Pigmentation problems can be difficult to treat, especially age spots. There are several treatment options available to lighten or get rid of them completely. One may consult a dermatologist regarding the same. Some treatment options include:
- Topical medications: Applying prescription skin-lightening creams that contain hydroquinone, retinoids, and/or a mild steroid can help gradually fade the spots over several months.
- Lasers and intense pulsed light: Laser and intense pulsed light therapies destroy melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) by wounding the superficial layer of the skin. These treatments typically require two to three sessions over many months.
- Cryotherapy: This procedure involves spot application of liquid nitrogen only to the dark spots to destroy the extra pigment. Multiple sessions may be required.
- Dermabrasion: Dermabrasion involves sanding down the superficial layer of skin. When the new skin grows back, pigmentation is lighter, and the skin is smoother. Multiple sessions may be required.
- Microdermabrasion is similar or dermabrasion but less aggressive.
- Chemical peels: This method involves applying a chemical peeling of the face using acids such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, azelaic acid, and trichloroacetic acid to cause mild exfoliation. There are various strengths of chemical peels available; some are mild and act on the superficial layer of the skin, whereas others are stronger and reach deeper layers of the skin.
- Sun protection: Sun protection is most important to prevent the formation of age spots, lighten them, and prevent them from worsening. Sun damage causes tanning of the skin, triggers other pigmentation problems, burns the skin, and reduces skin elasticity, leading to premature aging. Excessive sun exposure is also a risk of skin cancer. Preventing hyperpigmentation due to sun exposure would allow the skin to lighten on its own. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone to use sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection (protects against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays), has a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher, and is water-resistant throughout the year, including the winters and cloudy days. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 3-4 hours. Additional protection by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or carrying an umbrella can also help. It is also recommended to avoid being out in the sun when the sun’s rays are strongest between 10-11 AM and 3-4 PM.
What are the home remedies to treat age spots?
Natural remedies alone may not be sufficient to get rid of age spots completely. Any home remedy that causes negative reactions should be discontinued. One may consult with a doctor to ensure home remedies that are suitable for their condition and rule out more serious causes of hyperpigmentation.
- Topical toners, serums, masks, lotions, and creams: There are several over the counter topical products that contain ingredients to lighten the skin and improve the skin texture. The important ingredients to look out for are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), vitamin C, and vitamin E–containing products.
- Topical retinoids: They effectively reduce pigmentation due to acne, aging, or inflammation and reduce wrinkles. Retinoids should be used with caution. People typically experience visible peeling, dryness, burning, redness, and increased sensitivity to the sun. Hence, it should be applied only at night till the skin gets accustomed to retinoids, which may take 4-6 weeks. One may start with applying low-strength over the counter retinoids two to three times a week and gradually increasing the strength and frequency of usage. Higher strengths of retinoids require a doctor’s prescription. Isotretinoin (oral retinoids) may be prescribed to those with severe acne. Treating acne is essential to lighten pigmentation associated with acne.
- Homemade face masks: Face masks may be prepared at home using natural ingredients and applied two to three times a week. Some masks that can help reduce pigmentation and lighten skin include:
- Yogurt, lemon, and gram flour mask: Yogurt is a milk product that is rich in nutrients. The lactic acid in yogurt is a naturally occurring skin-lightening agent. Lemon contains vitamin C that can reduce pigmentation. Gram flour helps thicken the mask, giving it a paste-like consistency. Gram flour also acts as a natural exfoliating scrub, which is gentle on the skin, improves skin texture, and reduces hyperpigmentation. The mask may be applied all over the face, neck, and other problem areas, left on for 30 minutes, and then washed off.
- Papaya, banana, lemon, honey, and gram flour mask: These ingredients contain vitamins and minerals that can naturally lighten and nourish the skin. They may be mashed into a paste, applied all over the face, and washed off after 20 minutes.
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which can lighten pigmentation and reduce acne. Apple cider vinegar should be diluted with water in equal parts and applied to the skin. It should be washed off after 2-3 minutes. This may be repeated every day, once or twice a day.
- Diet, nutrition, and hydration: A healthy, balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables with adequate hydration (8-10 glasses of fluids per day) is important for skin health because it can improve skin cell turnover, improving the skin tone and texture. Fresh fruits and vegetables have several ingredients that can lighten skin naturally. One may also consider taking nutritional supplements, especially vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids because they help in maintaining good health.
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NHS. Skin Lightening. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cosmetic-procedures/skin-lightening/
Zhu W, Gao J. The Use of Botanical Extracts as Topical Skin-Lightening Agents for the Improvement of Skin Pigmentation Disorders. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2008;13(1):20-24. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15526663
American Academy of Dermatology. Sunscreen FAQS. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreen-faqs