Skin Journal
From lasers to creams and peels: The most effective age spot treatments
Author:
Gemma Kaczerepa
Reviewed by:

As we get older, whether we like it or not, all kinds of things start happening to our skin. We get fine lines and wrinkles, we lose elasticity and firmness, and many of us also develop age spots. 

You might be noticing age spots cropping up on your face, hands or elsewhere on your body and wondering what they are, how on Earth they got there and what you can do to remove them. Let’s find out everything you need to know about how to get rid of age spots.

What are age spots?

Age spots are darkened areas of the skin that can range from tan-coloured to darkish brown [1]. While they vary in size and shape, they’re generally quite small and flat. You usually won’t see spots bigger than 1.5cm across.

Age spots are also known as liver spots or sun spots. The former is a bit of a misnomer (liver spots have absolutely zilch to do with the liver) but the latter offers a clue as to how these spots form: they come about as a result of sun exposure. You might also hear them referred to as solar lentigines or solar lentigo.

While they may look a little like some forms of skin cancer, age spots are harmless. In saying that, because they’re directly caused by exposure to the sun, they can be an indication that there hasn’t been enough protection given to particular areas of the skin. 

This is why some young people might see age spots surfacing on parts of their bodies. Typically, though, they don’t appear until after the age of 40. They’re also more common in people with lighter skin.

What causes age spots?

Given they’re also called sun spots, you can probably guess what causes age spots: yep, the sun. 

Your skin produces a substance called melanin, which is responsible for giving your skin (and your hair and eyes) its pigment. Those with a lighter skin tone produce less melanin, while those with darker skin produce more.

The sun can actually speed up your body’s melanin production [2]. It’s believed that your body starts making more melanin in an effort to protect itself from the sun’s UV rays, which is also why we burn or tan in the sun.

Age spots occur when melanin is produced in high amounts or clusters together. That’s the reason they often appear on parts of the skin that are most exposed to the sun: the face, hands, forearms, shoulders and upper back [3].

Other sources of this kind of UV radiation — like tanning beds and lamps, and even some laser therapy treatments — can also trigger increased melanin production.

Can age spots be removed permanently?

While there’s definitely no need to remove age spots — they are totally harmless, after all — you might be curious about whether they’ll go away naturally and, if not, how to get rid of them. 

We've got good news and bad news. The bad news is that these spots don’t fade over time. But the good news is that they’re very much treatable. 

Some remedies are effective at reducing their appearance, while other, more aggressive, medical solutions can actually help remove them. Medical treatments do carry a few risks and side effects, but your derm or doctor can run you through these so you’re fully aware of them. 

How to get rid of age spots

Without further ado, let’s get to the real reason you’re here: how to treat age spots. Whether you’d prefer a gentler, at-home solution or something more potent, there are several treatments to choose from that can help make your spots much less visible — or eradicate them entirely.

OTC solutions

There are plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) products designed to lighten and brighten the skin and help combat hyperpigmentation, including age spots.

They’re usually sold as serums, moisturisers, spot treatments, creams and lotions, which allow the active ingredients to properly penetrate the skin. 

There are a few different ingredients you’ll want to look out for in an OTC age spot solution. They might work to reduce the appearance of spots or even inhibit the production of melanin, which we know contributes to the formation of age spots [4]. These ingredients include:

If you’re looking for OTC products that help beat age spots and the other signs of ageing like wrinkles, fine lines and overall loss of elasticity, look no further; we’ve got a couple of anti-ageing powerhouses right here. 

Our Vitamin C + Ferulic Serum combines the age spot-busting powers of vitamin C with ferulic acid, another fantastic ingredient that supports vitamin C and improves skin dullness.

Our Retinol Complex Oil is another great solution for dealing with age spots while offering an excellent hydration boost.

Prescription creams

If you want something a little stronger, a prescription treatment that targets age spots might help. 

There are several different prescription-only ingredients available that can help fade these spots, including prescription retinoids [5].

Software’s prescription pigmentation treatment blends effective ingredients in a personalised formula that fades and prevents hyperpigmentation, such as age spots. For a more all-in-one anti-ageing solution, our prescription anti-ageing treatment helps deal with a number of age-related concerns like dark spots, wrinkles and fine lines, loss of elasticity and firmness, and dryness.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels remove the top layer of skin, revealing new skin underneath [6]. If you opt for a chemical peel, it’ll need to be performed at the dermatologist’s office.

Also note that it can have some side effects, like temporary darkening of the age spots, redness and swelling — although these tend to fade after a few days.

Laser treatments

Laser treatments use narrow light beams to blast away your spots [7]. Generally, one or two laser treatment sessions are required (making it one of the quicker options for age spot removal) and the procedure can have side effects like skin crusting and darkening.

Once again though, these side effects usually go away pretty quickly.

Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion effectively buffs away the top layer of skin so that newer skin can surface.[8] It’s a little gentler than many other dermatological treatments but may still result in a bit of redness, swelling and skin flakiness.

However, these side effects go away quite quickly — sometimes in just a few hours.

Microneedling

As you can probably tell by its name, microneedling (or skin needling, as it's also known) utilises tiny needles that prick your skin. Your skin then responds by going into wound-healing mode and producing more collagen and elastin.

Both of these proteins are responsible for making your skin look firm and plump, so a greater amount of them can help reduce the appearance of age spots.

Cryotherapy (freezing)

Cryotherapy freezes spots using incredibly cold solutions, such as liquid nitrogen [9]. The goal of cryotherapy is to kill the pigment responsible for age spots, resulting in lighter skin.

Your skin may be irritated afterwards and experience some blistering and swelling. And while rare, there’s a risk of more permanent side effects like skin darkening, skin lightening around the age spot site or scarring.

Prevention

Even though you can remove age spots, you’ll need to keep working to prevent them from coming back. This is where UV protection becomes absolutely essential [10]. Measures you can take include:

  • Using broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s at least SPF30 (preferably SPF50)
  • Reapplying sunscreen every two hours, and after going in the water or working out
  • Wearing other kinds of sun protection when outdoors, like a hat, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing
  • Avoiding the sun when UV radiation is strongest (between 10am and 2pm).

What is the fastest way to get rid of age spots?

We’re obviously big fans of age spot treatments that you can use at home (after all, what’s better than working on your skin while you’re perched on the couch?) but generally speaking, dermatological solutions tend to work faster.

This is because many of them remove the top layer of skin, which gets rid of any discolouration. Laser therapy, cryotherapy, microdermabrasion, microneedling and chemical peels all fall into this category. 

That being said, you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of removing age spots at home versus doing it at the dermatologist’s office. Dermatological treatments tend to be more expensive, they can require a few sessions and there are sometimes risks involved. 

At-home treatments like OTC serums and prescription creams, on the other hand, usually don’t bear many side effects — although they can take longer to work and are often more effective on lighter spots, so you’ll need to start applying them early. You may notice mild irritation when you first begin using some ingredients, but this disappears relatively quickly.

If you’re stuck deciding between your options, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or complete our text-based consultation and a local Software doctor will be able to make a recommendation based on your situation and skin type.

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