Age spots, those sneaky brown spots that show up on your face, hands, arms and chest. The medical term for age spots is a solar lentigo. They are caused by the sun and appear in sun exposed areas. In most cases they are not harmful, though there is a type of melanoma (called lentigo maligna melanoma) that can look similar to an age spot – so if you notice dramatic changes (in color, size or shape) of your age spots please have them evaluated.
Now the real question – how can you get rid of them and how can you prevent them?
Prevention. These buggers are VERY sun sensitive. Sunscreen will not prevent these from popping up. You need to wear a hat and avoid sun exposure if you want to have NO sun spots. Of course, sunscreen will help, but you need to make sure to reapply every 2-3 hours because it stops working in that time period.
Getting rid of them. It is not easy nor quick. The least expensive and least invasive treatment is to use a cream that contains a lightening agent. The most effective lightening cream is hydroquinone and it works best when paired with retin-A. There are several non hydroquinone lighteners with variable results, they often contain Kojic Acid, vitamin C, azelaic acid, soy or a combination of these.
The next level of treatment is a chemical peel – these can be very effective and cost about $150-$300 per treatment. I love peels, they are a good bang for your buck (check out my photo journal of a facial peel). The downside is you will peel – so be prepared for 3-7 days of peeling. The peeling starts on day 2-3 after the peel. I always get my peels on Wednesday so I peel the most on Saturday and Sunday.
The most expensive and invasive treatment is a laser treatment. There are several types of lasers that can be used: Intense Pulsed Light, Fraxel, Carbon Dioxide (these are general categories listed in order of intensity and expense). If you want dramatic results you may need a laser.
All of the treatments cause your skin to be sensitive to the sun, so you MUST protect your investment or the sun damage will come back and might even be worse. Always wear at least SPF 30, reapply every 2-3 hours and take a hat if you will be in direct sun.