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Age spots on the hands, also called liver spots, are brown discoloured marks that occur as a result of prolonged overexposure to the sun. The marks typically appear on the hands of people over the age of 55 as a lifetime of sun exposure finally catches up with them. Age spots are basically collections of melanin in the upper layer of the dermis, and are evidence that free radical damage has occurred. Free radicals are generally believed to be the molecules responsible for ageing. Due to the fact that age spots are superficial, they can be removed by various methods that work by sloughing off the upper layers of the skin.
There are a variety of treatments available to remove age spots from hands including freezing, laser treatments, bleaching with creams, skin sanding and applications of acidic lotions. Freezing, sanding and laser treatments must be done by a licensed dermatologist. In the freezing method, the upper layer of the skin on the hands is frozen with a liquid nitrogen technique known as cryotherapy. The liquid nitrogen is sprayed gently onto the aged spots and a few weeks later, this splotchy layer of skin peels off to reveal lighter skin beneath it.
Another treatment for removing age spots from hands involves using lasers. Pigment removal lasers are used to lighten and fade the brown spots on the skin. Laser treatments work by pulsing a light onto the age spots, which then makes them the spots turn grey. A brown crust forms over the spots and eventually sloughs off to reveal pink skin underneath. The pinkness eventually fades to match the colour of the surrounding skin. The laser treatment is often preferred due to its short recovery time and minimal scarring.
Chemical peels, which rely on using acidic solutions, also work to remove age spots from hands by peeling away the discoloured layer to reveal lighter skin. Finally, bleaching creams that gradually fade the discoloured age spots are another option, and possibly the most affordable out of all the other treatments. The creams contain hydroquinone, a potent bleaching lotion, that break down the pigment in the age spots and restore the skin to its natural shade. The more potent bleaching creams are available with a prescription while some less powerful ones are available over the counter.
Wearing sunblock regularly and on a daily basis greatly reduces the risk of developing age spots on the hands and other parts of the body. Preventing the advent of age spots is, in the long run, more advantageous and affordable than any of the treatment options. Laser, cryotherapy and chemical peel treatments can be painful and extremely expensive.
Preventive techniques such as avoiding excess sun exposure, wearing sunblock at all times or even wearing gloves when out in the sun are the only way to guarantee avoiding age spots.