage.
A person should also cover the skin with sun-protective clothing, including a long sleeved shirt, wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection.
For more effective protection, a person can look for clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 40–50. The label in the garment should provide this information.
Age spots are harmless. However, some people may wish to remove them for cosmetic reasons.
Using OTC creams and lotions may help get rid of age spots in some cases. For some people, dermatologists may recommend a medical treatment option, such as laser treatment, cryotherapy, chemical peeling, or microdermabrasion.
Wearing clothing with a high UPF, a hat, and sunscreen may prevent age spots from returning.