Age spot or Lentigo laser treatment
What are age spots and why do they form?
The term ‘Age Spots’ usually refers to a common benign skin spot on the face or other sun-exposed areas, called a lentigo. They typically are light brown, flat spots with clearly defined edges. The plural of lentigo is lentigines. Lentigines can affect men and women across all ages and ethnicities, but typically appear in older individuals with fairer skin. They usually form due to exposure to the sun and, thus, are also referred to as a solar lentigo and solar lentigines. Other sources of UV light, such as tanning beds, can also be a source. There are many other types of spots and growths that can occur as we age which people may refer to as an age spot. All of these should be evaluated by your board-certified dermatologist to rule out a more serious type of pigmented spot.
What can you do to prevent age spots?
Sun protection, sun protection, sun protection. Solar lentigines are caused by the sun and tanning beds. No matter your current age, your older self will thank you if you start protecting your skin. Wear sunscreen daily with SPF of at least 30 or preferably higher. Re-apply sunscreen every 2-3 hours. Additionally, wear sun protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat.
What at-home treatments are available – and how effective are they? Are there caveats?
At PLDI, we offer skin-lightening creams available for at-home treatment. Many over-the-counter skin lighteners will contain a retinoid or hydroquinone ingredient. These ingredients can be mildly effective in some patients. One should be aware that long-term hydroquinone use (beyond a few months) has resulted in darkening of the skin and retinoids may be irritating to sensitive skin. Therefore, even these products should be monitored by a dermatologist. If the product is not achieving the degree of lightening the patient wants, the dermatologist can prescribe a prescription-strength lightening cream.
What in-office treatments are available?
The most effective in-office treatment is using a laser to lighten the brown spots. At PLDI, we have multiple lasers that specifically targets pigment in the skin. Additionally, as lasers have potential risks, they should only be used by a physician trained in using these systems. They can be effective after 1 or 2 treatments, and can significantly lighten and even remove the brown spots. The providers at PLDI have been treating lentigines for decades with laser systems.
Another in-office procedure is cryotherapy which uses liquid nitrogen to injure the cells in the age spot. As the skin heals, it usually appears lighter. It can be a bit painful, but very quick. This procedure also includes the risks of scarring and skin lightening or even darkening, but the risks are low when performed by your dermatologist.