How do dark spots form on your skin? Can you fade dark spots?
When you think of the most common signs of aging, you probably think of wrinkles and loss of firmness. But age spots are actually one of the most common signs of aging on your skin, and they can appear as early as your 40s—or much earlier if you’ve had a great deal of exposure to the sun. You may also hear age spots referred to as liver spots, or by the medical terms sun spots, lentigines or solar lentigo. In fact, recently many skin care companies have just been referring to any darkened area on your skin as a dark spot, including both age spots and post-acne marks. Whichever name you use, the cause, prevention and end result are the same.
What Do Age Spots Look Like?
Age spots are typically brown spots that develop on the surface of the skin. However, they may also appear black or a very dark shade of brown. It’s important not to confuse age spots with moles. A mole causes a raised bump on the skin. Age spots are flat and do not impact the skin’s texture. Age spots are not significantly different in form from freckles, although freckles are primarily genetic and appear at a much younger age than age spots. Because age spots form over time, primarily due to sun exposure, they are often more concentrated in specific areas and can affect people who have never had a freckle before in their life.
Where Do Age Spots Appear?
Because age spots are primarily the result of exposure to UV rays, they most commonly appear on areas of the skin that receive heightened exposure to the sun. That includes the face, the shoulders, the forearms and the back of the hands. Of course, any areas of your skin that are exposed to UV rays regularly, with or without sun protection, may be prone to the development of sun spots and age spots.
What Causes Age Spots?
While age spots are often referred to as “liver spots,” they’re in no way related to or caused by the liver or its functions. In fact, though the most common name for the hyper-pigmented areas that form brown spots is “age spots,” “sun spots” is a more appropriate name. That’s because age spots are caused by prolonged exposure to the sun and UV rays over an extended period of time.
Melanin pigment is a naturally occurring pigment in the skin that absorbs sunlight and is the body’s natural protection from UV rays. However, as with most processes in the body, aging decreases the skin’s natural ability to combat the damage from UV rays. When that happens, age spots and sun spots will begin to form.
Before we explain the technical part of how it works, you may want to freshen up your knowledge on the three layers of your skin.
Here’s how it works from a biological and technical standpoint. The surface layer of the skin, or the epidermis, contains melanocytes, which produce the melanin pigment that combats UV damage to the skin. But over time, the sun damages those melanocytes. Though most of the epidermis is comprised of a dead skin cell layer, or keratin, to protect against the environment, about one-tenth to one-twentieth of it is made up of melanocytes. The melanin produced by those cells transfers the brown pigment that protects against sun damage to your skin cells. The darker your skin is, the better its natural capacity to protect itself against the UV rays from the sun. When people with a lower melanin count in their skin are exposed to UV rays, abnormal melanin pigment production can occur and result in the formation of age spots or sun spots. The more time you spend in the sun and the more you allow the sun to damage your skin, the more likely you are to experience extreme age and dark spots. Another factor that can increase your risk is if you have a genetic predisposition to sun spots and age spots. However, since it’s impossible to avoid the sun entirely, almost everybody will experience some age spots as a function of aging.
On the Murad Skin Deep Blog: Three Ways the Sun Ages Your Skin
Are Age Spots Dangerous?
Age spots themselves are not dangerous. Of course, any time you notice any significant or questionable change in your skin, you should visit a dermatologist or other medical professional. If you’re unsure if you have an age spot that’s simply a normal sign of aging or a lesion or other skin condition that’s changing in shape and color, make an appointment with a medical skin care expert or specialist.
Can You Prevent Age Spots and Sun Spots?
While it’s hard to avoid age spots and sun spots entirely, there are several preventive steps you can take to help reduce your risk. You can’t change your skin’s inability to combat the effects of the sun, but you can minimize the degree to which you allow the sun to damage your skin.
Sun Screen, Sun Block and Sun Protection
The most obvious way to prevent age spots and sun spots is to wear sun block or some other sun protection product whenever you’re exposed to UV rays. For example, if you frequently participate in sports or other outdoor activities, use a full body sun block or sun screen to prevent age spots. When shopping for makeup or skin care products, look for ones that have a high SPF. Even if you don’t think you spend much time in the sun, the cumulative impact of your daily exposure adds up just in the course of commuting to and from work and going about your other activities. Wearing products with sun screen, like Murad’s daytime moisturizers, will help keep your skin protected.
On the Murad Skin Deep Blog: Understanding Sun Protection Terms like SPF and PA
How to Prevent Sun Damage and Dark Spots While Driving
Believe it or not, a significant amount of sun damage happens when you’re in the car. While a typical car window protects you from 100% of the sun’s UVB rays (the ones that cause sunburns), they don’t provide protection from UVA rays (the ones responsible for sun damage and aging skin). Having a UVA protective film installed on your car windows (either tinted or clear) can help prevent skin damage and age spots.
Prevent and Minimize Age Spots With Antioxidants
When your skin is exposed to UV rays, free radicals enter your system and cause the signs of aging on your skin. Antioxidants, which are found in many fruits and vegetables, are nature’s warriors against free radicals. You can increase your antioxidant intake in several ways. First, implement a skin care diet that includes antioxidant-rich foods and beverages, like fruits, vegetables and green tea. Second, take a skin and vitamin supplement that contains antioxidants. While it’s always preferable to eat a healthy diet and obtain your required nutrients through natural food, an antioxidant supplement can be a great boost.
Finally, you can get topical antioxidant boosts by using skin care products that include antioxidants. Murad’s Environmental Shield® skin care products contain antioxidant-rich Vitamin C to help prevent aging and skin damage from environmental factors like sun exposure. They also restore and rejuvenate skin that’s already damaged. There’s even a product designed specifically to fade age spots on your skin.
On the Murad Skin Deep Blog: Three Antioxidant Skin Care Lines from Murad
Age Spots and You
Age spots are a common skin care concern, but they’re both preventable and treatable. Be responsible about sun exposure; sun protection; and getting an abundance of antioxidants through your diet, supplements and skin care products. If you do develop age spots or dark spots, see a dermatologist if you’re concerned about their formation or size. However, you can fade most age spots on your own with the right treatment.
Ready to learn more? Next we’ll talk about treatments to fade age spots.
Product Resources for Age Spots
If you’re looking for a treatment to fade age and sun spots and restore skin that’s had UV and environmental damage, try the following Murad skin care and anti aging products.
Murad Environmental Shield® Introductory Kit
Environmental Shield® skin care products contain antioxidant-rich Vitamin C to help repair and restore skin that’s been damaged by UV rays and other environmental factors.
What Did You Just Learn About Age Spots?
In this section of the Murad Anti Aging Skin Care and Resource Center, you should have learned the
- Age spots may be referred to as age spots, liver spots, sun spots, lentigines or solar lentigo.
- Age spots and sun spots are brown, black or dark brown spots that form on the skin but don’t change its texture.
- Age spots and sun spots are most common on the face, shoulders, arms and hands. However, any part of the body that is regularly exposed to UV rays may develop age spots.
- Age spots form as the body’s ability to combat UV rays with melanin pigment deteriorates over time.
- While age spots are in no way dangerous, you should see a dermatologist any time you notice a significant change in your skin.
- You can prevent age spots by minimizing sun exposure, wearing sun screen or sun block, protecting yourself while driving, and maintaining a high intake of antioxidants both topically and through diet and supplements.