Age spots, which are also referred to as liver spots or sun spots, appear as flat, dark brown spots. These are somewhat oval in shape with irregular borders. They are mostly found on the back of the hands, forearms, shoulders, back, and face. These are quite common on hands among people aged 50 and above. However, younger people can also get affected by this skin problem.
The main cause of liver spots is excessive exposure to the sun over a prolonged period of time. When the skin surface is exposed to ultraviolet radiation of the sun, the melanocytes cells which are responsible for production of skin pigment become overly active. As a result, these cells start producing high amount of skin pigment named melanin. Normally, melanin plays a major role in protecting the underlying layers of skin from the sun. When there is an overproduction of melanin, it gets accumulated in certain spots in the upper layer of the skin, thereby leading to the development of these spots. Usually, it takes several years of ultraviolet radiation exposure to bring about this kind of skin discoloration. Some people are at a higher risk of getting liver spots on the hands due to genetic reasons. In some people, melanin overproduction is triggered by aging. Those who use tanning beds or tanning lamps are at a higher risk of getting such spots.
Though these spots are not harmful, those who are affected by this condition would want to get rid of them for cosmetic reasons. There are several options available for the removal of age spots on hands, such as:
Bleaching Creams: These skin creams contain hydroquinone, which has excellent bleaching qualities that helps to lighten the spots. When applied on hands, it breaks up the pigment molecules and brings back the natural skin color. These creams work very slowly and you have to apply them for several months, before you can see any noticeable changes in the spots. They are available both over the counter, as well as prescription. It is advised that you take the spot removal creams that have been prescribed by your doctor.
Chemical Peels: In this treatment, a mixture of chemicals are applied on the skin that help in removal of the superficial layers of the skin. When the uppermost layer of the discolored skin is peeled off, a new layer of skin grows in that area. It requires a number of sessions before the spots are peeled off completely. It should only be conducted by a clinical dermatologist.
Freezing: This technique is also known as cryotherapy. Here, usually, liquid nitrogen is used as a freezing agent. It is sprayed slowly on the affected area for the purpose of breaking down the accumulated skin pigment. After a few weeks, you will find that the blotchy layer has been stripped off and the underlying light colored skin is exposed. This treatment is effective only when the size of the spots is small.
Laser Treatment: In this procedure, the spots are subjected to laser radiation for the purpose of destruction of the melanocytes that cause skin pigmentation. As a result, the brown spots first turn gray and then a thick, crusty layer forms on the surface of the spots. Later, this layer falls off and healthy pink skin is revealed. Gradually, laser beams promote the growth of new pigment due to which the pinkish color of the skin fades out and the normal skin color is restored. The best part of laser therapy is that it shows results in a short span of time, and does not have any major side effects. However, it is very expensive compared to other methods of age spot removal.
The treatment options that are used for the removal of age spots either have untoward side effects or are highly expensive. Therefore, it is better that you protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet radiation, and thus reduce the chances of sunspots on hands or any other part of the body. Try to avoid direct sun exposure in between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sunlight is at its highest intensity. Cover up your skin with full-sleeved clothes and large-brimmed hats when you go out in the sun. Many of us often apply sunscreen on our faces but not on the other parts of our body. Apply generous amounts of sunscreen on your hands, as they are also exposed to sunlight.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by a dermatologist.