Freckles and Age Spots: Causes & Cures

Janie’s Freaking Out About Freckles: I’m Asian and throughout the years my face is getting covered with freckles. It was cute at first when it was just on the top of my cheeks. But now it has spread to my forehead…all over my nose and on my cheeks. I was walking through Macy’s and saw Shisedo White Lucent, which targets freckles and dark age spots. Do you think this will work? Do you know of any other products that might actually work?

The Right Brain hits the spot:

There are many conditions that can cause your skin to develop brown spots. Sun exposure is often the guilty culprit. Here are 3 of the most common spots caused by the sun:

Freckles (Medical Name: Ephilides)

These small, flat brown marks appear mainly on the face, shoulders, and other sun exposed areas. They most frequently occur on fair skinned individuals but since they are an inherited characteristic they can also affect darker skin types. These spots are caused by increased pigment in the upper layers of skin so they are most noticeable after exposure to intense summer sun. They fade or disappear in the winter as upper layers of skin are replaced by new cells from below. In general, as you age this type of freckle becomes less noticeable.

Age Spots or Liver Spots (Medical Name: Lentigines)

Age spots are sometimes called liver spots although they have nothing to do with liver disease. This type of spot is larger than a freckle and tends to appear later in life because of cumulative sun damage. Generally, these spots appear on the hands and face and, unlike freckles, they don’t fade as much in the winter.

Scaly brown marks (Medical Name: Keratoses)

Brown spots that have a scaly texture may be solar keratoses. There marks are similar to liver spots in coloration but they are also characterized by abnormal skin cell growth so they’re not completely flat.

Causes and Cures

As we noted above, all of these brown spots are caused by sun exposure. UV radiation triggers a biochemical chain of events that results in increased production of melanin, the same pigment that gives your skin a tan. The good news is that there are some products that can interrupt this chemical pathway and stop, (or at least slow down) the melanin production.

Products based on hydroquinone, alpha hydroxy acids, vitamin-C, retinoids, and azelaic acid have shown varying degrees of success. One of the most popular of these age spot fading products is Meladerm. If you want to learn more about Meladerm, read our previous post on skin lighteners.

Dark spots can also be removed using chemical peels, cryotherapy or certain pigment lasers that target melanin in the skin. Consult a dermatologist to find out if one of these procedures is right for you.

Finally, you should realize that the best treatment is prevention. Shielding your skin from the sun will help minimize the appearance of freckles and other dark spots.