Making age spots less noticeable

Did you recently noticed the appearance of brown spots on your skin, especially on your face, chest, shoulders or hands? These are probably benign blemishes, called age spots or liver spots, caused by exposure to the sun.

Age spots are very common in people 50 years and older, but they can appear at any age, especially if you've spent a lot of time in the sun. Age spots are benign, but they can be unsightly. You can cover them with makeup, or attempt to make them fade or disappear with medication or a medical procedure.

Topical medications

Prescription bleaching creams usually contain hydroquinone. They are sometimes used in combination with retinoids or corticosteroids. They usually need to be applied for several months before seeing an improvement. These products make the skin very sensitive to the sun. It is therefore imperative to protect the skin by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Your pharmacist will explain how to apply your medication properly.

There are also over-the-counter products that contain hydroquinone, but at a lower concentration than prescription products. Even if they are less powerful, it is still necessary to protect the skin from the sun during the treatment. Their effectiveness is limited.

Before using an over-the-counter product, consult your pharmacist or doctor to make sure that your spots are indeed age spots and not a skin problem that requires medical attention.

Medical procedures

Laser and Intense Pulse Light (IPL) therapy specifically target the cells that produce melanin, the substance responsible for the spot's brown colour. It is very important to protect the skin from the sun after each session. As these techniques require good expertise and may be contraindicated in some cases, it is best to seek the help of a dermatologist or a specialized physician.

Age spots can also be treated with cryotherapy, that is, they are "burned" with liquid nitrogen, as is the case with warts. This approach is an option when there are only a small number of spots to be treated. It is not recommended for people with a dark complexion, because the spot can sometimes become paler than the skin.

Dermabrasion, microdermabrasion and peelings are other techniques that can be considered.

Your doctor will recommend the best procedure for your skin type, number of spots to be treated and their location on the body.

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