What is an Age Spot?
Age spots, also known as liver spots or solar lentigines, are flat spots that usually appear on the face, hands, shoulders and arms. They are typically gray, brown or black spots and vary in size. The areas where they appear are also the areas of the body that are most commonly exposed to the sun. Age spots are common in adults over the age of 40, however, there are some cases where younger people can be affected, as well. For the most part, age spots are harmless and do not require treatment, although to some people, they may look like cancerous growths. Mostly, they are distressing to people for cosmetic reasons. If this is the case, age spots can sometimes be lightened.
What Causes Age Spots?
According to the Mayo Clinic website, age spots are primarily caused by years of being exposed the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Commercial tanning beds and lamps can also contribute to the development of age spots. UV light accelerates the production of melanin, which is how your tan is created. This is how your body attempts to protect itself from the damage. Years of frequent prolonged sun exposure can cause age spots, which appear when melanin becomes clumped or is produced in very high concentrations. The human body sometimes produces higher amounts of melanin as the body ages naturally. Your genetic makeup may also contribute to the development of age spots.
What are the Symptoms of Age Spots?
Age spots are often confused with cancerous growths, however, there are some things you can be on the lookout for when trying to determine if you have age spots. Age spots are oval, flat areas of varying sizes. They are typically brown, black or gray in color and they show up in areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun; typically the back of the hands, tops of the feet, face shoulders, and upper back area. They can range in size from freckle-size to bigger than half an inch across. Age spots sometimes group together, making them more obvious. Age spots are painless. People who are over the age of 40 may require a biopsy to confirm diagnosis.
Who Gets Age Spots?
Anyone is at risk for developing age spots. Since freckles can be genetic, it’s not farfetched to believe that age spots may also have to do with genetics. Age spots can sometimes age people beyond their years visually. Although age spots (also sometimes called sun spots) are also called liver spots, they don’t actually have anything to do with the liver. They don’t actually have a lot to do with old age. Even young people sometimes develop age spots, however, they typically affect people who are over the age of 40. One of the main causes of age spots is sun exposure. Poor diet, lack of exercise and poor skincare can also contribute to the development of age spots.
Home Remedies for Age Spots
Prevention is something to focus on. Avoid sun exposure and if you do need to spend time in the sun, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen. Make sure to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Lemon juice is sometimes used to lighten age spots naturally. It penetrates the skin when applied twice daily. It is a mild bleach that will lighten age spots at a slow rate. Tea tree oil is another home remedy for age spots. It can be applied directly to the age spots. Grape seed oil is also sometimes used as a home remedy. Surprisingly, buttermilk is also used to banish age spots.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, you should see a doctor for your age spots if the age spots have darkened or changed in color. These changes can be signs of melanoma, which is a serious form of skin cancer. If you see the following skin changes, you should see a doctor:
- Darkly pigmented skin
- Is rapidly increasing* in size
- Has an irregular border
- Has an unusual combination of colors
- Is accompanied by itching, redness, tenderness or bleeding
As with all skin conditions, age spots are preventable and prevention is often the best way to combat them. They can be extremely difficult to get rid of once they’ve developed. If you see strange or sudden changes in them, you should seek medical attention immediately. What looks like a liver spot could be a more serious condition.