How to Fade Age Spots on the Face and Hands

Author: Samantha Cook

There are products that can fade age spots and there are products that do no such thing.  Anti-aging products are a billion dollar industry.  If you are ready to toss your coins into that fountain of youth, you need to know what ingredients to look for on the label.

Recognized Active Ingredients for Fading Age Spots

Not all products are created equal.  Look for products that contain ingredients that have been recognized by dermatologists as effective in fading skin discolorations.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids: Alpha hydroxyl acids include citric, glycolic, lactic, and tartaric acids and are found in many commercial cosmetic products.  They have been shown to minimize fine lines, as well as lighten irregular pigmentation and age spots.  Skin sensitivity may occur.

Azelaic Acid: Primarily prescribed for acne, azelaic acid has been demonstrated to be effective for lightening skin abnormalities.

Hydroquinone: Works by decreasing the production of tyrosinase, the enzyme needed to make melanin.  Hydroquinone is generally tolerated well by most and any side effects that may occur are generally mild including itchiness or irritation.  More severe side effects may indicate an allergic reaction and discontinuing of the product.  Hydroquinone is a short-term solution as usage over an extended period of time can make pigmentation worse rather than lighter.  

Kojic Acid: Kojic acid has been used as a lightening agent since its discovery in 1988.  Several studies have approved its efficacy for irregular pigmentation as well as inhibiting the production of melanin, which causes age spots.  The downside to kojic acid is its high rate of contact sensitivity.

Licorice Extract: The chemical compound glabridin found in the root extract of licorice has been shown to inhibit tyrosinase activity and in turn melanin synthesis.

Topical Retinoids: Tretinoin is a common topical retinoid that works to thin the skin and reduce the production of melanin.  Tretinoin is doctor prescribed as the medication has implications during pregnancy and can be a strong skin irritant.

Avoid Using More Than One Age Spot Fading Product at a Time

If not specifically prescribed by a doctor, mixing strong commercial creams to fade age spots can render them ineffective or even harmful.  As an example, peroxide products, such as those containing benzoyl peroxide, are not recommended when using products containing hydroquinone as a temporary darkening of the skin may occur.

When it comes to fading creams, what works for one may not work for another. Using one product at a time can also help to isolate which products are effective and which may be causing skin irritation.

Natural Remedies to Fade Age Spots

There are several natural remedies to fade age spots that are often recommended by those who found success with their use.  The research on these natural remedies is limited or non-existent and the recommendation for their use is primarily anecdotal.  It should be noted that while these home remedies are natural, many are harsh and can cause sensitivity to the skin.  The same caution should be used with these solutions as any prescribed or over-the-counter remedies.

Lemon Juice

The claim: The juice of the fresh lemon is acidic enough to gently slough off skin cells and will remove or lighten age spots when applied directly to the spot with a cotton ball twice daily. Results will be visible in 6-8 weeks. [Patty Moosbrugger, Lemon Magic: 200 Beauty and Household Uses for Lemons and Lemon Juice.]

The warning: While true that lemons contain citric acid, an alpha hydroxyl acid demonstrated to lighten skin, some experts warn that its acidity level is too high which can cause dryness and photosensitivity.

Onion Juice and Vinegar

The Claim: You can naturally fade age spot solution by mixing together 1 teaspoon of fresh onion juice with 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar. Rubbing the solution on the age spot twice daily will result in faded age spots within a few weeks.  [Mindell, Earl  Dr. Earl Mindell's Amazing Apple Cider Vinegar ]

The Warning: Vinegar contains acetic acid, which can be a potential skin irritant.  There is no regulation on the amount of acetic acid that vinegar contains. When tested in laboratories, vinegar has been shown to contain anywhere from 1% to more than 10% acetic acid, which was often different from what was stated on the label. 


Works Cited

American Academy of Dermatology

Journal of Contact Dermatitis; Nakagawa M
Contact allergy to kojic acid in skin care products
1995; Volume: 32; No: 1; Pages: 9-13

New Zealand Dermatological Society Inc.

University of South Florida-Dermatology
Some Skin Lightening Creams Conceal Dark Side

Understanding Skin Care Products

Journal of Pigment Cell Research; Yokota T
The inhibitory effect of glabridin from licorice extracts on melanogenesis and inflammation
1998; Volume: 11; No: 6; Pages: 355-361

purplearrowExpert Opinion

Quote: ""These early studies suggest creams containing turmeric may be a promising addition to antiaging products on the market."

Source: Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City

Quote: "Because unlabeled face creams for lightening skin, fading freckles and age spots, and preventing acne may contain mercury, CDPH recommends that unlabeled products should not be used. Also, any face cream or soap product that lists mercury in the ingredients should not be used."

Source: California Department of Public Health Alert May 19,2010 

purple arrowCite this Article

"How to Fade Age Spots on the Face and Hands." Sophisticated Edge. N.p., n.d. Web. . <>.  

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to treat or diagnose any health problems or illnesses without consulting a physician. It is not meant to take the place of health care or services you may need. Please consult a physician with any questions you may have regarding your health.

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