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January 12, 2022

What are age spots and how do I get rid of them?

Treating age spots
© Chalinee – stock.adobe.com

Age spots are nothing dangerous or abnormal in the first place. They are caused by the deposition of pigments. Over the years, our skin is exposed to the sun for many hours. As protection, the body releases melanin, which tans the skin and thus shields it better against further UV radiation. With increasing age and a high level of sun exposure, the likelihood of developing brownish pigment spots form on the skin. Age spots usually appear from the age of 40, although they are almost normal in people over 60. Occasionally, young people who spend a lot of time in the sun and may neglect sun protection can also be affected. Find out what helps against age spots and pigment spots here.

Causes and risk factors for age spots

The main cause of age spots is UV radiation. When it hits the skin, it triggers the body’s own protective mechanisms, which result in the release and storage of the skin pigment melanin. The tanning of the skin usually fades over time, so that the skin becomes paler again in the months with less sun. Prolonged exposure to strong UV radiation or sunlight (including tanning beds) can lead to local overproduction and increased storage of melanin, resulting in spots that persist regardless of further UV radiation.

Even if many people consider tanned skin to be beautiful, sunlight means one thing for the skin first and foremost: stress. Even small amounts of solar radiation can cause injury and damage to the skin. There is always a risk that genetic material in the skin will be altered by the sun’s rays. Among other things, this can lead to skin cancer. Therefore, the skin should always be protected from sunlight – because without exception, any UV exposure (regardless of the weather and season) causes so-called DNA damage in the skin cells. The body can repair about 50% of these, the rest accumulates over our lifetime and can lead not only to skin ageing, but potentially also to light skin cancer.

Other factors that can lead to pigmentation and age spots:

  • Hormonal influences
  • certain medications
  • Smoking and alcohol (accelerate the ageing process of the skin)
  • Who is prone to age spots?

    In principle, the older a person is, the higher the likelihood of age spots. This is mainly due to the fact that melanin is stored in the skin over the years with every contact with UV radiation. Areas of skin that are frequently exposed to the sun are therefore particularly prone to age spots. This includes the face, décolleté, shoulders, arms, the backs of the hands and the areas of the scalp where there is little hair left.

    People with fair skin can be affected by pigmentation and age spots from a young age. Your skin is usually more sensitive to sunlight. An unhealthy lifestyle and a genetic predisposition to pigmentation disorders can also contribute to some people having age spots before the age of 40.

    Can age spots become dangerous?

    According to current knowledge, age spots cannot develop into malignant skin tumors. They are harmless and are at most an aesthetic problem. However, age spots and skin cancer can be similar. Increased exposure to UV radiation – and possibly without adequate sun protection – not only increases the risk of unpleasant pigment changes, but also of harmful diseases such as skin cancer. Any skin changes should therefore be examined by a dermatologist at regular intervals in order to rule out any malignant changes or to recognize and treat them at an early stage.

    What can I do about annoying age spots?

    To prevent age spots and protect the skin in general, the skin should always be protected with a suitable sunscreen. This means a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 in everyday life, but only SPF 50+ in your free time/on vacation and at weekends. Extensive sunbathing should be avoided.

    However, the formation of pigment changes over time cannot be completely prevented. If pigmentation and age spots are considered unsightly, the treatment options for removing them can be discussed with a dermatologist and aesthetic medicine expert.

    One possibility in our Weißensee skin center is the gentle laser treatment . In this process, the disturbing pigments in the skin are broken up by focused energy and split into many tiny particles. These particles can then be transported away or absorbed by the body.

    Another procedure for removing age spots is the chemical peeling . The formation of new skin cells is stimulated with the help of a special chemical substance that is applied to the skin. Among other things, wrinkles and pigmentation disorders can be treated in this way.

    Important after treatment: sun protection!

    Both laser therapy and chemical peeling ensure that the skin regenerates. However, the methods also cause the skin to be temporarily very sensitive to light. After treatments, it is therefore all the more important to use suitable sun protection to avoid pigment shifts.

    The skin should be as little tanned as possible for the treatment. Subsequently, increased UV radiation should also be avoided for at least four weeks. This should be taken into account when planning potential vacations or excursions.

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