Age spots are known by a number of names including sun spots, lentigines and liver spots. The latter often draws a direct connection to some sort of underlying condition of the liver, but this is not the case. In fact, these flat, brown discolorations of the skin that usually appear after age 40 are directly related to sun exposure during childhood and youth.
It has long been known that the ultraviolet rays of the sun can do long term damage to the skin. Sun exposure has been targeted as a direct cause of any number of conditions including skin cancer. This is why most doctors advocate avoiding long periods of time in the sun or using sunblock with UV protection when you are outside. Exposure to the sun without protection may lead to the development of lentigines later in life. The connection is so solid, in fact, that even exposure to artificial sources of UV light, such as tanning beds, has been shown to cause the development of sun spots.
Is there a way to prevent age spots?
As noted above, the only way to prevent age spots is to use liberal amounts of sunscreen before the age of forty, avoid the sun, and wear protective clothing.
These measures will also help prevent the formation of skin cancer and wrinkles. Even one severe case of sunburn during your childhood can increase your risk of developing lentigines as you age.
What treatments are there for sun spots?
Some of the newest treatments for age spots are alpha hydroxy acid gel or even better, a comprehensive formula such as Age Defying Day Cream or beta hydroxy acid gel. The gel is applied to the spots each night. This will lighten discoloration of the skin such as freckles, age spots and pigmentation that may occur in pregnancy or from the use of oral contraceptives.
Another treatment for liver spots is Retin-A. Retin-A cream is applied to the spots once a day for six months. This will cause lightening of large age spots and will make small ones disappear.
Age spots can also be treated with alpha hydroxyacid peels. This involves applying a mild acid to the skin and then allowing the skin to heal. Chemical peels work best in people with blue eyes and light hair, but can be effective in all skin types. This is the second fastest way to get rid of age spots.
Liquid nitrogen therapy is the quickest way to get rid of age spots. Liquid nitrogen is air that is so cold that it is in liquid form (-321ºF). The esthetician sprays the liquid nitrogen onto the age spot and this causes the mark to turn white a month or so after treatment. When liquid nitrogen is sprayed onto the skin, it can sting and may cause a permanent white spot or scar.
For individuals who are reluctant to try medical or surgical treatments, there are some natural methods that can be used to help lighten affected areas and allow them to blend in with the surrounding skin.
One of the most effective natural treatments is aloe vera. Used in liquid or gel form, this healing plant can treat burns, insect bites and a number of other skin irritations. In the case of lentigines, it can help to gently fade away dark spots.
Other natural treatments that have proven effective in treating sun spots include lemon juice, vitamin E oil, bilberry herb and chick pea paste.