Those small dark areas that you’ve noticed beginning to crop up on your shoulders, arms, hands, and maybe even your face—basically everywhere on your body that’s seen a lot of sun over your lifetime? They’re called age spots. Not the best name, I know, but it’s still better than the alternative (liver spots).
They’re very common in adults over 50. But younger people can get them, too, especially if they’ve spent a lot of time in the sun. That much, you probably already knew. Lesser-known about age spots is that they’re harmless*. However, that doesn’t mean you need to live with them. There are a number of products available to lighten them and a non-invasive procedure that can remove them altogether.
*Before I get into the treatment, the reason for the asterisk is that there’s a lot of variation among age spots. One can be as small as a tiny freckle. They can also be as large as a half-inch across, and they can cluster together, making them appear even larger. Before you decide whether you can or can’t live your age spots, it’s a good idea to have them—and, really, any new skin changes—evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist. They can be signs of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.
What causes age spots?
Ultraviolet light accelerates the production of melanin. So, age spots are basically the result of overactive pigment cells. After years of frequent and prolonged sun exposure, age spots will begin to appear when melanin becomes clumped together, or it’s produced in high concentrations.
Anyone can develop them, but you’re more likely to if you:
- Have red hair and fair skin
- Have a history of intense sun exposure
- Have used tanning beds
So, how do I get rid of them?
Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive procedure that not only removes age spots, it also improves:
- Dull complexions
- Uneven skin tones and textures
- Dark spots that can appear after acne clears
Microdermabrasion is also often used to enhance anti-aging and skin-bleaching products by allowing them to penetrate the skin more deeply. In each case, your complexion will appear smoother, brighter, and more even in color following a series of treatments. And it’s safe for all skin colors.
Keep in mind, the microdermabrasion that a dermatologist performs is very different from the one you can do at home with a kit. The dermatologist’s goes deeper into the skin. They’ll use a handheld device that gently removes the top layer of the skin. You may feel a sanding sensation, but it’s not painful. It usually takes 30 to 40 minutes to treat the face and about 20 minutes to treat the neck.
You may experience a bit of redness and swelling that’s akin to a sunburn for a day or two after the treatment, but it’s nothing that should prevent you from going about your life, including returning to work.
Most patients need a series of treatments to see the best results. Depending upon the patient’s needs, a dermatologist may recommend anywhere from five to 16 treatments performed weekly, every two weeks, or monthly.
Significant as the investment may be, consider the result: smooth skin and a radiant, youthful complexion.