05 Jan Treat Brown Age Spots Quickly
Brown spots, age spots, and liver spots are all common terms for hyperpigmentation, which naturally occurs as we get older. Spectrum Dermatology offers a suite of options to treat, minimize, and eliminate these spots. Complimentary consultations are available for all cosmetic dermatology, so schedule your consultation today with the skin care expert who was voted Top Doc in the region every year (including 2020) since 2017.
It’s important to know exactly what brown spots are in order to understand treatments and reduce the odds of more brown spots from appearing in the future. Most hyperpigmentation is the result of UV damage, either from the sun or indoor tanning beds. But what if you’ve been vigilant about your sunscreen and other forms of sun protection for years? You can still develop brown spots. It can take years and even decades for the full effect of UV damage to visibly show up on the skin. That means a sunburn you endured as a teen might develop damages when you’re 40, 50, or even 60 in the form of spots and splotches. However, don’t worry, because brown spots are not inherently skin cancer. In fact, most brown spots are simply a cosmetic concern, but they are also a great reminder to schedule your annual mole check.
Why Brown Spots Occur
When your skin is exposed to UV rays, it does what it can to protect itself. As the largest organ you have, the only inherent tool the skin has at its disposal is the creation of melanin. Melanin, of course, is what gives our skin its natural tone and color. Some people synthesize more melanin than others, and those with more melanin do have better built-in sun protection (however, it’s important to stress that even people with a lot of melanin can and do experience sun damage and skin cancer—nobody is immune). The body’s immediate melanin-based reaction to UV damage is a sunburn, which is sometimes followed by a sun tan.
There are also long-term effects from sun damage in the form of brown spots. These brown spots can take a very long time to develop, so it’s nearly impossible to link them with a specific sunburn incident. Plus, sun damage is also cumulative. Even if you’ve never experienced a sunburn (which is rare), your skin is accumulating sun damage throughout your life. Even something like quickly running out to get the mail while not wearing sunscreen is going to add to your lifelong, cumulative sun damage.
Brown Spots vs. Skin Cancer
Brown spots is a colloquial term that can mean many things. Some patients consider moles “brown spots,” and while both are forms of hyperpigmentation there are some key differences. Moles are typically darker and more exact. You likely have at least a few moles that have been on your skin from a young age. Healthy moles often don’t change much once a person reaches adulthood. In fact, changes in moles (be it symmetry, color, border, or size) is considered one of the clearest signs of potential skin cancer.
Unhealthy moles are a leading site for skin cancer whereas brown spots are rarely cancerous—but not always. There are always exceptions, especially when a patient considers a site of hyperpigmentation a brown spot when it is actually a mole. Genuine brown spots are often lighter in color than moles, bigger, and can appear in clusters.
Medical vs. Cosmetic
Ultimately, it is not critical for a patient to be able to identify the differences in hyperpigmentation. What is key is seeing your dermatologist regularly, at least once per year for an annual mole check. Suspicious lesions need to be excised and biopsied in a simple in-office procedure to test for cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. Lesions that your dermatologist deems not suspicious, but that you would like to treat for cosmetic reasons, can also be taken care of via a variety of treatment methods such as laser or light energy devices.
A biopsy of a suspicious mole is considered medical, while treating brown spots for aesthetic reasons is cosmetic. You can tell the difference based on whether a biopsy is needed. No matter what kind of hyperpigmentation you’re concerned about, options are available. Book your appointment or consultation online with Spectrum Dermatology today.