Black, brown or tan age spots are caused by sun exposure over a number of years. Though considered unattractive, they're usually harmless. But not all brown skin spots are just age spots.
Age spot or melanoma?
Any skin spot that is dark, multi-colored, asymmetric, has changed in appearance, and/or has an irregular border, could be a melanoma—a serious form of skin cancer. For this reason, it's important to have all recent skin color changes evaluated by your dermatologist.
Before selecting a method of getting rid of your age spots, consult first with your doctor and second with your pocketbook. It's important to consider your health issues plus potential benefits and downsides of each method before undergoing any treatment program. If you are also considering other cosmetic treatments, the cost of each procedure should reflect its importance in your overall plan.
6 Ways to get rid of age spots
1. Chemical peels use acid to treat superficial discoloration, as well as wrinkles and scars. They can be done at different depths, depending on what you want to achieve. Deeper peels can produce more dramatic results, but involve longer recovery times. Also, it may take several peels before your age spots disappear. There are different peel types for different skin colors. Make sure the right one is being used on your skin.
2. Dermabrasion is a skin-resurfacing procedure that sands off the outer layers of skin. The skin that grows back is usually smoother and younger looking. Treated skin will be sensitive and bright pink for several weeks. There may be some scabbing. The pinkness will likely take about three months to fade.
3. Liquid nitrogen can destroy the pigment than darkens your age spots by freezing them, but there is the possibility of permanent scarring or discoloration-especially in darker skin types.
4. Laser treatment removes age spots by destroying the cells that produce the pigment, without any harm to your skin. There are, however, many different types of laser treatment, and some are not safe for dark skin. Laser procedures are more expensive than other kinds, and may take more than one treatment.
5. Over-the-counter skin lightening creams listed here are the top three 2014 products recommended by Consumer's Guides. Criteria used: Safety of ingredients; clinically proven ingredients; no use of hydroquinone or mercury; reputation of product manufacturer; real-user reviews and results.
Top choice: City Cosmetics Illuminating Dark Spot Corrector. Recommended by Consumers Guides for all types of skin blemishes. No testing on animals. Consistent results. Comparatively moderate pricing. Received 5-star rating.
Second choice: Obagi Nu-Derm Clear Fx. Received 4-star rating. ..."uses some potentially dangerous ingredients, and the price tag might scare some consumers away..."
Third choice: Shiseido White Lucent Intensive Spot Targeting Serum. Received 4- star rating. ..."an excellent product in many respects, but just didn't make a strong enough impact on skin tone and luminance. Additionally, it was very pricey..."
6. Prescription-strength skin lightening creams may also be available from your dermatologist.
Preventing further damage
To protect your skin from further damage, The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you apply a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 30 or more on all exposed skin areas, 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside. Because UVA rays (main cause of sun spots and wrinkles) come through your car windows, don't forget the backs of your hands. Reapply sunscreen about every two hours, or more often if you're swimming or sweating.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Amy Wolthoff, dermatologist.