What Causes Age Spots on the Face and Hands?

Author: Samantha Cook

Age spots on the face and hands are caused by sun exposure, tanning beds, and natural aging. 

More Info: Because sun exposure is the primary cause of age spots, they are most commonly found on areas of the body that receive the most sun exposure such as the face and hands.

Answer Guide

In this guide you will discover:

What Are Age Spots?
What Causes Age Spots?
Is Older Skin More Susceptible to Age Spots?
Are Age Spots Dangerous?


What Are Age Spots?

Age spots, also known as liver spots or solar lentigines, are flat patches of skin discoloration that although painless, can cause the skin to look weary and aged. Often oval, age spots can range in size from a tiny freckle to a centimeter across and are usually brown, black, or gray.

What Causes Age Spots?

That healthy glow sought after in youth may not have been as healthy as you think. According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology almost half of the teens surveyed, though aware of the risks of skin cancer, believe that people look healthier with a tan. The fact is a tan is anything but a healthy glow. Tanning is the body's natural reaction to cell damage.

In the process by which tanning occurs, ultra violet rays activate cells called melanocytes that produce the brown pigment melanin to defend against UV damage. Age spots begin to develop when melanin is produced in higher concentrations than normal.

Melanin causing age spots can be caused by:

  • Sun Exposure: Because sun exposure is the primary culprit for the majority of sufferers, age spots more prominently appear on face, hands, shoulders, and arms-the most frequently exposed areas of the skin.
  • Tanning Beds: Any method of tanning, including tanning beds and sunlamps, that produce skin darkening through the production of melanin can contribute to age spots.
  • Natural Aging: Advancing age can also be a natural cause of increased melanin and the appearance of age spots.

Is Older Skin More Susceptible to Age Spots?

As you age, your skin becomes thinner and loses fat making it more susceptible to wrinkles, dryness, and damage. Unhealthy habits recklessly undertaken in youth like smoking and sun exposure begin to bare their unsightly side effects, as the skin grows older. These same habits practiced in advancing age have more immediate effects.
Though they can occur before, age spots generally occur in people over forty since the skin is ultimately more susceptible and the melanin clusters that produce the appearance of age spots typically develop over time.

Are Age Spots Dangerous?

Medically referred to as benign or vascular pigmented lesions, age spots are generally harmless. They do not lead to cancer in and of themselves. That does not mean that the appearance of age spots should be ignored. Lentigo maligna melanoma is a form of skin cancer that also occurs as a result of sun-damaged skin. At its most treatable stage, LMM can be mistaken for a harmless age spot, so it's best not to self-diagnose.


Works Cited

American Academy of Dermatology
Mature Skin

American Academy of Dermatology
A Closer Look at Teen Skin

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
Aging Changes in Skin

National Institute on Aging
Age Page: Skin Care and Aging

Mayo Clinic
Age Spots (Liver Spots) Definition

purplearrowExpert Opinion

Quote: "And if your favorite fragrance or lotion contains musk or bergamot oil, which are common perfume ingredients, it may give you more than a lovely scent. When perfumes or lotions containing these ingredients are applied to sun-exposed areas, they can produce age spots. "

Source: Karen Burke, M.D., Ph.D
Exerpt from: Age Erasers for Women Rodale Books

Quote: "The second most frequent cause of hyper-pigmentation is hormone changes. This may be a result of birth control pills, pregnancy or the various stages of menopause. Hormone shifts trigger the melanin cells to go into over-drive. "

Source: Superior Beverly Hills Dermatology Clinic, Inc. 

purple arrowCite this Article

"What Causes Age Spots on the Face and Hands?." Sophisticated Edge. N.p., n.d. Web. . <http://www.sophisticatededge.com/what-causes-age-spots.html>.  

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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