Dealing with age spots
THE face, hands, the neck – your skin is exposed to the sun nearly every day. In the long term this can cause flat and light brown to black pigments to appear, also known as age spots.
“In general they are not dangerous,” says dermatologist Christian Raulin. However, they can become cancerous over time.
“Like any other skin imperfections, age spots should be examined by a specialist as part of a routine check-up,” says Raulin, who is also a member of the Professional Association of German Dermatologists.
The top layer of skin can undergo permanent changes that last a lifetime. New cells form in the lower layers, moving up and getting rid of older cells.
This means the skin completely rejuvenates around every four weeks. “However, this process isn’t always 100% perfect, and spots and marks can occur,” explains Raulin.
Harmful sun rays are often the cause for this, as well as a possible genetic predisposition to age spots. “People with lighter skin have a higher chance of developing age spots,” explains pharmacist Ursula Sellerberg from the German Federal Chamber of Pharmacists.
Younger women who take the contraceptive pill can also experi- ence skin discolouration if they receive excessive exposure to the sun.
Age spots are less noticeable than birthmarks or moles. Like freckles, they are benign and doctors say you don’t have to do anything against them – at least once cancer has been ruled out by a specialist.
Age spots can also be covered up for cosmetic reasons. “Camouflage make-up is a good choice as it covers up skin imperfections,” explains Monika Ferdinand from the German association of beauticians.
However, using make-up to cover up age spots is not always practical, especially if they start appearing on the back of the hand, for example.
There are alternative methods as well. “Prescription bleaching creams can help,” says Sellerberg. These creams contain substances such as hydroquinone that lighten the spots. However, bleaching creams can irritate the skin, in which case you should stop using them.
Chemical peels, which allow the skin to regenerate, are an alternative to bleaching creams. Peels should be carried out by experienced professionals, otherwise there could be a risk of scarring.
“The most effective method to remove age spots is laser treatment carried out by a specialised dermatologist,” says Raulin.
Pigments in the skin are destroyed by strong energy pulses. As the laser can not distinguish between different shades of brown, the surrounding skin must not be tanned.
There is no guarantee that laser treatment can get rid of age spots completely. The best prevention is protecting yourself and your skin from the sun with a mentality that starts in childhood, says Ferdinand. – dpa
The most effective method to remove age spots is laser treatment carried out by a specialised dermatologist. But before they are treated, they should be carefully examined.