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Facts on Age Spots (Liver Spots)

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

facts-on-age-spots-liver-spots

Overview

As we get older age spots may appear on our skin, which are also called sunspots, liver spots, senile lentigo or solar lentigines. They are flat, dark areas that vary in size.

Usually, they are found in areas of our skin that are exposed to sunlight, including:

  • Your face
  • Your upper back
  • Your shoulders
  • Your forearms
  • The back of your hands

Age spots are the most common in adults that are over forty. They can look like cancerous growths. An age spot does not require treatment, and they are often due to spending a great deal of time in the sun without using sunscreen. They occur to protect the body from sun damage.

Cause of Age Spots

Overactive pigment cells in the skin cause age spots. Skin that has had years of sun exposure or sun burns put you at higher risk. Ultraviolet (UV) light also speeds up the production of melanin, which is a natural pigment giving your skin its color.

Use of commercial tanning beds or lamps can also cause age spots. People with fair skin are at a higher risk.

Light Age Spots

Light Age Spots

Symptoms

People with fair skin are more likely to get age spots, especially if they spend a lot of time in the sun or in tanning beds. Age spots are unlike freckles in children with no sun exposure.

Typical types of age spots:

  • Age spots are flat, oval areas
  • Age spots are typically tan to dark brown
  • Age spots occur on skin with the most sun exposure
  • Age spots range from freckle size up to ½ inch (13 millimeters)
  • Age spots can group together, which makes them more noticeable

Sun Spot Removal with Liquid Nitrogen by Dermatologist Dr. David Myers

Treaments

While age spots do not require treatment, many people want to remove age spots for cosmetic reasons. There are several possible treatments that include:

  • Bleaching and tretinoin creams to fade the age spot gradually (they typically contain hydroquinone with or without retinoids). They take several months to work, and they make your skin sensitive to UV damage.
  • An intense pulsed light treatment that emits light waves that pass through the skin to target melanin to destroy age spots
  • Chemical peels remove the outer layer of skin allowing new skin to grow
  • Dermabrasion smooths off the outer layer of skin
  • Cryosurgery freezes individual age spot by using liquid nitrogen
Histology slide of a solar lentigo

Histology slide of a solar lentigo

When To See A Doctor

If your age spot changes in appearance it could be a sign of melanoma. Make an appointment to see your physician when:

  • The age spot turns black
  • The age spot has an irregular border
  • The age spot is bleeding
  • The age spot increases in size
  • The age spot has an unusual combination of colors

What Causes Liver Spots (Age Spots)? : Dr Berg

Preventing Age Spots

There are some ways to help prevent age spots, and they include:

  • Avoid being in the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 P.M.
  • About 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  • Apply sunscreen every 2 hours when you are outdoors and more often if you are swimming or perspiring.
  • Wear tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs, plus a broad-brimmed hat. Consider clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 40-50 for the best protection if you have had treatment for age spots.

In Conclusion

The over-the-counter treatments are not as effective as prescribed medications, however, if you are purchasing an over-the-counter product, be sure it contains hydroquinone, deoxyarbutin, glycolic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, or kojic acid.

If you are a sun-worshiper, please be aware of melanomas. Check your age spots for changes, and see a dermatologist for any abnormalities. Tanning beds do carry a risk.

Age spots are harmless, but they sometimes cause emotional stress in some people. There are several types of medical treatments for those people. Makeup will also cover up age spots, at least to some degree. Just be sure to note any significant changes in the age spots by monitoring them frequently.

Age Spot Questions

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 20, 2021:

Hi Sp,

They do not always look too bad. It depends on the color and how many you have I think, so they don't always look bad.

I appreciate your comments. Stay safe and healthy!

Sp Greaney from Ireland on April 20, 2021:

I am not a sun worshipper so hopefully I avoid getting these. But it was so interesting to learn more about this. I have seen a few people with these but they don't look to bad. I didn't even think you could get treatment for them. Very interesting article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 20, 2021:

Hi Kalpana lyer,

I am glad this article added to your understanding. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Kalpana Iyer from India on April 19, 2021:

Well explained! I have light age spots but I have seen some relatives having it on their hands as shown in your pic. I never really looked into researching what it was all about. Your article helped me in understanding age spots. Thank you!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 19, 2021:

Hi Lorna,

That is so true. We need to think of protecting our skin every day. Everyone needs to take precautions.

Thank you for your nice comments. I hope you have a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 19, 2021:

Hi Chitrangada,

I think heredity is always a part of something like this, but I did not read any research that spoke of it. I think the greatest risk factor is sun exposure. As you say, we are not getting any younger. Age spots are not harmful as long as they do not change.

I appreciate your comments and hope you have a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 19, 2021:

Hi gyanendra,

I am glad the article was interesting for you. I am glad your English is good, and you are still learning. That is a good goal.

Thank you for your comments.

Lorna Lamon on April 19, 2021:

An excellent article Pamela with interesting facts and great advice. I think we tend to forget that even on cloudy days the sun can still damage the skin. I can never sit still long enough to sunbathe, however, skin cancer does seem to be on the increase, so it is wise to take precautions.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on April 18, 2021:

An important article about the age spots in the elderly. I have seen some of my elders having this. As long as, they don’t change colour and size, it’s okay. But, I believe if it does change, it’s wise to consult an expert.

I was just wondering, if it’s hereditary?

As always, a valuable information shared by you, which all of us must be aware of, since we are not getting any younger.

Thank you for sharing.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on April 18, 2021:

Your article is interesting for me for two reasons: Firstly, I've learnt to protect my health by taking care of my skin. Secondly, it has helped me collect new words for improving my English.

Thank you

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Linda,

Sunburns sure put you at a higher risk or age spots or even melanomas.

I appreciate your comments. Take care.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on April 18, 2021:

Hi Linda,

The treatments are the age spots. The article is in the definitely skin. You shouldn't have the tan or burning in sun skin

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Adrienne,

I am glad you found this article interesting. I think many people do not like the idea of some of the treatments for age spots. I know I do not. I think makeup is a good middle ground, which is what I do.

Thank you for your comments. I hope you have a very good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Alyssa,

I am glad you are getting treatment from a dermatologist, as that is best way to get good treatment. A lot young teens and young women want that great tan, and I did that too some degree. I never did the tanning bed though.

Age spots are not a problem unless they change their appearance and develop into a melanoma.

I appreciate your comments. Take care.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Flourish,

Melasma is a skin disorder usually in women, especially during pregnancy. i would have to do more research to give you more information. I think staying out of the sun is good advice for anyone with a skin problem. I think a dermatologist is the best place to get advice on any skin problem.

I appreciate your comments. I hope you have a good week.

Adrienne Farricelli on April 18, 2021:

Hi Pamela, thanks for sharing all this interesting information about age spots. I didn't know that age spots could turn cancerous, it seems like any spots of the body need monitoring. The age spot removal options sound a bit harsh or invasive, which is likely why many people just decide to accept them if they are only a cosmetic issue. Covering them up with makeup though sounds like a good middle ground.

Alyssa from Ohio on April 18, 2021:

This was very interesting and informative, Pamela! As a kid, I would do my best to lay out in the sun to achieve a tan. In my early 20's, I loved the tanning bed. It was just so relaxing! A few suspicious spots and my husband scaring me with the idea of skin cancer put a stop to that real quick. I still miss it though. I've been seeing a dermatologist for the past few years (best decision ever) and now that I'm using Rx creams, I'm very careful about sun exposure. I'm trying to encourage healthy habits with my teenage son as well. My great-grandparents had age spots and I'm pretty fair, so I'm sure my chances are pretty high. I'm happy to hear that there are treatments available! Thank you for sharing this!

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 18, 2021:

What is the difference between this and melasma? The sun can really do a number on your skin. Fortunately, I have stayed out of it for many years but I did enjoy it as a teenager (suntanned in the 1980s in baby oil and Panama Jack products—the darker the better). I shudder now at that. My dermatologist told me that everyone over 12 should be getting full body annual skin checks especially if they have fair complexions.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Bill,

You may be more prone to getting age spots due to your father's experience and that you spend a great deal of time outdoors. Wear sunscreen for protection, along with a hat.

I appreciate your comments. I hope you have a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

It is good to know changes are worth seeing a physician. I think your view is like almost everyone that has commented so far.

I appreciate your comments. I hope you have a great week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Vidya,

There are some home remedies, but I was not aware of any that I was comfortable writing about. I do think home remedies are preferable to any prescriptions.

Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you have a good week.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on April 18, 2021:

Great info Pam. My father had these and when they would change he would get them removed. I spend a lot of time outside so I need to watch for these. This is excellent information as always.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on April 18, 2021:

Pamela,

I think this is the one thing that will affect us all...Age Spots.

I didn't realize that if they changed it could be a sign of melanoma.

I doubt that I will ever do anything cosmetically to change them, unless it was ungodly on my face.

Another great article.

VIDYA D SAGAR on April 18, 2021:

A very informative article Pamela. As you said it is important to monitor the changes in the spots and seek timely treatment. Some home remedies like application of aloe vera extract for lighter spots seem to help. Have a good day.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Linda,

A merit badge for survival is a good analogy. It is a good idea to use sun screen if you are out working in the garden, etc.

Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you have a good week, Linda.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Urwa,

I am glad you found this article informative. I don't think your grandfather will probably want treatment but he does at least have the option.

I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Linda,

Checking for changes in any age spots you might have is the most important point I made in this article.

Thank you so much for your comments. Stay healthy, Linda!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Mel,

I think using sun screen and wearing a hat if possible should help, but most of us are walking around with age spots. Peeling off a layer of skin doesn't sound good to me either.

At least you are now informed about treatment. Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you stay healthy, Mel.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Fran,

I am glad you find my articles informative. I apprciate your comments. Have a good week.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on April 18, 2021:

Hi Pamela, I have just a few age spots on the backs of my hands. Their appearance doesn't bother me; like Ann, I've just assumed that they are a part of the aging process (merit badge?). But, I didn't know that they could change. I'll be mindful of that from now on. Thanks for a great hub.

Urwa from East County & Cooking and Baking Expert on April 18, 2021:

My grandfather also had the symptoms of age spots on his hand. Thank you very much Pamela for informing us about this fact and its treatment. I will tell my grandmother about it.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 18, 2021:

Thank you for sharing the information about age spots and for sharing the advice to check the appearance of the spots. Your advice is important.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on April 18, 2021:

I'm starting to sing the age-spot blues myself, so your article was pertinent. Some of us have no choice but to be sun worshipers, and in my line of work the 10 to 2 sunless window is impossible. I guess I will have to be more careful with applying the sunscreen, because all of the age-spot removal techniques you describe sound more horrifying than the affliction itself! Yowsa, I'm supposed to peel off my epidermis just to get rid of a few unsightly stains!

Anyhow, great work.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on April 18, 2021:

Pamela, thanks for another informative article. I appreciate your medical articles.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

I am glad you found this article helpful.

Thank you so much for your comments.

Blessings

Misbah from The Planet Earth on April 18, 2021:

Pamela, this is very interesting and helpful article. I don’t have any age spots but my mom have a few. I found your article a very helpful one. Thanks for sharing it

Blessings and Peace always

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi MG Singh,

I always appreciate your very kind comments. Thank you so much. Have a good week.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on April 18, 2021:

This is a very informative an interesting article. As usual you have given a wealth of knowledge and thank you very much for it..

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Bill,

You are fortunate as I know you are our walking daily. I am glad you find my article interesting and easy to understand.

Thanks for your comments. Have a great week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

I feel exactly like you do. I can't hide my age either. Watching for changes is the important message.

Thank you for your comments. Have a good week, Peggy.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 18, 2021:

Your articles are always so interesting, and they are always written in such a way that makes them easy to understand. Liver spots have not visited me....yet....always add "yet" to any statement like that one. :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 18, 2021:

Like you and Ann, when I was young, I used to sunbathe. The things we learn as we age! I do have a few spots on my hands, but I do not worry about them. There is no hiding the fact that I am older. Ha!

The important message is to watch them for any changes. Thanks for another informative article, Pamela. Take care!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Liz,

I am glad you found this article informative. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I hope you are staying safe and healthy.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Ann,

I use to sunbath also, and my skin is quite fair. I have some age spots too, but I don't worry about them. Noting changes is the important message in this article. Using skin screen is very important but it was not talked about when we were young.

I am glad you found this article to be informative. I appreciate your comments, as always, Ann. I hope you are staying safe and well also.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 18, 2021:

This is a very helpful article. I appreciate your clear explanation of the causes, treatment and preventative methods for age spots.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 18, 2021:

I have a few but they don't bother me; just age and I can't fight that! However, it's important to know that if they change in size or go really dark we should get them checked - thanks for that information.

I have learnt to live with them! I did a lot of sunbathing when young, without much sun cream as it wasn't emphasised so much then (though I suppose it's common sense really). I don't sit out in the sun much now and if I'm out a lot during the day I will use a high-factor cream. My skin is quite fair so I need to be more careful.

Thanks for another informative hub, Pam.

I hope you're keeping safe and well.

Ann

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 18, 2021:

Hi Susan,

I am glad you found this hub informative. It is good to see you.

I have some age spots too and I did try an over-the-counter cream that did not work. I learned from researching this topic also.

I appreciate your comments. Stay safe and healthy.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on April 18, 2021:

Hi Pam, a very informative hub that I'm sure many will benefit from. I have several age spots but didn't know that they could change in appearance. Always good to know.

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