Reprinted with permission featuring expert advice from Angie Seelal, a Certified Registered Physician Assistant specializing in Dermatology with Advanced Dermatology PC.
As we age it is common for age spots (also called liver spots or sun spots) to appear on the skin and cause some concern. That’s because age spots can be confused with melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer that occurs when pigment-producing cells darken the skin in specific areas. It’s important that you check with your dermatologist to make sure that those spots are not harmful and merely age spots.
So, what can you do to get rid of these age spots? The good news is that age spots are not harmful and you have several options available to you for removing them.
“Nobody likes those dark spots that make us look older,” says Angie Seelal, a Certified Registered Physician Assistant specializing in Dermatology with Advanced Dermatology PC. “These dark brown patches,” explains Seelal, “are the result of long-term sun exposure that has triggered clusters of melanocyte skin cells to produce the protective pigment melanin. However, unlike a tan, age spots don’t fade and usually don’t appear until later in life.”
1. Rule out skin cancer: “Age spots pose no risk,” notes Seelal, but skin cancer definitely does, and it can be difficult to discern between the two. Before starting any treatment – especially an at-home course – see your Dermatologist to rule out the dangerous damage of skin cancer.”
2. Double down with lasers: “We have a range of laser treatments that offer different approaches, certain wavelengths can penetrate the skin to destroy the melanocytes. Other instruments exfoliate the pigmented spots to trigger regeneration of new, unblemished skin,” Says Seelal.
3. Get a fresh start with specialized exfoliation: “In addition to lasers, explains Seelal, your skin specialist can provide a range of other exfoliation techniques, such as dermabrasion or microdermabrasion, and chemical peels. As with certain laser therapies, these procedures remove the pigmented areas to allow for undamaged skin regrowth.”
4. Considering an over-the-counter fix? Stay away from mercury: “For those considering a DIY topical skin lightener: Be careful, warns Seelal. One survey of OTC options showed that an alarming number contained the highly toxic ingredient mercury – which poses a neurological threat not only to the user but to those they come into close contact with, children and partners. What’s especially tricky is that some ingredient labels cloak mercury in other terms: calomel, cinnabaris, hydrargyri oxydum rubrum, or quicksilver. In general, look for an OTC product with hydroquinone, glycolic acid, or kojic acid. Your dermatologist can help recommend safe options, and also prescribe topical treatments.”
5. Even during the autumn months, you should practice “Safe Sun”: “Sunspots are the result of the sun, says Seelal. Start daily use of broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen year-round. Especially during the intense sun time of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., we should seek shade and wear protective clothing. And remember: That incidental sun we get in the car adds up too!”
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