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​Seniors Matter(s): Age spots!

April 19, 2023

Unlike the moles or barnacles that I addressed earlier, age spots are small, flat, dark areas on your skin. They won’t hurt you, so you don’t have to treat them. But if you don’t like how they look, you can make the spots less noticeable or even make them disappear. You also can stop new ones from forming and keep the ones you have from getting darker.

You can find lots of skin-lightening products at the drug store. But before you buy, check the ingredients. Look for creams that contain tranexamic acid, niacinamide, or kojic acid. Keep in mind: for creams to work, you’ll have to use them regularly for weeks or months. And they might irritate your skin.

I have tried some over-the-counter creams with varying success. But I’m going to seek a prescription from my dermatologist and save money on creams that may not work. Prescription remedies are stronger than the ones you can buy over the counter. They usually have hydroquinone. Sometimes they have retinoids or a mild steroid, too. You’ll still need to use them regularly for months.

If you want to get rid of dark spots fast, a procedure that removes layers of discoloured skin may work better than a lightening cream. These techniques include laser treatments, freezing (cryotherapy), dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, micro-needling, and chemical peels. Keep in mind that procedures cost more than creams. They also come with more risks. Your doctor can help you weigh your options.

A doctor can use narrow beams of light to get rid of the cells that are causing your age spots without damaging the rest of your skin. You’ll probably need more than one treatment for it to work. Lasers might make your skin crust at first or darken your spots. But these side effects usually go away quickly.

My doctor has put liquid nitrogen on numerous growths of skin for a few seconds. This froze the areas where the spots were. As my skin healed, it got lighter. This treatment was a bit painful and caused irritation, swelling, blisters, and redness.

In a procedure called Dermabrasion, doctors use a rapidly spinning brush to sand down your spotted skin so new skin can replace it. You may have to do it more than once. The process can cause redness, scabs, and swelling. It could also take a long time for your skin to heal and look normal again.

Microdermabrasion uses tiny crystals to “sand” the skin instead of a spinning brush. It’s easier on your skin than dermabrasion. But you’ll need to have the treatment many times over months to fade your age spots. It might make your skin red or flaky.

When using micro-needling, the doctor uses fine needles to make tiny, evenly-spaced holes in your skin. Your body responds to the little wounds by growing fresh collagen and elastin - signs of youth - to heal them. This response can improve the look of age spots and other skin damage.

During a chemical peel, the doctor will apply an acid-based solution to remove layers of skin where you have age spots. New skin will take its place. You might have to do it more than once to get the results you want. This procedure may cause scarring, infection, or changes in your normal skin colour.

I have also heard that certain ingredients in your kitchen, such as lemon juice, oatmeal, or honey, can help with age spots. While these things aren’t going to hurt your skin, they probably won’t do much for your age spots. If you really want those spots to fade, it’s best to use products or procedures that your doctor recommends.

To keep age spots lighter and avoid new ones, try these tip:
  • Avoid the sun, especially at times when it’s most intense
  • Use a good, broad-spectrum sunscreen before you go outside, and reapply often
  • Wear gloves, a hat, or other clothing to protect the areas where you have age spots

Age spots are more likely if you have fair skin. But people with any skin colour or type can get them. A doctor can help you decide the best way to fade age spots, given your skin colour, type and other factors.

Stay safe.

‘Till next time!

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