How to Make Age Spots Disappear Once or Forever
Dermatology nurse and laser specialist Elizabeth Apostolou, RN, BSN of AVA MD in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills gives us the low down on sunspots, their blotchy splotchy reality and what you can do about it.
Beverly Hills dermatology nurse, laser genius and injectables expert Elizabeth Apostolou is here to clarify some facts about age spots that you should know.
Age spots and sunspots are the same thing: Though sun damage can trigger the formation all kinds of brown spots (solar lentigos and kerotosis,) and worsen others (post acne scars), what we’re talking about when we say ‘sun spot’ or ‘age spot’ is a smooth tan-to-dark brown lesion, usually not textured or raised, sized from a pinhead to large thumb print, whose technical name is ‘lentigo’ and that is caused by unprotected UV exposure from the sun. Oh and ‘liver spot’ is a total misnomer; these have nothing to do with the liver other than the fact that they are liver-colored.
Age spots in and of themselves are not dangerous: Aside from being unattractive, sunspots are benign collections of melanin pigment cells that form both in the epidermis (upper layers of the skin) and dermis (deepest layers of the skin.) However, where there is sun damage, there could possibly be precancerous or cancerous lesions that are dangerous.
Age spots do not spring up overnight: It’s all about a genetic predisposition (generally, the fairer your skin type, the more likely you’ll spot) and sun exposure. On a lentigo that springs up in your late 30s, if you’ve been a sun worshiper since your early teens who has habitually ignored her SPFs, that spot could have actually been hatching for 25 years.
Sunspots form a true map of where you’ve neglected to apply sunscreen over the years: On older folks, that’s why splotchy age spots can be so much more extreme on the hands and the chest, because few people thought to apply sunblock on these areas.
Elizabeth has a great story to illustrate. “When I get someone in my chair for the first time, I can usually guess what part of the world they come from. Why? Because I’m from Australia and faces from home and the UK have many more sunspots (plus wrinkles and a leathery texture) on the right side of their faces. Because we drive on the right side of the road, the sun streams through the car window and onto the face on the right. In contrast, North American and European faces are more spotted and look older on their left sides because here you drive on the left and the car window is on the driver’s left.”
Age spots may be in places you’re not aware of: The hairline, in front of the ears, on top of the ears, on the back of the neck, upper back and shoulders may be veritable dark spot speckle factories but since we can’t see them, it’s easy to forget to protect these areas with SPF.
Sunscreens and over-the-counter cosmeceuticals like retinols, Vitamin C serums and brightening creams may not be able to erase sunspots: Age spots are extremely stubborn especially if they are sitting deep in the dermal layers of the skin. As such, they can even be resistant to strong prescription topicals. To truly get rid of this kind of brown lesion requires big gun dermatology resurfacing modalities such as intense pulsed light (e.g. Elipse), fractional laser (e.g. Fraxel) or Q-Switched laser (e.g. Pico Genesis).
SPF30+ sunscreens and cosmeceutical topicals are still important tools for lightening, preventing and fighting sunspots: While these may be unable to erase an existing spot, what they can do is protect the skin from developing any more and help diminish the earliest traces of new lesions. They’ll also help your skin look a lot better in every other way too.
Mineral Air airbrush foundation can make age spots disappear in seconds and stay covered for 10 full hours. Because age spots have no texture, airbrushing on Mineral Air over them works brilliantly, giving you the look of beautiful, smooth, even skin with no pigment or surface irregularities. The combination of primer, concealer, color and moisturizers give the formula its legendary staying power and longevity. And because you can layer Mineral Air on seamlessly, you can spot correct over the most stubborn pigment irregularities as many times as you like and still achieve visual flawlessness. Just be sure leave 20 seconds of drying time between layers and you’re good to go.
“On an age spot that springs up in your late 30s, if you’ve been a sun worshiper since your early teens who has habitually ignored her SPFs, that spot could actually have been hatching for 25 years.”
Elizabeth Apostolou, RN, BSN
Dermatology laser and injectables specialist