What Are Age Spots Caused By?

(Other than age, I mean)

Doctor Answers 5

Age Spots caused by...

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Brown spots on the skin—typically on the face, chest, shoulders, and back of hands—can be the direct result of unprotected exposure to the sun. They can also be a result of hormonal changes and are a common skin problem that we, consult many of our patients about.The flat spots on the skin—also called age spots, sun spots, solar lentigines, or liver spots (even though they have nothing to do with the liver)—are triggered after prolonged sun exposure. When the sun’s UV rays hit the skin, they damage the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes and causing a spike in production of the skin pigment called melanin. They’re common in patients with fair skin, but they can also appear in those with darker skin.
These spots range in color from brown to tan to dark brown based on how much sun exposure you’ve had—and cause your skin to look blotchy, freckled, and uneven. And they vary in size, again depending on how much sun you’ve been exposed to.
Link to hormones: As hormone levels may change during events such as pregnancy or due to birth control pills, brown, uneven patches can appear on a woman’s face when the skin is exposed to the sun. It seems that sunlight triggers the pigment-producing cells in the skin to go into overdrive. Called the melasma, these dark patches may persist and not improve even with bleaching creams.
We commonly treat these brown spots or patches with chemical peels (which exfoliate the outermost layer of skin, removing the dark spots), light therapy and lasers (the energy blasts away pigment).

New York Dermatologist
4.7 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

Age Spot Treatments

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Age Spots on the skin result from high concentrations or clusters of melanin, which gives skin its color. Melanin is pigment on the epidermis that is also responsible for tans. Ultraviolet (UV) light accelerates melanin production in order to protect deeper layers of the skin from overexposure.

Years of exposure to the sun’s UV light, as well as tanning beds, contribute to age spots. However, aging and genetics also play a role in formation. Older individuals may naturally produce more melanin. They are common on adults over 40 but can affect younger individuals. Age spots are more common on those with fair skin, though they also appear on darker skin. Genetics can also make some individuals to the development of age spots. Age spots are also known as liver spots, sunspots, brown spots or solar lentigines.


Sanusi Umar, MD
Redondo Beach Dermatologic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Age Spots

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Age spots are generally caused by sun exposure. However, genetics, stress, and other environmental factors can contribute.

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

The sun causes age spots

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Cumulative, lifetime sun exposure is the cause of most age spots, although genetics do play a role. These spots (also called sun spots or solar lentigines) are usually found in places of high sun exposure, such as the face, neck, upper chest,  arms, and hands. Even in very elderly people, there are usually none on the upper, inner arms or other sun-protected areas because the spots really have little to do with age, they are cause by the sun.

Colby Evans, MD
Austin Dermatologist

Causes of Age Spots and Melasma

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Melasma and age spots are caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Sun exposure
  • Genetic factors
  • Skin color and type
  • Environmental influence
  • Stress
  • Hormones
  • Chronic inflammation

Age spots can be improved by simple and regimented protocols that I use in my office, including avoidance of direct sunlight and topical application of creams.

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.