Age spots (also know as liver spots or, in medical terms, solar lentigines) can sometimes look like large, dark freckles and may vary in shade from tan to black. They’re not connected to the liver at all, but are a build-up of melanin (brown pigment) as a reaction to chronic sun exposure. They tend to occur more as you age because your skin becomes less effective at regeneration.
However, when these spots appear, don’t presume they’re age spots—always go and get them checked by your GP or dermatologist, as they can be difficult to differentiate from melanoma (skin cancer that forms in pigment cells).
Once you know you’re definitely dealing with age spots, your GP or dermatologist will advise you of your treatment options. These usually include:
Many over the counter creams contain ingredients such as vitamin C, vitamin A or hydroquinone to reduce pigmentation, and salicylic acid or glycolic acid- Alpha Hydroxy Acids (or fruit acids)- for an exfoliating effect that removes some pigmentation along with skin cells. A dermatologist may give you stronger hydroquinone or vitamin A-containing creams on a prescription. Don’t expect instant results; it takes several weeks to see a noticeable improvement.
This works by fragmenting the melanin, breaking it down into smaller particles that your body can disperse. The spots will gradually face over several weeks, but you may need two or three treatments to abolish them entirely, and they may return after a few years.
Chemical peels and microdermabrasion
These exfoliation methods remove the upper layer of your skin cells, taking some of the pigmentation along with them. Chemical peels use substances such as trichloroacetic acid, while microdermabrasion uses a blast of abrasive crystals.
In cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen is carefully and directly applied to your age spots for a seconds to destroy the pigment.
Always prioritise the health of your skin. Confirm your marks are age spots with a medical professional before treating them, and stop any treatment that irritates your skin (unless this irritation is expected and minor). Your treatment should be supervised by a qualified practitioner.