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What's Up Magazine

Seeing Spots

Mar 01, 2018 07:00AM

By Kelsey Casselbury

Age spots aren’t a matter of your age, but rather reflect the amount of sun damage that your skin has suffered.

No matter what your age, a smattering of freckles across your nose is adorable. But when those freckles seem to clump up into one larger spot, you might not think it’s so precious. Frequently known as age spots—which is a total misnomer—these discolorations aren’t necessarily something to worry about; however, you might want to check in with the derm to see if anything can be done to minimize their prevalence. 

By Any Other Name

Also known as sun spots or liver spots, the official name for these discolorations is lentigines, and they’re likely a result of spending too much time in the sun in your youth. UV light boosts the production of melanin, the same pigment that colors your hair, your eyes and your tan. Too much melanin, though, and it becomes clumped where it’s been produced in high concentrations. Lentigines generally range from the size of a pencil eraser to the size of a dime.

So, really, you can rest assured that these spots have nothing to do with your age. However, people over age 50 get them more frequently, just because they’ve spent more time in the sun. Younger folks, don’t get too arrogant—these spots are hereditary, and you never know when they might show up on your hands, shoulders, or face (the most common locations for these spots). 

Minimizing the Spots

Lisa C. Kates, MD, FAAD, of the Center for Dermatology and Skin Care of Maryland in Crofton has a few recommendations for getting rid of—or at least diminishing the appearance of—these spots. 

The most common treatment is hydroquinone, a topical agent that’s available over the counter in 2 percent strength. However, Kates says, that strength is not very effective. Instead,
visit a dermatologist for prescription strength hydroquinone, which has a concentration of 4 percent or higher. 

Chemical peels:
A more aggressive treatment, chemical peels exfoliate the top layer of the skin but contain ingredients, such as retinoic acid or TCA, that target and lighten pigment. 

Laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments:
Different types of lasers can be used to treat spots, Kates says. IPL, or Advanced Pulse Light (APL), uses different wavelengths of light to break up the pigment in the spot, and then the body rids itself of it. She also suggests fractional lasers — more typically used for wrinkles and scars—which aim a laser beam that’s divided into thousands of microscopic treatment zones that target a fraction of the skin at one time.