Sun spots, Age Spots Whatever! Just How Do I Get Rid Of Them?

Sun spots, brown spots, age spots, whatever you call them, these spots are caused primarily by years of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. If you spent time soaking up the rays in your teens and twenties and are seeing the spots in your thirties and forties (or later), you’re probably trying to figure out how to get rid of them. Here are some things you should know.

How do they occur?

Age spots form when the skin’s ability to protect itself from the UV rays breaks down.  Your body responds to UV light by increasing its production of melanin through the skin’s melanocytes.  The melanin expands the top surface layer of skin with more pigment, giving tanned skin its darker color. The resulting “tan” actually protects the deeper layers of skin from UV light. 

Over time, sun exposure damages the melanocytes causing abnormal production, or “clumping,” of melanin.  Spots, like large freckles, develop either singularly or in clusters.  Heredity can exacerbate the problem but most anyone can suffer the damage and the results.

It’s important to remember that while these spots are generally not cancerous, it is always recommended that you get any lumps, bumps or spots checked to rule out any other conditions that may look like age or sun spots to the untrained eye.

How Are Age Spots Treated?

This is truly a case for prevention.  It is hard to turn back time once cells are damaged so limiting sun exposure and wearing proper sun protection are key.  Even after these spots appear, sun protection is still critical to prevent possible further damage and more speckling. 

There are still ways to get rid of those spots once formed.  These generally involve removing the upper layers of skin in order or they involve fading the discoloration, or sometimes a little of both….  In all cases, consider that treatment will most likely take time, require consistent compliance with the protocol, and will require the use of daily SPF to prevent new spots from forming!

What are the age spot treatment options?

The most aggressive treatment involves Laser and intense pulsed light therapies that destroy melanin-producing cells (melanocytes).   These treatments are fairly expensive and typically require several sessions.   While the spots may fade over the course of a few weeks, there is the possibility of scarring and discoloration. 

 
Freezing or cryotherapy applies liquid nitrogen or another freezing agent to the age spots to destroy the extra pigment. As the area heals, the skin appears lighter. Freezing is typically used on a single age spot or a small grouping of age spots. The treatment may irritate the skin and poses a risk of permanent scarring or discoloration.

Dermabrasion sands down the surface layer of your skin with a rapidly rotating brush. It removes the skin surface to reveal a new layer of skin underneath. This treatment can be irritating, leaving scabbing and redness that slowly gives way to clear skin. 

A chemical peel involves applying an acid to remove the outer layer of your skin and the age spots. As your skin peels, new skin forms to take its place. Several treatments may be necessary before you notice any results. Sun protection is strongly advised following this treatment. Temporary irritation is likely, and there's a slight risk of discoloration.

Historically there have been bleaches, such as hydroquinone, available on your drug store shelves.  These are relatively effective but may pose a health risk and, in fact, have been banned in Europe because of links to some cancers.  Some feel in low doses they are safe but, really, with the availability of other remedies, is it worth the risk?
 

Is there another alternative?

At Blue Heron Wellness, we have a new hyperpigmentation protocol that combines a natural peel with skin lighteners to diminish and remove age spots.  The protocol uses a natural botanical exfoliant to loosen the outer layer of older, dead skin cells to reveal the younger skin below.  Natural pigment lighteners, such as Kojic Acid, L-ascorbic acid, Gallic Acid and Licorice Root, lighten and brighten your skin’s pigmented cells leaving healthy, brighter skin with more even tone and pigment!  We believe this combines spot-fighting strategies in a safe, natural and effective product.  Talk to us about trying this at your next visit.

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