It is true that as we age, the skin changes. It loses elasticity and firmness and also begins to produce more melanin. Add sun exposure to that equation and you’ve got even more melanin (the skin’s natural sun block) being pumped out as additional skin protection. The overabundance of melanocyte cells ends up clustering together to form concentrated spots of tan or brown. These spots, commonly associated with old age, are actually caused by too much sun exposure and can occur in people under the age of forty—thus, age spots are really more like sun spots in many cases.
Other names for these are solar lentigines and liver spots. Sun spots are not the same as age spots when they technically refer to other sun induced lesions beside solar lentigines and can include solar keratosis (a.k.a. actinic keratosis), which is a pre-cancerous lesion. If not eliminated, some solar keratoses would become cancerous.
How to Prevent Age Spots/Sun Spots
Since these unfavorable spots tend to show up in the obvious places (the places most frequently exposed to the sun), like the face, shoulders, and chest, they pose a cosmetic quandary. The disdain for the appearance of these blemishes on the skin is almost on par with wrinkles, so people often seek treatment to get rid of them.
Getting rid of them really starts with prevention—not getting them in the first place—by:
- Limiting your sun exposure (do not tan in the sun for copious hours)
- Wearing a hat during the summer months, or whenever sunlight is strong
- Wearing sunblock on a daily basis, wherever your clothing does not cover your skin
By protecting your skin, you reduce your chance of getting sun spots, in addition to helping prevent wrinkles and, more importantly, skin cancer.
How to Get Rid of Age Spots/Sun Spots
Once you are inflicted with age spots, there are ways to get rid of them, or at least reduce their appearance. Hydroquinone creams are a simple, over-the-counter solution, but are not very aggressive and take months to show results. The safest and most effective solution available is laser skin treatment.
Laser technology uses intensely focused light set to a certain wavelength to target specified layers in the skin. This laser light is able to break up the melanocyte cells for absorption by the body, thus getting rid of the sun spots on the surface.