The appearance of dark spots on areas like the cheeks, nose, neck, chest, arms, and hands is a common age-related issue. Or so it seems. These spots have been called age spots for as long as most of us can remember. Our parents may recall hearing our grandparents refer to them as liver spots, as it was once believed that this skin discoloration signaled liver problems. Spots on these areas of the body are not caused by a poorly functioning liver. In fact, age is only one tiny factor in their emergence. The real culprit of dark spots is UV light. That’s why, in our office, they’re often simply called sun spots.
It doesn’t matter what we call them, really. Skin spots are a frustrating problem. Discoloration is difficult to hide and can be even more difficult to have to look at every day. Spots come up from the dermis to the surface layer of skin on the epidermis. This process takes years. It begins with sun exposure or exposure to light in a tanning bed. This exposure may lead to a golden tan, but beneath the surface, the body’s increased production of melanin gets caught up in groups. In time, these clumps of melanin show up as clusters of brown spots of all sizes.
What to Do About Unsightly Spots
Knowing that spots are caused by sun damage, there are two actions to take promptly. One is to schedule a skin cancer screening. Though most sun spots are benign, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a dermatologist examine these flat growths to ensure cellular behavior is normal. Then, the next thing to do is start wearing sunscreen daily. Every day, even when it rains, on every part of the body that will see the sun. This includes the tops of the feet. Additional steps to take to correct sun spots include:
- Turn on the lights! Even though sun spots are caused by unhealthy ultraviolet light, the answer to their disappearance is light. Different wavelengths, of course. One of the leading treatments for all types of discoloration is IPL, intense pulsed light. During treatment, light targets melanin clumps and causes them to break up, allowing the body to eliminate them.
- Lean into lasers. Laser treatments can work similarly to IPL in that they deliver particular wavelengths of light to the upper layers of the skin. Our Cutera Excel V targets pigment in the skin as well as vascular lesions. Laser Genesis treatment targets the deeper layers of tissue to stimulate prolonged collagen remodeling.
- Exfoliate. Lasers may do a bit of this work for you as you fade existing pigment issues. Once your spots have faded, exfoliating treatments like chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and even microneedling can help continue optimal cellular turnover going forward.
Sun spots, age spots, whatever you call them, we can call them Gone! Contact one of our San Antonio medical and cosmetic dermatology offices today to schedule your visit.