18 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Age Spots (ANSWERED!)

Ever wondered what are those brown spots that you see on your face?

Have you noticed new patches of pigmentation on the face and not sure what they are?

Do you think you have age spots but are not sure and want to know more?

If you have seen any new spots or patches of pigmentation on your face in recent times, it is natural for hundreds of questions to go through your head. If you ever wondered at how do you get age spots, at what age you could get age spots, how these are different from symptoms of skin cancer, why you get these age spots, how you can avoid getting them and other queries too, we are here to answer them all.

So read on to find the answers to 18 of the most frequently asked questions about age spots.

1. What are age spots?

  • Despite what the name ‘age spots’ suggests, these spots are not actually caused due to ageing. If you ever wondered where can you get age spots, the answer is that age spots are types of spots that appear on those parts of the skin that are easily visible to the eye.
  • These are most often seen on the areas that are mostly exposed to sun light, as opposed to areas on your skin that are covered most of the time.
  • Age spots are most likely to be visible on the back of your hands, on your face, on your shoulders, around the neck area, on your forearms and on your upper back.
  • Over the years, as you age, your skin is exposed to the harmful rays of the sun for a longer period of time, and age spots are one of the consequences you notice on your skin.
  • Age spots can be of different colours and are often more commonly known as sun spots. They are also technically known as solar lentigines. Age spots can appear on any type of skin, but it is more easily visible on those who have fairer skin type.

2. What do age spots look like?

what are age spots

Seeing new spots appearing on your skin can be really scary and inconvenient, especially in those cases when it appears on your face. While age spots can also show up earlier, they are most commonly seen once you cross your 40s and 50s. Around this time, you may start noticing more and more spots appearing on different parts of your body, including your face.

  • Age spots can vary in size and not all spots on your skin will be of the same size.
  • Age spots are mostly flat spots that appear on your skin.
  • List ElemThese spots can also vary in colour, and are most commonly either brown or grayish. In some cases, age spots can also be tan or even black in colourent
  • Age spots often look like small and dark areas on your skin.
  • When you see the age spots, the skin where they appear will look like a flat or oval patch of discoloured skin.
  • Age spots are usually very well defined and when you have them, you will not be able to miss noticing them.
  • In case of age spots, you will notice a number of these spots appearing together on the part of the skin that is affected.
  • Age spots will not fade away as you age and the spots that you have on your body will mostly be the same in shape or colour. It might, however, be different from the size or shape of age spots on someone else’s body.

However, it is very important to remember that if you notice any changes in your age spots, such as if they change in shape, if you notice a change in colour or even if you see a change in how they feel when you touch them, you should bring this to the notice of your doctor immediately.

3. What causes age spots on skin?

A very common question often is – “Why do we get age spots?”

why do we get age spots
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    Even though these spots that you notice on different parts of your skin are known as age spots, they are not always just a factor of ageing. There are various other factors even other than your age that could be a cause of age spots. While age is definitely one of the factors, other causes include your skin’s original pigmentation and changes in the same, exposure to damaging rays of the sun as well as any other source of ultra violet radiation, such as excessive use of tanning equipment, genetics and so on.
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    Why do age spots appear? Your skin produces a pigment known as melanin, which is also known as the skin pigment. When your body starts to produce an excess of this pigment, it results in patches of pigmentation on the skin, which can also look as age spots. The cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for your skin’s original colour, are known as melanocytes. But when you are constantly exposed to the ultra violet rays of the sun, or through tanning machines, these cells produce more melanin than required, and hence your skin breaks out in uneven and dark patches.
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    What causes old age spots can also be answered by a look at your genetics. If you have a family history where your parents, siblings or immediate aunts or uncles have a lot of age spots on their skin, you too are most likely to get them sooner or later. Also, if you have fairer skin, you will be more prone to sun damage and hence more visible age spots. This is because when you have fair skin, your body tries to produce more melanin to try and keep you protected against ultra violet rays.

4. What causes brown age spots?

Regular exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays causes your skin to produce more melanin, which leads to some parts of your skin becoming more pigmented than the rest. As a result, you may notice the appearance of brown age spots.

5. At what age do you get age spots?

causes of age spots

Even though these spots are termed as age spots, it does not mean that they will only appear when you are older or have ‘aged.’

  • Age spots can appear as early as in your twenties. This could be due to your genetics, and also if you have been excessively exposed to sun light or have regularly been using a lot of tanning equipment. Over exposure to ultra violet rays from the sun or any other source can reduce your skin’s ability to be able to repair itself, and hence the age spots appear early in these cases.
  • In some cases, age spots can also appear earlier than in your twenties, and even as early as in your teens. While you may notice them anywhere on your body, it will be mostly visible on the areas that are more exposed, such as on the face, on your arms, back of the hand, neck, upper back, shoulder and so on. While over exposure is the main reason for age spots to appear on the skin, in teens, this could also be due to fluctuating and very high stress levels as well as experiencing a host of emotions. Stressing a lot can lead to a permanent deterioration of the genes that are present inside your cells, which further leads to the appearance of age spots.

6. Can age spots be raised?

how do you get age spots

If you have ever wondered can age spots be raised, the answer is yes. Instead of having flat and oval shaped age spots, you can also have raised age spots. Here are a few types of age spots that are raised:

  • Seborrheic keratoses: The medical term for these types of raised age spots is seborrheic keratoses and these are mainly black or brown in colour. In most cases, these raised age spots will look like a wart type of growth on your skin that looks as if it has been stuck separately on your skin. These raised age spots are harmless and do not require any medical intervention, unless they are causing you any pain or discomfort.
  • Actinic keratoses: These are the type of wart like raised age spots on your skin that are thicker and rougher than the age spots that are categorized as seborrheic keratoses. Actinic keratoses can be reddish in colour and these should be tested by your skin specialist, as these may be a sign of skin cancer. If you notice scaly age spots, that too could be a sign of actinic keratoses and you should get it tested immediately by your dermatologist or cancer specialist.
  • Cherry angiomas: The raised age spots that are categorized as cherry angiomas are mostly bright red in colour are usually small in size compared to other raised age spots that may be bigger and thicker. These are often caused when your blood vessels get dilated. Most cases of age spots that can be seen on skin that is aging and mature is actually a type of cherry angiomas. These types of raised age spots will usually appear on the torso and are otherwise harmless.
  • Telangiectasia: These are the type of raised age spots that are caused when the blood vessels on your face become dilated.
  • Skin tags: Raised age spots that look like small parts of the skin projecting outwards are known as skin tags. These could be irregular or even smooth in appearance and texture and can either be almost the same colour as your skin or more highly pigmented. In most cases, the skin tags are raised above the area of skin on which they appear. Sometimes, they could even have a type of stalk attached which may seem to hang from the skin. These types of raised age spots are benign.

7. Do age spots grow?

When you notice age spots on your skin, they almost always remain the same size as when they first appeared. If you do notice them changing in size and growing, it is important to get it checked by your doctor to rule out any health complications. This will mainly help to rule out any presence of pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions.

It is possible that you may feel your age spots are growing in size, and there can be a few explanations for this, as follows:

how big can age spots grow
  • In most of the cases, the age spots that you notice on your skin will develop very gradually and very slowly grow in size.
  • It is also possible that you have a lot of age spots around the same area, which can eventually grow a little, and then blend into a larger patch of discoloured skin which looks like a large age spot.
  • If you notice your age spots growing fast in size, especially if it is growing faster than the other age spots that you have, make sure to get it checked with your skin specialist to rule out any possible risk of cancer.

8. Can we get age spots on other parts of the body other than the face and hands?

Yes, age spots do not only appear on your face or hands, but can appear on any part of the body that is exposed to the harmful rays of the sun. The most common parts of the body where you may notice the appearance of age spots are the face, the back of the hands, upper arms, neck, shoulders, upper back, legs (if you regularly wear shorts) and so on.

9. Is it harder to remove age spots on certain parts of the body?

where can you get age spots

Age spots are mostly visible on parts of the skin that are exposed to the sun. However, while you may be able to remove some of the age spots, it can be a little more difficult to remove the ones that are present on the skin which is more exposed to the sun than those parts of the body that are mainly covered.

The reason behind this is that, when you start treatment for your age spots, you should ideally keep those areas away from the sun. Otherwise, even though you may be using some or the other form of treatment, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can continue damaging your skin.

10. What is the difference between age spots and skin cancer?

Regular exposure to the sun’s damaging rays can result in spots on your skin known as age spots, also knowns as liver spots (even though these are not a result of any problems with your liver). However, a lot of people are worried that this sudden appearance of discoloured spots on the skin could also be a sign of skin cancer.

Even though they may look very similar and may make you worried, here are a few ways in which you can spot the difference between age spots and signs of skin cancer:

To know whether or not the spots on your skin 
are signs of skin cancer, take the ABC test:

  • Asymmetry: Check your spots to see if they look different on one side than they look on the other. Asymmetry would mean if they are bigger on one side as compared to the other.
  • Border: Check the border around each of your spots and see if you notice any changes, such as any irregularity in shape or colour or texture on some parts of the border as compared to the rest.
  • Colour: If you have age spots, they will be of the same colour overall. For instance, if you have a spot which is brown in colour, if it is an age spot, it will be brown overall and not have other colours in between. In case the spot is a sign of skin cancer, it may have more than one colour in it.
  • Size: Age spots that are actually signs of skin cancer or are melanoma spots will usually be larger in diameter as compared to that of a pencil eraser. However, this is not a fool-proof method to completely check whether or not this is a case of melanoma. If you notice any of the other signs above, even if the spot is smaller in size, you should immediately get it tested by a skin specialist or by a cancer specialist.

Age spots do not tend to change in size, shape, texture, colour or overall appearance but will remain the same throughout, as the time they first appeared. In case of a cancerous or melanoma spot, you might notice certain changes in your spots or moles, such as changes in colour, shape, texture and so on. Some of these could also be crusty age spots, or you may notice bleeding or they may itch a lot. If you notice anything like this, make sure to get it tested immediately, to rule out any cancerous concerns or to get the required medical attention as needed.

11. How are age spots different from liver spots?

Age and liver spots are actually two different names given to the same spots that you may see on your skin. Even though they are known as age spots or liver spots, they really do not have anything to do with ageing, or with that particular organ of your body after which it is nicknamed.

If you are wondering whether or not age spots and liver spots are different, the answer is no, there is no difference between age spots or liver spots.

  • The main reason why age spots also came to be known as liver spots is because of the colour they have. Most age spots are black, brown, red or grey in colour, and earlier it was assumed that these are a result of some health issues in your liver.
  • However, medical studies have confirmed that age spots don’t have anything to do with the liver, but the name liver spots still continues to be used for age spots, and they are the one and the same thing.

12. What are the different treatments for age spots?

Age spots are not dangerous and will not lead to any health issues, because of which you don’t really need any medical treatment for them. However, the main reason why you may want to get these treated and removed is because they do not always look good on the skin.

If you are looking for treatment of age spots, here are a few different types of procedures that you can try to reduce or remove the appearance of age spots from your skin.

a. Prescription medications: 

why do age spots appear
  • You can get your skin and the age spots checked by your doctor, and after examining the same, they will prescribe you some bleaching creams that will help to slowly reduce the age spots.
  • Most of these bleaching creams may contain hydroquinone, which may or may not contain retinoids such as tretinoin. It can take several months for the bleaching creams to work on the age spots and make them go away completely, so make sure that you are patient and follow the procedure for as long as required.
  • While you are on treatment to remove the age spots, your skin will be more prone to damage from the sun’s rays. Bleaching creams and creams that contain tretinoin can increase your skin’s sensitivity to ultra violet rays, which can increase your risk of sun damage. As a result, it is very important that you wear the right type of sunscreen throughout your treatment. Your doctor will be able to guide you about which sunscreen will suit your skin the best.

b. Medical treatment options:

If you want some steps that can help in treating age spots, there are various types of medical procedures available that can help to reduce and remove your age spots. Do remember that it is very important that you always wear the right type of sunscreen while you try out any of the following medical procedures, because your skin will become extra sensitive to the damaging ultra violet rays of the sun.

problems of age spots
  • Before you start any particular type of medical treatment options for your age spots, do keep in mind that any medical procedure will also have its share of complications or some side effect. So, before you begin, speak to your doctor or surgeon and let them examine your skin properly, so that you know which type of treatment will suit your skin the best.
  • Some of the most common medical treatment options for reducing age spots are as follows:
  • Laser treatments that can help to destroy those cells that produce melanin in your skin.
  • Chemical peels that are used to burn away the outer layer of your skin so that new and undamaged skin can grow in place of the old one.
  • Dermabrasion is a procedure in which the outer layer of your skin is removed using a sanding off procedure.
  • Cryosurgery is a procedure in which your age spots are frozen with the help of liquid nitrogen.

c. Treatment options at home:

When you are looking at how to treat age spots, a lot of treatment options are available that you can easily try out at home that will help to reduce and gradually remove your age spots.

  • The over the counter creams that are available for removing your age spots at home are usually not as effective or strong as the prescription creams that your doctor will recommend.
  • As a result, these may not always show you the same results, or even the best results, and may take longer to give visible results as compared to prescription creams for removing age spots.
  • When you are buying a cream that you can use without a prescription, check for ingredients such as kojic acid, glycolic acid, hydroquionone, deoxyarbutin or alpha hydroxy acid.

It is also best to speak to your doctor to understand what works best for age spots.

13. Is it safe to bleach age spots?

what age do age spots

Age spots appear due to regular exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and protecting your skin against the same will help to reduce the appearance of these in the future. However, if you already have age spots, just using sunscreen may not help to reduce or lighten them.

There are a lot of bleaching creams that are available in the market to help lighten your age spots. But is it safe to use these?

  • You can easily find out a lot of different bleaching kits at your local drugstore that promise to lighten up your age spots. Most of these do not require a prescription and are available as an over the counter kit.
  • These bleaching kits have hydroquinone as the main ingredient as it is a known and effective bleaching agent that helps to lighten your skin tone and hence helps to lighten the spots as well.
  • Hydroquinone helps to reduce the amount of melanin that is produced in your skin and as a result it also reduces the appearance of further age spots.
  • You can get these bleaching kits in the form of gels, creams or even lotions and use the one that most suits your preference. A gel or a lotion based bleaching kit will get absorbed more readily into your skin as compared to the one that comes in a cream form.
  • However, if you suffer from dry skin, you may want to go for the cream based bleaching kit, as it will help to keep your skin moisturized.

Over the counter bleaching kits are generally considered safe to use on your age spots so that you can reduce their appearance. However, here are a few things you should keep in mind before you use the same:

  • Some bleaching kits may result in rashes or blisters on your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin. Hence, it is always better to first do a patch test before you apply it all over your spots.
  • In very rare cases, you could also suffer from a bluish discolouration on your skin that is known as ochronosis.
  • Remember that the higher concentration of hydroquinone that you have in the bleaching kit, the more chances you have of suffering from the side effects. In most cases, the bleaching kits that you find in the market without a prescription will have a hydroquinone concentration between0.5 and 2 percent.

14. Is it safe to use concealer to cover age spots?

A lot of people who have age spots especially on the face look for makeup products that can help in covering age spots.

Using makeup or a concealer will not help to remove or reduce your age spots, but it will only cover or hide them temporarily. If you are interested in using makeup to cover age spots, you can speak to your dermatologist to understand which brands will be the best for you without causing any harm to your skin.

15. Other than applying sunscreen, how else can I avoid getting age spots?

Of course the first step in avoiding getting age spots is to wear a sun protection cream every day, so that your skin is protected from the harmful ultra violet rays of the sun. Regular exposure to the sun’s rays is the most common cause of age spots. When wearing a sunscreen, make sure it has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 or more, and has both UVA and UVB protection.

what causes old age spots

Other than applying sunscreen, here are a few other ways in which you can prevent age spots from appearing on your skin.

  • Always try and avoid the sun when it is at its peak. Instead of going out when the rays of the sun are at their harshest, try going out either before 9 or 10 am and after 3 pm.
  • If you cannot going out in the sun during these peak sunny hours, make sure that you are properly protected from the sun’s rays and that there is no direct exposure to the skin. Try and keep your face covered with a hat, wear clothes will full sleeves and longer pants so that your arms and legs are protected from the sun.
  • You should also wear the right type of sunglasses that will keep your eyes protected against the sun’s rays. The skin around your eyes is thinner and more sensitive than on other parts of the face, so make sure you take good care of it.
  • Whenever you are going outdoors, make sure to apply the sunscreen at least 30 to 40 minutes before you head out in the sun. This will make sure that it gets absorbed in the skin properly and gives you the best results. Also, if you are going to stay outdoors, make sure to reapply the sunscreen every two hours, so that the effect of the sunscreen does not wear off and you are still protected.

16. What is the best skincare regimen for preventing age spots? 

If you are looking for the best skincare for age spots, you should try the following:

  • As age spots mainly appear as a result of exposure to sun, you should always wear a sunscreen that contains a broad spectrum SPF. Make this a regular part of your everyday skin care regimen.
  • You should apply sunscreen to those parts of the skin that are exposed to the sun, and also to those areas that may not always be exposed, just to be safe. Make sure you definitely lather on sunscreen on your face, neck, ears, back of the hands, upper arms, arms, legs, shoulders, upper back, stomach and so on. Also apply it to your feet.
  • In addition to applying sunscreen on a daily basis, you should also look for products that contain vitamin C. You could buy exfoliating products that contain salicylic acid as it will help to remove the dead skin cells from your skin and encourage the appearance of newer and healthier skin cells.
  • Skin care products that contain retinol or LHA will also help to keep your age spots under control and prevent new ones from appearing, as they work well on ageing and are effective agents for anti-ageing.
  • Try and look for products that contain vitamin A and E, as well as beta carotene supplements that can help to fight off free radical damage and keep your skin protected and healthy.

17. What vitamins and supplements should I take to prevent age spots?

If you already have age spots, using vitamins and supplements may help to reduce the same, and also prevent new age spots from appearing.

what causes brown age spots
  • Vitamin A: Using a topical application that contains Vitamin A can help to reduce the appearance of your existing age spots. It helps in cell turnover and can also help to break up the pigments of melanin that appear together on your skin to form age spots. It will also help to remove any of the damaged parts of the skin cells that are suffering from dark pigmentation. In return, it encourages newer and healthier skin cells to grow in place of the damaged ones.
  • Vitamin C: While it may not work as well as vitamin A, using vitamin C on the skin can help to reduce the free radical damage that your skin cells have suffered from. Free radicals can speed up the signs of ageing and also result in inflammation and tissue damage, all of which can lead to the appearance of age spots. Application of vitamin C can reduce this damage and delay or reduce the appearance of age spots.
  • Vitamin E: Using vitamin e for age spots especially after your skin is exposed to the damaging rays of the sun can help to fight against free radical damage and also reduce any inflammation in the skin.
  • Beta carotene supplements: Using a beta carotene supplement can reduce the appearance of present age spots and delay or prevent the appearance of new ones. It works by reducing your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and reduces chances of tissue damage.

18. How do I treat age spots that itch?

In most of the cases, age spots do not itch. However, if you are feeling discomfort because of your age spots and are suffering from itchy age spots, it is possible to get relief.

  • If you notice that you frequently experience itching on the skin where age spots are visible, it is possible that there are some other factors that are causing the itching.
  • For instance, you may have used some new skin care product recently, such as a soap, body wash or even a perfume or deodorant, that has caused some reaction on your skin and is now resulting in the itching.
  • Some people may notice an increase in the itching around the age spots, and when it is excessive, it can also lead to bleeding. While it may not always be the case, some age spots that are itchy can also be precancerous skin spots and an early sign of skin cancer. Do not panic but get yourself examined by a dermatologist and a skin care specialist to know more about any medical intervention if required.

19. Can age spots come back?

If you are using a lightening agent to reduce the appearance of your age spots, discontinuing the use of the same can cause the age spots to come back.

will my age spots come back

20. At what age do age spots become a problem?

Even though age spots are usually harmless spots on your skin, they can be more of a problem as you age, especially once you hit your 40s or 50s. Also, these are more common in women than in men and may mostly be found on the face and other very visible parts of the body, which can become more of a cosmetic inconvenience than a health issue.

To be safe, it is best to always get your spots checked by your doctor.

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