Age spots are flat, oval areas of increased pigmentation – usually brown or black which occur on the skin where it has had the most sun exposure. The usual sites for these spots are the backs of hands, tops of feet, face, shoulders and upper back. They appear in various sizes and are seen in adults over the age of 40 who are fair skinned and burn easily. They are situated in the very top layer of the skin and pose no health risk, but are of cosmetic concern. As these spots are due to an overdose of UV rays it is wise to be on the look out for more sinister lesions.
Age spots are very successfully removed by IPL – Intense Pulsed Light – and often require only one treatment. The IPL treatment selectively destroys the pigment within the spots and there are no adverse effects. The pigmented spots will darken for a few days, have the appearance of “salt and pepper” and will then disappear. There is no down time and the treatment does not disrupt the outer layer of the skin. The continuous use of sunscreens after treatment is highly advised to prevent further lesions.
It is important to note that there is a difference between age spots and freckles. Freckles are caused by clumps of pigment carrying cells in the dermis – deeper layer of skin – and are an inherited characteristic, seen in fair and dark skinned people. Freckles tend to fade in winter and become darker in summer due to sun exposure and generally fade away as the person ages. It is not possible to treat freckles with IPL because of their depth in the skin. One can lighten them with IPL, but there is a big risk of making them darker. The best treatment for freckles is sunscreen, using bleaching agents can sometimes bleach the skin around the freckle and thus make them more prominent.