A spray of freckles across the nose and cheeks looks undeniably cute, and a new wave of celebrities and supermodels are showing off their freckles. More and more women have stopped trying to camouflage freckles and are choosing to embrace them. But when freckles morph into age spots, they can quickly become not so cute. Here’s a look at what causes age spots, and how to treat them.
What Are Age Spots?
Age spots are also called dark spots, hyperpigmentation, sun spots and liver spots. You may be wondering what an age spot looks like. In the most basic terms, they are flat brown, tan or black spots on the skin. A raised dark spot is most likely a mole (but anything suspicious looking should be checked out by a doctor). Some acne scars may also look like dark spots as skin creates melanin when it is inflamed.
A true age spot is called a “solar lentigine,” according to the Mayo Clinic, and is caused by repeated and prolonged sun exposure. A freckle, on the other hand, can be caused by genetics. Another key difference between a freckle and an age spot is that freckles tend to fade in the winter and come back in the summer. Old age spots don’t go away. They often just get bigger.
What Causes Age Spots?
Age spots come down to a few factors, including genetics, hormones, sun exposure and the aging process.
Nobody is born with freckles- after all, have you ever seen a freckled newborn? The average age that children develop freckles is between two and four, according to Stanford Children’s Health.
Age spots form due to overactive pigment cells. One of the major triggers is UV light, which accelerates the production of melanin. Sun exposure is cumulative, so age spots tend to show up in the places that have gotten the most sun exposure, including the face, shoulders and the back of the hands. Tanning beds also contribute to the formation of age spots.
Another dark spot trigger is hormones, which is why some pregnant women develop the “mask of pregnancy,” or melasma.
Can Age Spots Appear On The Face?
Age spots on the face are very common in people age 40 and up. They can appear anywhere where the skin has been exposed to the sun, such as the cheeks, forehead and nose.
Why Do Age Spots Appear on Hands?
The skin on the back of the hands is very thin and receives plenty of sun exposure, as most people don’t apply sunscreen to their hands every day. If you’re concerned about age spots on the hands, you can buy SPF gloves for everyday use.
Can Age Spots Appear On Legs?
Yes, age spots on legs are also common. Brown spots can appear anywhere on the body that has had sun exposure, especially in places where you may have missed a spot with sunscreen, such as the back of the legs and knees.
How Can I Prevent Age Spots From Forming?
The best defense against age spots is limit your exposure to the sun. This will help new age spots from forming, and help make sure that existing age spots don’t get larger, and darker. This means staying out of the sun at peak times, and covering up with a hat and long sleeves, as well as long pants, if possible. Wearing sunscreen every single day is also critical as age spots are created from accumulated sun exposure. Make sure your moisturizer contains a high SPF or use a physical sun blocker that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. If you don’t like the feel of a heavy sunscreen, try a SPF “drops” which have the texture of a serum, or a matte sunscreen. If your face is protected, don’t ignore the rest of your body such as your shoulders, neck and the back of the hands. And remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating.
What Are The Best Age Spot Removers?
Getting rid of age spots comes down to two basic options- products, or in-office procedures. Products include creams and serums but they must be used religiously. In general if you stop using them, the dark spots will come back. The products often have to be applied twice a day and results may take a while. In-office procedures include lasers, cryotherapy (essentially freezing off the dark spot), chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Most people use a combination of approaches.
Do Age Spot Creams Work?
There are plenty of products which can help fade dark spots, but it is important to keep in mind that consistent and sustained use is key. Here are some of the best ingredients and strategies for getting rid of dark spots. Most products that help fade dark spots contain a cocktail of skin lightening ingredients, which helps boost their efficacy and prevents irritation. Here’s a breakdown.
Hydroquinone is effective at lightening dark spots as it is basically a bleach for the skin. It is found in many Asian lightening/brightening products and works by blocking the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase. Hydroquinone is found in over the counter products such as Paula’s Choice RESIST Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser 7% AHA Lotion, which contains 2% hydroquinone, as well as by prescription.
If you’re considering using it, keep in mind that hydroquinone has been banned in Europe due to concerns that it may be a carcinogen. Doctors who prescribe it closely monitor patients as it could cause irritation and permanent darkening of the skin.
The antioxidant vitamin C is a skin care ingredient all-star frequently found in brightening serums and cleansers. It helps fade discoloration and tackles hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C can be also be found in moisturizers and eye creams. It also works to smooth out skin texture and stabilize the skin after exposure to UV rays.
Natural Lighteners for Age Spots
If you want to avoid hydroquinone, look for naturally derived ingredients such as licorice root, mulberry extract and kojic acid, which comes from fungi. They all work on dark spots by helping to inhibit a melanin producing enzyme. Another ingredient to look for on labels is ellagic acid, a compound that can be found in some vegetables, nuts and fruits. It is a natural antioxidant containing polyphenolic, which helps inhibits the formation of sun and age spots.
Home Remedies for Age Spots
It is possible to remove age spots naturally, and many skin lightening ingredients can be found right in your kitchen — but always do a test patch first. Lemon juice is an old school favorite for lightening hair, and it also helps fade dark spots on skin as it contains vitamin C and citric acid. Just dab a little juice on the dark spots twice a day. You can also try apple cider vinegar, a natural alpha hydroxyl acid which helps remove dead skin cells and lighten skin. The lactic acid found in dairy products such as buttermilk and yogurt helps give skin a gentle exfoliation, which helps fade dark spots. Some people swear by aloe vera and horseradish.
Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, is another all-around star when it comes to skincare. It helps soften the look of fine lines and also works to fade dark spots and skin discoloration. It works by revving up skin cell turnover, to reveal fresher and smoother looking skin. Retinols also penetrate deeply into the skin’s surface. Using a retinol can cause irritation and peeling of the skin, so it is best to start slowly and build up to more frequent use. It can also make the skin more prone to sunburns, so be extra vigilant about applying sunscreen.
At Home Exfoliation
Exfoliation is one of the most important things you can do for the skin. It not only whisks away old, dead skin cells which clog pores and make the face look dull but it helps skin look more radiant as it removes a layer of skin. One of the most gentle ways to exfoliate the skin is with an AHA or BHA (beta hydroxy acid) laced product, such as a mask or peel. Look for ingredients such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid or lactic acid. Try starting with an AHA or BHA cleanser before ramping up to a mask. Exfoliators made from rice enzymes are also gentle on the skin. Another way to whisk away old skin cells is with a sonic cleansing brush but be careful not to overdo it, which could leave your face irritated.
Microdermabrasion and Peels
A doctor or medical professional can perform a deeper exfoliation with either a chemical peel, or microdermabrasion. This procedure buffs away the top layer of skin using a fine spray of crystals, leaving the skin soft and smooth – and helping to fade dark spots. Multiple treatments may be necessary to achieve the desired results. A chemical peel is another way to exfoliate by using acid to remove the top layer of skin. Healing times and results vary.
Age Spot Removal with Laser
Lasers can also help fade dark spots, and they work in different ways. With laser resurfacing, beams of light remove layers of skin to get rid of hyperpigmentation, and new skin grows in in its place. Healing time can range from 10 to 21 days. IPL (intense pulsed light) lasers target the melanin and break it up to get rid of it. Multiple sessions at a dermatologist’s office are usually needed to see results.
Cryotherapy for Age Spots on the Hands
Another option for tackling age spots on the hands is cryotherapy, which can be done in a doctor’s office. Cryotherapy fades dark spots by freezing them with a liquid nitrogen solution, which then causes the dark skin to peel off. Every procedure carries risk, and some possible side effects include over lightening of the skin and permanent white scars, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS).
What Are Some Age Spot Treatments to Try?
Formulyst’s philosophy is creating solutions for skincare, and the brand offers a few different skin lightening and brightening products. Arbutin is a common alternative to hydroquinone, and can be made in a lab or derived from the bearberry plant. It is the key ingredient in Formulyst’s Luminous Skin Serum, which tackles skin discoloration and hyperpigmentation. The serum is powered by Triple Brightening Technology, a powerful blend of naturally derived alpha arbutin, rumex extract (a plant that helps stop the production of melanin) and a biomimetic peptide. The serum leaves skin looking lighter, brighter and more luminous.
Formulyst Dark Spot Solutions can be applied directly onto age spots. It’s powered by HyWhite, which is derived from alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. It works to minimize the appearance of dark spots while also hydrating the skin with hyaluronic acid, which can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water.
Vitamin C is a skin brightening all-star, and is one of the heavy hitting ingredients in Formulyst Active Serum. This serum is loaded with good for you ingredients, such as nourishing vitamins B and E. Rounding out the ingredients list are ferulic acid and niacinamide. The antioxidant ferulic acid fights free radical damage and helps stabilize vitamins C and E, boosting their potency.