Age Spots: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis
Let them count your birthday candles, not your age spots! The best way to block
the spots—and skin cancer too—is by slathering on the sunscreen. But if past
lapses have shown up on your skin, shop for an over-the-counter fade cream, or
raid your kitchen for a simple spot remover. Keep in mind that it may take weeks
or months to see improvement. And from this day forward, vow never to leave
the house without proper protection.
Despite their name, these flat or rounded brown spots that dot the backs of
your hands or face aren’t caused by age. They’re simply areas of excess
pigment, which result from years of unprotected sun exposure. Because it takes
decades to see the sun damage, many people won’t notice the splotches until
later in life, but people who have had significant sun exposure can develop them
in their 20s and 30s. Some drugs can make you more vulnerable to sun damage
and related age spots, including tetracycline, diuretics (water pills), and drugs
for diabetes and blood pressure
- A fade cream called Porcelana contains a 2% solution of the bleaching agent
hydroquinone. (Darker spots may need a 3% solution, but for that you will need
a prescription from a dermatologist.) Before you use Porcelana, read the package
- • Dab the juice of a fresh lemon on the spots at least twice a day. Lemon juice
is mildly acidic, and may be strong enough to slough off the skin’s outer layer and
remove or lighten age spots.
- Blend honey and yogurt to create a natural bleach that can lighten age
spots. Mix 1 teaspoon of plain yogurt and 1 teaspoon of honey. Apply, let dry for
30 minutes, then rinse. Do this once a day.
- Spread your spots with aloe vera gel, straight from the leaves of a living
plant, if possible. The plant contains chemicals that slough away dead cells and
encourages the growth of new, healthy ones. Apply the gel once or twice a day
- Try buttermilk. An old folk remedy for age spots, it contains lactic acid,
which gently exfoliates sun-damaged skin and pigmented areas.
- Camouflage age spots with a cosmetic concealer like Dermablend, a heavy
foundation sold at major department stores. Ask a salesperson to help you pick
the right shade for your skin and show you how to apply it.
The Power of Prevention
- Avoid the sun as much as possible during peak hours—10 A.M. to 4 P.M.
during summer, and 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. in the winter.
- Every day, 30 minutes before you set foot outside, slather your skin—
including your face and the backs of your hands—with sunscreen. Make sure it
has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The most effective sunscreens for
guarding against age spots contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. If you will be
outdoors for long periods of time, reapply every two hours.
- To help prevent sun rays from penetrating your clothing, try the product
called Rit Sun Guard. Added to your laundry during the wash cycle, it boosts
the SPF of your clothing and prevents 96 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet waves
from reaching your skin
- After you’ve been out in the sun, slather on some vitamin E oil. An
antioxidant, vitamin E may help prevent age spots by neutralizing skin-damaging
free radical molecules. Because vitamin E produces free radicals when it’s exposed
to sunlight, smooth it on only after sun exposure.
Should I call the doctor?
Age spots, which usually look like dark, smooth freckles, are generally harmless.
However, if a spot starts to tingle, itch, change size or color, or bleed, it’s time
to call the doctor. Some skin cancers, like melanoma, can look like age spots. If
home remedies don’t work on your age spots, your dermatologist can most
likely get rid of them through laser treatment or by applying liquid nitrogen.