Looking in the mirror and seeing brown spots across your face, chest and hands can make you look and feel older than you really are. For a generation that grew up tanning with baby oil and unaware of the importance of sunscreen, age spots can be an unwelcome reminder of what you’ve put your skin through. If you want to lighten up those telltale age spots, try one of these proven techniques.
Laser treatment is a procedure that is conducted in a medical office and is good for quickly fading brown marks.
“After using the laser on age spots and pigmented cells, clients often see dramatic results,” said Karin Olszewski, a nurse who provides services at Samaritan Plastic, Reconstructive & Hand Surgery in Corvallis. “The laser destroys the targeted cells and once the body gets rid of them, new pink skin comes up underneath. For many people, because it works so quickly, it’s also the most cost effective option.”
For some with deep pigmentation, multiple treatments may be needed. And Olszewski cautions that for those who aren’t diligent about applying sunscreen, spots can reappear.
Chemical peels are a painless process of applying ingredients to the skin that accelerate the natural exfoliation cycle of removing old dead skin to be replaced with new skin.
“As we age our skin’s metabolism slows down, and in turn new skin cells do not regenerate as often,” said Ashley Johnson, a licensed advanced aesthetician at the clinic. “This leads to the accumulation of dead, damaged skin cells which in turn leads to more of the brown spots, fine lines, wrinkles, dullness and dry skin we associate with age.”
A chemical peel accelerates the skin’s natural cycle of regeneration by sloughing away the top layers of dead skin, while simultaneously stimulating new cell growth. This process renews the skin and helps remove the buildup of pigmentation. A series of three to six treatments are usually prescribed for optimal results, however Johnson also recommends patients use chemical peels as part of ongoing skin maintenance.
“Skin care is like exercise, you have to do it consistently over a period of time to continue seeing results,” she said. “I have many clients who come three times a year for a chemical peel, which helps them maintain their results and keeps pigmentation from building back up.”
Chemical peels are a good option for pigmentation caused by hormones — pregnancy, birth control or menopause — that don’t respond well to laser treatment. Chemical peels are also a great way to stay ahead of brown spots before they develop. Clients as young as their late 20s can come in for preventive treatment, which is also the age when the metabolism starts to slow and people notice the beginnings of fine lines and wrinkles.
For those who want something they can use at home or who aren’t ready to commit to an in-office procedure, skincare products offer a way to improve the skin’s appearance.
“Sunscreen and retinol are the essential building blocks people can do at home to help maintain youthful skin and prevent premature aging like fine lines, wrinkles and age spots,” said Johnson. “Beyond that, using a pigment correcting serum can help lighten age spots and prevent them from reforming.”
Johnson often recommends pigment correcting serum in conjunction with chemical peels or laser treatment to help maintain results.
“Our skin cells have a memory for pigmentation, so once it’s formed you can lighten it or laser it, but it isn’t a one time all fix,” said Johnson. “Once desired results are achieved, the lasting results will be greatly dependent on lifestyle and sunscreen use.”
Johnson recommends sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 every day on the face, hands, chest and neck. Mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are her top choice, which provide UVA and UVB protection. Mineral sunscreens also withstand heat, which means they are better to keep in your car than a chemical sunscreen. And keeping a bottle of sunscreen in your car is one secret to youthful skin.
“I see clients who drive a lot and there is always more pigmentation on the hands and the left side of the face,” said Olszewski. “Sunscreen is important even in the car.”