One of the most bothersome signs of aging are sun spots. Sun spots are tan colored “freckles” that appear on highly sun exposed areas such as the face and hands. They are a sure give-away of age, and no one likes them! Fortunately, there are several ways to remove sun spots. This article will review them.
Of course, the most important thing you can do in regards to removing sun spots is to prevent them from appearing in the first place. Since the main cause of sun spots is UV exposure, protecting yourself from the sun is key. Wear a full spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher, sun protective clothing, and avoid mid day activities in intense sun. It goes without saying, too, that you must never use tanning beds. Follow this like for more information on sunscreen and the best skincare regimen.
When it comes to the actual removal of sun spots, there are several options including bleaching cream, chemical peels, laser treatments, and liquid nitrogen.
The main ingredient in bleaching creams is hydroquinone. In the United States, up to 2% hydroquinone is available without a prescription. Higher strengths are available by prescription only. The most effective bleaching cream contains a combination of hydroquinone and other chemicals including Retin-A compounded together. Non-hydroquinone based bleaches are available, but they are not as effective as hydroquinone and are often best for adjunctive or maintenance treatment.
For bleaching creams to be effective, they require diligent and regular use. Even then, they may not get the job done. Further, sun spots may recur after the cream is stopped despite a strict maintenance program.
Chemical peels work by exfoliating the top layer of skin. The amount of exfoliation depends of the chemical peeling agent used. Stronger peels produce better results but also require longer recovery and can have higher risks. Glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or TCA peels can all be used. When lighter peeling agents are used, multiple peels are often needed.
Another treatment similar in concept to a chemical peel is microdermabrasion. Microdermabrasion also exfoliates the top layer of skin but uses mechanical action instead of a chemical agent.
There are several types of lasers that can be used to treat sun spots. The most common is IPL. Technically, IPL is not actually a laser, but it functions like a laser for all intents and purposes. IPL works by zapping the skin with high amounts of light energy. The light is absorbed by the dark color in sun spots which triggers a reaction in the skin that, ultimately, clears the spot. A series of treatments are often needed for best results, but even one treatment can deliver nice improvement.
Another effective type of laser treatment is laser peeling (light laser resurfacing). Several types of lasers can be used to zap away the top layer of skin. They work much like chemical peels or microdermabrasion to lift off the sun spots.
Liquid nitrogen is a very cold liquid that can be applied directly onto a sun spot to remove it. it works by freezing the skin containing the sun spot which makes it fall off. Unaffected skin then grows in its place. Liquid nitrogen is great for targeting isolated sun spots, but it is not ideal for treating a large area covered with spots. Also, liquid nitrogen carries a small risk of leaving discoloration behind in the treated area which may be permanent on rare occasions.
As you now know, there are many techniques available to remove sun spots. No single one is perfect. Often, a combination of techniques gives best results, but each person and each person’s sun spots need to be evaluated on an individual basis to determine the best approach.