Age spots, also sometimes known as lentigines, sun spots or liver spots, are flat, brown, usually harmless discolorations on the skin of older (over 40 usually) people who have been exposed to a great deal of ultraviolet (that is to say, sun) light. Age spots, which occur most often in those areas of the body prone to be exposed to sunlight (face, arms, backs of hands, neck and chest) are not a hereditary condition. They are a direct cumulative effect of exposure to the sun.
Beyond their cosmetic effects, age spots are generally not a cause for concern as they usually not evidence of any other medical condition (such as skin cancer). In the rare cases when an age spot is significantly different from others or it changes size at an abnormal rate, then it of course should be looked at by a medical professional.
Causes and Effects
As stated above, the accumulated exposure to the sun is the main cause of age spots. But the natural, gradual thinning of the skin as one grows older makes it start to become somewhat translucent as the cells containing pigment start to decline. The remaining pigment-bearing cells sometimes bunch together, creating age spots.
Age spots are neither harmful nor contagious and left untreated they will bring no harm. But they can be quite noticeable and that can be a problem for those who want to look and feel as young as possible.
Prevention and Cures
The first and best way to decrease the chance of developing age spots is to get into the habit of limiting exposure to the sun and using a really good sunscreen when going out. Age spots don’t spontaneously develop overnight; they are the result of years of exposure and early, diligent care when going out into the sunlight will go a long way towards preventing their coming into being.
Once age spots have appeared there are several methods that can be used to try to make them go away. Each method has its own upside and drawbacks.
Fade creams, over-the-counter moisturizers with an added bleaching agent, are readily available and can be helpful in eliminating some age spots. They do tend to take a while to show real results and they are not very effective on darker and more stubborn spots.