Sun and age spots

Sun spots (solar lentigines, also known as liver spots) are brown spots that typically appear on the most exposed areas of the skin, including the sides of the face, cheeks, forearms and back of the hands. When they first form, they are flat. With time, some of these spots can become raised with a rough texture – these are typically called age spots (seborrheic keratoses).

What causes sun or age spots?

They are formed due to an increase of melanin, a skin pigment. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sun exposure stimulates an increase in melanin, and excessive melanin can be focused on one particular area, giving rise to the formation of a sun spot. It is important to note that true sun and age spots do not lead to skin cancer; however, skin cancer can sometimes be mistaken for a sun spot. Therefore it is advisable to have your skin screened by a dermatologist if you are concerned about an increasing number of spots.

Are there home remedies for them? How do I remove them?

Please do not try home remedies, which may be potentially harmful or irritating to the skin. Seek proper medical advice so that a diagnosis can be established. Topical treatments can be useful, including products containing hydroquinone (to lighten spots) and tretinoin (a form of vitamin A to help skin renew itself more quickly). Cryotherapy – freezing with liquid nitrogen – can also be effective in some cases.

Tips for prevention

Sun and age spots can come back after treatment, so the most important piece of advice is to use a good sunscreen, and to use it regularly. There are various types of sunscreens – these include physical sunblocks that contain zinc and titanium dioxide that reflect UV rays away, as well as chemical sunblocks, which have active ingredients that absorb UV energy and prevent them from damaging the skin.

If you are balding, remember to protect the scalp by wearing a hat. Try to time your physical activity to avoid outdoor exposure between 11am and 4pm, when the intensity of UV radiation is the highest, and don’t forget that certain UV rays can also penetrate glass windows and windshields.