With a constant exposure to the sun during the summer, the risks of damaging your skin is stronger than ever.
Wondering how to prevent your skin from being damaged? Angie Seelal, RPA-C with Advanced Dermatology PC, offers tips on treating age spots.
Whatever we call them – sunspots, age spots, liver spots, or solar lentigines – nobody wants them.
“Some people may like a summer glow,” notes Angie Seelal, a Certified Registered Physician Assistant specializing in Dermatology with Advanced Dermatology PC, “but nobody likes the dark spots that show up years later and make us look older.”
In terms of the name, ‘sunspots,’ or the medical term ‘solar lentigines,’ actually pinpoint the cause.
“These dark brown patches are the result of long-term sun exposure that has triggered clusters of melanocyte skin cells to produce the protective pigment melanin, explains Seelal. “However, unlike a tan, sunspots don’t fade. ‘Age spots’ also bear some reference because typically sunspots don’t appear until later in life.”
Sunspots can be as large as half an inch but may appear more obtrusive if they border one another.
“Typically, sunspots show up where we’ve had the greatest sun exposure: our face, hands, arms, and shoulders,” Seelal observes. “And their appearance may be the result of years of incidental sun – while driving, for example.”
The good news about sunspots is that they pose no danger.
“They are not a form of skin cancer,” Seelal adds. “However, their appearance can be distressing, especially if they are obvious, on our face or hands, for example.”
Because sunspots occur in our upper layer of skin, there are ways of removing or fading them.
With that in mind, she offers the following suggestions.
1. First, rule out skin cancer
“Sunspots 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,” says Seelal. “Certain wavelengths can penetrate the skin to destroy the melanocytes. Other instruments exfoliate the pigmented spots to trigger regeneration of new, unblemished skin.”
3. Get a fresh start with specialized exfoliation
“In addition to lasers, your skin specialist can provide a range of other exfoliation techniques, such as dermabrasion or microdermabrasion, and chemical peels,” explains Seelal. “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,” she warns. “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. Have fun OUT of the sun
Sunspots are the result of the sun. Therefore, if we want to prevent them, we need to practice ‘safe sun.’ Seelal recommends starting with 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,” she says. “And remember: that incidental sun we get in the car adds up too!”
“Whatever we call them, your dermatologist’s office can help you tell your sunspots: ‘Bye, bye!,'” concludes Seelal.
Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies.