If you’ve been out in the sun, chances are you have both visible signs and invisible signs of damage from ultraviolet rays. While you can’t turn back time to completely repair cellular damage from UV rays, there are things you can do to reverse some of the unattractive markers of sun damage.
Solar lentigines are large brown age spots that are sometimes called “liver spots”, although they are not related to liver disease. They result from a localized proliferation of melanocytes, pigment producing cells, in areas of sun exposure. They may fade, but they rarely disappear over the winter. If you are unsure if a large brown spot is a solar lentigo or a melanoma, you should consult a dermatologist. Using the “abcde” acronym to check characteristics like asymmetry or border can be helpful, but in some cases, it may be difficult to distinguish the two without a biopsy.
Solar lentigines are also known as actinic lentigines and may sometimes appear scaly. Seborrheic keratosis are another type of benign skin growth that has been related to sun exposure in at least one study. They are usually elevated and develop from a proliferation of skin cells.
Over time, some brown marks may become less noticeable. Regular use of creams containing hydroquinone or a retinoid can expedite the process. Alpha-hydroxy acid or azelaic acid preparations can also help fade brown spots associated with sun damage by increasing cell turnover. Cryotherapy destroys pigmented skin cells by freezing. Melanocytes freeze at a higher temperature than other skin cells, so this treatment can be particularly effective..
If time is of the essence, there are some other technological tools that can speed up restoration of discolored areas of skin. Pigment lasers that target melanin, including the pulsed dye laser and Q-switched Nd:YAG laser, can help restore an even tone to your complexion. One large study of the flashlamp-pumped pulsed dye laser for treatment of pigmented lesions showed that 50% of the lesions treated were completely cleared with one treatment. Ninety percent were completely cleared after three treatments. Treatment with the pulsed dye laser results in destruction and sloughing of the pigmented cells, with generation of new skin. Complete recovery takes about 2 weeks, but skin color usually fades to normal without scarring or textural changes. The Q-switched ruby and alexandrite lasers also target individual melanosomes, sparing surrounding skin cells. Several treatments may be required to achieve the best results.
The Er:YAG laser and CO2 lasers are not selective for melanocytes and can achieve rejuvenation of both pigmented lesions and surrounding non-pigmented skin by vaporizing the skin surface and removing the pigmented lesion.
Freckles are another common sign of sun exposure. They result from accumulation of melanin pigment in the keratinocytes. Melanin is produced in greater amounts when melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment, are exposed to sun. The melanin diffuses into surrounding keratinocytes, and when melanin accumulates, freckles result. Freckles fade as the affected keratinocytes are replaced by new skin cells, and treatment is generally unnecessary. Exfoliation stimulates turnover of new skin cells, but freckles fade with time and they become less prominent as we age.
In addition to fading brown spots, the treatments above can be combined with other treatments to increase the elasticity and collagen content of the dermis, another casualty of sun exposure. After you restore your skin by removing unsightly spots caused by sun damage, you’ll have to be sure to protect your skin. Sunscreen with an SPF of 50 is effective, but covering up and avoiding direct sunlight are the best ways to avoid future problems. If you’ve been troubled by age spots, call us today for a consultation at one of our convenient locations in Beverly Hills, Encino, or Glendale. We can work with you to find the best solution to rejuvenate your skin tone.