Call them what you will, sun spots, liver spots, brown spots, cafe au lait spots, hyperpigmentation, lentigines or age spots, they are, even referred to, cosmetically unattractive and unwanted. Age Spots are particularly disliked because they are associated with older skin and aging but this is not the only culprit. This unattractive more mottled complexion (hyperpigmentation) is usually the payback for years of sun-drenched vacations and SPF-less sunbathing. UV exposure throws dark-pigment-producing melanocyte cells into overdrive, and the melanin they make clusters into brown spots so giving the mottled appearance so disliked.
In more serious situations, they can be due to impaired liver function or psychiatric and nutritional deficiencies. For example, as we age, our metabolism changes and the liver can become overwhelmed with toxins. If the liver can not rid the body of these toxins, age spots can begin to develop. Oxidation within the body and a lack of antioxidants in the diet is said to play an important role in the development of age spots.
Usually speaking age spots are usually harmless, macular (flat), brown discolourations of the skin which usually appear on the back of the hands, neck and face of people above the age of 40. They are not contagious and not usually serious or dangerous though it is wise to have them checked by a doctor if any are irregular, increase in size or change in color, texture, itch or bleed. If any redness appears around them they could be a sign of solar keratosis and in unusual circumstances could be a sign of skin cancers.
They are predominately caused by the accumulation of a yellow pigment called lipofuscin in the connective tissues of the body, due to aging of the collagen-producing cells. When lipofuscin accumulates in the connective tissue of the skin, brown spots are the result. (When lipofuscin accumulates in the connective tissue of the retina of the eye, the result is age-related macular degeneration). The lipofuscin is most probably the remnant of incompletely degraded molecules from damaged cells.
Preventing damage to cells is the best approach to age spots and other problems from aging. Using a sun block or products containing a high factor SPF is the best prevention as well as following a healthy diet, no smoking and minimal alcohol. Antioxidants are an important factor in helping prevent cellular damage from free radicals (highly reactive molecules that can destroy cellular compounds). Protective antioxidants include carotenes (present in most yellow vegetables), vitamins C and E (in fresh fruits and vegetables), selenium (in wheat germ), flavonoids (in blueberries, blackberries and cherries) and sulfur-containing amino acids (in legumes, eggs, garlic and onions). Increasing the amount of antioxidant foods in the diet, along with supplementation, will decrease cellular damage. Avoiding excess external sources of free radicals, including fried and grilled foods, rancid fats, solvents, pesticides, air pollutants, radiation and petroleum-based products may also help. Whilst all of this may help or delay the appearance of age spots unfortunately appear they will due to natural aging of the cells.
Treatment Options for Age Spots
There are many different treatments to minimize the appearance of age spots and hyperpigmentation in the skin. From basic make up concealers to lightening products including hydroquinone which is an ingredient for bleaching pigmentation. Glycolic acid and other such ingredients are used in chemical peels to minimize their appearance and laser resurfacing and IPL skin rejuvenation treatments can help in the fight against them. However sun protection will always be needed to be used following any of these treatments to avoid their reappearance.
Electrolysis treatment for Age Spots
Electrolysis treatment for age spots is a quick effective and easy method of removal where treatment is only focused on the blemish itself. An AC, HF, RF, Thermolysis or Short Wave Diathermy current is used (on a much lower setting than that would be used for hair removal). A tiny, fine electrolysis needle is loaded into the needle holder and scraped very lightly and gently across the surface of the age spot. This will have the result of very gently peeling off just the very top layer of pigmentation on the skin. A tiny test patch is first removed to view wherever the discolouration of the pigmentation goes deep into the dermal layer of the skin. Providing this is not the case then treatment can go ahead and is usually extremely successful. Should the pigmentation be deeper then treatment will stop and no further action can be taken using electrolysis. There is little or no bleeding and a sensation of slight staining during treatment with electrolysis. A scab will form which will heal and eventually fall away leaving good, non blemished skin underneath.