What are age spots, liver spots, and solar lentigos?
The words age spots, sunspots, lentigos, and liver spots usually refer to the same thing. These are brown spots on the sun-exposed areas such as the face, the “v” of the chest, and the arms and legs. They are flat and, if you close your eyes and rub your fingers over them, you cannot feel them. The age spot itself forms from the long-term stimulation of the pigment cells in the skin. This stimulation comes from the sun. Age spots do not occur in areas that are not exposed to the sun except in very rare circumstances.
Why do I all of a sudden have so many age spots?
Many of Dr. Jennifer Janiga’s patients will come in and say that they all of a sudden have a bunch of brown spots and did not have any a few years before. This is common and is because the skin has been exposed to the sun for many years and the pigment begins to build up and starts to form these age spots that are visible on the skin.
How do I prevent age spots or prevent more age spots from appearing?
Besides avoiding sun exposure, the best prevention of age spots is with sun-protective clothing and sunscreen. There are many swim and sun shirts with SPF incorporated into them that can be purchased at most outdoor stores, and at a few specialty stores like Solumbra and Coolibar. The sunscreens that are needed for prevention of age spots should include titanium or zinc. Most sunscreens that are available today have the protection from UVB that is needed to prevent skin cancer but may not have great UVA protection that is needed to prevent sunspots.
These sunscreens are available over the counter if you look very carefully but most would be available with your dermatologist. Dr. Janiga is a strong believer that pigment problems such as age spots / liver spots / lentigos can only be prevented with zinc or titanium sunscreens. If you are having difficulty finding these sunscreens Dr. Janiga does have some in her office here in Reno for you to sample or buy.
If I already have age spots, how do I treat them?
There are a variety of treatments for age spots / liver spots. Start with sunscreen that contains zinc or titanium, as this is the most important step in the prevention of age spots. Once you have found a sunscreen that you can use daily, the next step is topical therapies such as antioxidants, retinoids, and lightening creams.
Antioxidants have the ability to sequester the damage done to the skin each day helping to treat and prevent new spots from forming. Retinoids give a mild exfoliation and allow your other medications to penetrate better. They also have properties to treat pigment but are usually used in combination with other products. Bleaching or lightening creams are creams that inhibit the formation of pigment in the skin, thereby lightening the spots.
These topical therapies take a few months to work and usually are used in combination with the standard of care for treatment of these age spots, pigment laser / IPL laser. You can see a before and after photo of one of Dr. Janiga’s patients here. Age spots can usually be lightened by more than 50% with one treatment of the IPL laser at Dr. Janiga’s Reno office.
For more information, or to set up a consultation with Dr. Janiga for an age spot skin evaluation in our Reno / Tahoe dermatology office, please send us an email or call 775-398-4600.
Appointment length varies but is usually not more than 15-30 minutes.