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One of the most frequent questions we receive from women and men is, “How do we get rid of these age spots on my face?”

Age spots are also referred to as pigmented spots, sunspots, or liver spots. They appear as dark patches on places like the face, neck, hands or chest. These spots may be due to sun exposure over the years, genetics and hormones. Although they seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere they are usually due to prolonged sun exposure. They appear more prominently in Northern European skin types but are just as common in darker skinned individuals.

I frequently tell my patients that one can certainly tell which 40 year old Hawaiian is a surf instructor or an office worker by looking at their face. Dark skin has some protective benefits over lighter skin individuals from the sun but don’t be lured into a false sense of invincibility if you have darker ethnic skin. You are still at risk for skin cancer and cosmetically unattractive skin spots.

The first line of defense is prevention. Wear a hat. While outside enjoying lunch, sit in the shade or with the sun to your covered back. And most importantly apply sunblock at least 3 times a day. Use sunblock that has either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They are metals that provide a mechanical barrier to the harmful effects of the sun.

I like Obagi, Neova or SkinMedica sunblock. It is better to apply SPF 15 three to four times a day then to apply a SPF 50 sunblock only once in the morning.

But you wear makeup and don’t want to put sunblock over your makeup? No problem, use a mineral makeup that again provides a mechanical barrier to the sun. We recommend ColorScience makeup that can be applied multiple times throughout the day like sunblock. The beauty of mineral makeup is that frequent application can look very natural without a “caked on” appearance.

Intense pulsed light (IPL) or Photofacial rejuvenation is the best laser to treat the initial effects of sun induced hyperpigmentation (sun spots). A cold gel is placed on the skin then a small handpiece is used to pulse light energy onto the facial skin. The dark spots absorb this light energy much like a dark shirt on a sunny day. The sunspots are damaged by the IPL and the body absorbs the damaged pigment.

One may require anywhere from one to multiple treatments depending on the severity of the pigmentation changes. There is no need for pain medications and one may drive home or return back to work immediately. One can enhance the effect of IPL Photofacial rejuvenation by initially exfoliating the skin with a medical peel. Our medical aestheticians can help determine which peel is right for you. Expect minimal to no downtime.
In order to protect one’s investment and improve the chances of decreasing sunspots or preventing their recurrence our skin care team will recommend a medical skin care product line. Typically we recommend Obagi NuDerm system that is based on a bleaching agent Hydroquinone and retina. If one is sensitive to either of these two ingredients, one can use SkinMedical Lytera that has shown to be effective in diminishing sunspots of the face.

These recommendations are not just for your face. These same treatments and protective skin care products are equally effective for the neck , chest and hands.
In summary:
1. Prevention is important. Minimize sun exposure to your face. Use sunblock or mineral makeup and apply it 3 + times a day.
2. A medical skin peel sets up your skin to have a more effective IPL treatment.
3. IPL or Photofacial rejuvenation is highly effective treatment for sundamaged pigment changes with little to no downtime.
4. Use a good medical skin care line to protect your skin and your investment such as Obagi NuDerm or SkinMedica Lytera systems.

In beauty and in health,
Dr. Tom