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If age spots (a.k.a. liver spots, sun spots, or solar lentigines) have you down, you’re not alone. When all you want is an even, clear face full of skin, they can be incredibly infuriating, especially when nothing you try seems to get rid of them. Of course, even if your face is age-spot-free so far, if you’re getting up there in years, age spots can certainly be an understandable worry, and the feeling of helplessness at not knowing how you’ll prevent them or when they’ll inevitably show up can be crippling. But rest easy, because we’ve got your back. We’re going to talk about both prevention and how to keep yourself from ever getting them, and when we’re all done with that, we’ll talk about how to clean up age spots that are already there (or any that slip through the cracks in the future).
But What Are they, Exactly?
First, let’s make sure we know what we’re dealing with. Age spots are flat, black, brown, or tan spots on the skin which vary in size a fair bit—they can be a small as a tiny freckle or as big as coinage (or possibly bigger). They tend to be found on the face, the hands, the shoulders, and the arms. They are often also referred to as “sunspots” (yes, age spots and sun spots are really the same thing), and to be sure, the reason they appear on the parts of the body they do is because the shoulders, arms, hands, and face are the areas most exposed to the sun.
Age spots can sometimes look like cancerous growths, but true age spots are harmless. However, if any age spots ever change in color, get bigger, are especially dark, or change in any way, you should see a doctor, as all of the above are possible signs of melanoma.
How to Prevent Them
Use sunscreen. And do it consistently. Every. Single. Day. If you set foot outside or have a few windows open, you want sunscreen. Yes, even if it’s overcast or you’ll be inside or in a car most of the day. UV rays can pierce heavy cloud cover and glass windows and may still damage your skin in small, cumulative ways even if you don’t full-on sunburn. Make sure your sunscreen is at least SPF 30, and broad-spectrum, and try to reapply every couple hours spent outside. Further, reapply to your hands after washing them.
How to Get Rid of Them
If you didn’t manage to prevent them and you have some age spots, your best bet is probably vitamin C (and skin-brightening ingredients in general, but topical vitamin C is the most reliable and most likely to actually help). Get a moisturizing cream and maybe even a serum on top of it, with high concentrations of vitamin C in each, and use them regularly. Vitamin C is a natural way to pull excess pigment out of your skin.
Exfoliation can also help, especially targeted chemical exfoliation. Do whatever you normally do for your whole face, but then try a chemical peel applied just to the age spots to remove the layers of skin with the pigment in them, bit by bit, until one day it’s gone. Combine the above two methods for best results. All else failing, if nothing you try works, make an appointment with a dermatologist; while age spots are harmless, if you want them gone for aesthetics, a dermatologist is the one to ask.