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What Causes Age Spots? How to Prevent and Treat
Age spots, or solar lentigines, can appear earlier than you might expect. Find out the causes, treatment and prevention methods for age spots.
Apart from wrinkles, there are few things that will reveal your true age quite like age spots. Perhaps the worst part is that you don’t even need to be old to get them. Age spots can occur in guys as early as their late-twenties.
While some guys aren’t bothered by age spots, others find that they can negatively impact their career and dating life. Fortunately, there are a few ways to prevent age spots from occurring at a younger age.
Here are three things all guys need to know about age spots:
- Age spots are caused by excessive sun exposure, as well as the normal breakdown of the body’s ability to fight off free radicals that change skin pigment.
- Preventing age spots from developing in the first place is much easier than getting rid of them.
- Regular exfoliation and laser resurfacing treatments may help reduce the appearance of age spots.
What Causes Age Spots?
Age spots, also called liver spots or sunspots (solar lentigines), are pigmented lesions that develop on the body as a result of excess melanin production. These spots are brown in color and commonly occur on sun-exposed parts of the body, such as the face, neck, back and forearms.
Apart from excess melanin production, why else do age spots occur? Let’s take a look.
Aging: True to their name, age spots are most common in people over the age of 40. The aging process affects all organs, and the skin is no different. Age spots can develop as the skin’s ability to protect itself begins to break down.
Sun Exposure: If you spent long hours in the sun as a child and now have dark spots on your shoulders and back, this is no coincidence. According to a 2004 study published in Pigment Cell Research, age spots on the back are associated with a history of sunburns before the age of 20 (see claim: “Solar lentigines on the back were also associated with a history of sunburns before the age of 20 yrs.”)
While scientists don’t always know the exact cause of age spots, research has made it clear that sun exposure plays the biggest role in their development. Even if you don’t care much for appearances, preventing age spots remains critical to reducing your risk of skin cancer.
How to Prevent Age Spots
No matter what your age, it’s never too late to start being proactive about your skin care. Here are some ways to prevent age spots and start taking better care of your skin.
Wear Sunscreen: Sunscreen is your number one defense in the fight against age spots. Chronic sun exposure can trigger the excess production of melanin, resulting in dark spots on sun-exposed areas on the body. Make a habit of wearing a moisturizer with SPF to protect skin from the many different types of sun damage, including age spots.
Get on a Regular Skin Care Routine: If you haven’t already established a regular skin care routine, now is a good time to start. In fact, research shows that just the simple act of washing the grime off your face can help prevent age spots. In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers found a link between exposure to pollution and dark facial spots. (see claim: “…exposure to traffic-related air pollutants influences the formation of lentigines.”)
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle: Living well is essential to slowing down the skin’s aging process. Eating a skin-healthy diet, ditching bad habits and exercising regularly can improve skin function and delay the aging process.
As with most types of hyperpigmentation, age spots are notoriously difficult to treat. However, it’s possible to reduce their appearance with the following treatment options.
Exfoliation Techniques: Light exfoliation can promote cell turnover and even out the skin tone, reducing the appearance of dark spots. You can use a regular exfoliating scrub twice a week to slough off dead skin cells and promote new cell regeneration.
Lightening Creams: A combination of tretinoin, cortisone and hydroquinone may be effective at combating the appearance of age spots. Keep in mind that you will need a prescription for this, and it may not be cheap.
Laser Treatments: One of the most tried-and-true treatments for any type of skin discoloration is a professional laser treatment. Also known as laser resurfacing, this treatment uses a high-energy beam to remove layers of the skin, smoothing over the flaws in your skin.
Although age spots are non-cancerous, they’re considered a sign of sun damage as a result of excessive sun exposure. We probably don’t need to remind you that excessive sun exposure is the primary cause of skin cancer.
While you may not care about winning any beauty awards, treating and preventing age spots is critical to reducing your risk of skin cancer. With a sound skin care routine, good habits and a regular checkup with your dermatologist, you can keep skin looking young and healthy for years to come.