Age Spots Treatment Overview

Age spots, also known as brown spots, liver spots, dark spots, or sun spots, are patches of hyperpigmented skin that can show up on your face, neck, chest, and hands, areas that tend to get the most sun.

Age spot causes

Generally, age spots are caused by sun exposure, which increases melanin production and encourages the formation of uneven pigmentation on exposed skin.

Increased deposition of melanin can be stimulated by UV light from the sun, or from tanning salons. If you're a sun worshipper, or don't protect your skin from the sun, age spots are likely in your future.

Age spot removal

Because age spots are superficial pigmentation blemishes on the skin, the best way to treat them is by removing the upper layers of the skin.  This can be accomplished with several procedures, including:

  • Laser peels: Resurfacing skin with a laser helps remove age spots on the upper layers. This may include treatment with a Fraxel laser, ruby, Nd:yag, or alexandrite lasers.
  • IPL or photofacial: Light-based treatments, like intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy, also known as a photofacial, are designed to target and reduce red and brown pigments.
  • Chemical peels: Like laser peels, chemical peels can also remove the skin's upper layers to fade age spots. This may include treatment with a TCA peel.

Age spot cream

  • Retin-A: This topical retinoid, derived from vitamin A, exfoliates and disperses melanin granules to diminish brown spots.
  • Hydroquinone: Skin lightening agent found in products known to fade age spots, including Tri-Luma and some OTC serums, including Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum.
  • Kojic acid: An ingredient found in many skin lightening products, this is derived from several kinds of fungi and organic substances, like soy and mushrooms.
  • Vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid, the most active form of vitamin C, is known for its ability to diminish brown spots. Various products and strength levels are available at beauty and drugstores.

Preventing age spots

Since UV light stimulates pigment cells to produce increased melanin in patches, it's wise to prevent excessive sun exposure: 

  • Use a gentle sunscreen that blocks UVA/UVB rays, and is compatible with your skin type and lifestyle, even during cloudy or winter months.
  • Wear protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and avoid the sun during its most powerful hours (usually 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
  • Avoid direct sun exposure and tanning salons.
  • Treat existing spots with exfoliation, retinoids, and skin lighteners.
  • Visit a dermatologist or doctor to recommend a treatment to fit your specific needs.

*Treatment results may vary

Dr. Angela Keen, a Salt Lake City plastic surgeon, demonstrates a fractional CO2 laser treatment, which is popular to repair sun damage.

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