Some of the names we use to describe things aren’t necessarily accurate. French fries aren’t from France, hamburgers don’t contain ham, and “age spots” – the flat, tan, or brown skin patches which often develop on the face, hands, shoulders, and arms – aren’t just caused by aging. In fact, if the term “sun spots” wasn’t already being used to describe disruptions on the sun’s surface, it would be a more appropriate name for these disruptions on the skin’s surface.
While age spots do become more numerous and visible as we get older, prolonged exposure over years and decades to the sun’s harmful rays is the primary cause of age spots. As such, it should come as no surprise that the vigilant use of broad-spectrum sunscreen and other protective measures can go a long way to preventing or minimizing the appearance of these unattractive yet harmless skin imperfections.
How the Sun Causes Age Spots
Overactive skin pigment cells – melanin – are the underlying culprits in the development of age spots. Ultraviolet (UV) light, emitted by the sun as well as commercial tanning beds and lamps, accelerate the body’s production of melanin. Age spots develop on areas of sun-beaten skin when melanin becomes clumped, or produced in extremely high concentrations.
Age Spots v. Melanoma
People of all ages and skin types can develop age spots, but they are more common in people over 50 and people who have fairer skin. Age Spots:
- Appear as flat, oval areas of increased pigmentation;
- Usually look tan, brown or black;
- Develop on areas of skin that have seen the most sun over the years, including the face, shoulders, backs of hands, tops of feet, and upper back.
While age spots are medically harmless, melanoma is definitely not. Often, when people see a skin imperfection that looks like an age spot, they may have a hard time distinguishing between the two.
If you see dark spots on your skin, take the time to check for melanoma at home. If you are uncertain whether the discoloration is cancerous or not, err on the side of caution and schedule a skin cancer evaluation with an experienced dermatologist as soon as possible, as early detection and treatment can significantly increase the likelihood of beating skin cancer.
How Sunscreen Prevents Age Spots
The right sunscreen – applied correctly and reapplied frequently – is the key to sun safety generally and the prevention of age spots in particular. But it needs to be the right kind of sunscreen if you want to keep age spots at bay.
Unfortunately, many sunscreens only feature a Sun Protection Factor (SPF). SPF does a fine job of blocking the UV-B rays which cause sunburns, but it does not block the UV-A rays that can damage the skin below its outermost surface and cause age spots.
For complete, broad-spectrum ultraviolet protection, we recommend Blue Lizard Sunscreen products. Developed in Australia and made to meet that country’s exacting standards, these sunscreens offer proven and robust protection against all of the sun’s harmful and damaging rays.
Treating Age Spots
Dr. Mariano Busso offers several products and treatments which can safely and effectively reduce the visibility of age spots and return your skin to its even, natural tone.
One such treatment is Obagi® Nu Derm, an anti-aging therapy that penetrates below the skin’s surface to transform skin cell functions at the cellular level and correct the damage within, revealing healthy, younger-looking skin. Dr. Busso recommends the Obagi® Nu Derm System for men and women who want to treat age spots, fine lines, rough skin, skin laxity, redness, sallowness, and other instances of hyperpigmentation (discoloration).
We Can Help You Get Rid of Age Spots – Call Today For Your Appointment
If you are ready to do something about age spots or are concerned that those spots on your skin may be an indication of skin cancer, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Busso online, or call our Miami-Coconut Grove office directly at 305-857-0144 for a professional skin cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment plan.