Fun in the sun in your teenage years can result in several not-so-fun side effects as you age, Mayo Clinic says. These include skin that’s dried out, scaly, heavily wrinkled, riddled with small red veins or even skin that appears thin and nearly translucent. Unless you steered clear of the sun and other sources of harmful UV rays or were fastidious about your sunscreen, you can also end up with brown spots on your hands.
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Brown spots on the hand are likely age spots, also known as liver spots, Mayo Clinic and Women Fitness say. These spots often crop up on areas that had a lot of sun exposure, like the back of the hands, the back of the neck, arms or the back itself as people get older. The spots range from the size of a pinhead to about 1 cm long, Mayo Clinic says and are flat and shaped like an oval. They can appear singly or in groups, making them more visible. They are unsightly but not harmful.
Two conditions that resemble age spots are seborrheic keratoses and lentigo maligna. While Women Fitness says these conditions are simply the medical terms for age spots, Mayo Clinic notes some differences in their appearance. Seborrheic keratoses are not flat but rather slightly raised, like a wart. They are also often larger than standard age spots, reaching more than 1 inch long. Lentigo maligna, which are also often raised, differ from age spots as they often have an irregular shape and tend to get darker and bigger over time. Lentigo maligna melanoma is actually a form of skin cancer.
Age spots usually crop up from excessive UV rays beating down on unprotected skin, Mayo Clinic and Women Fitness note. The rays come from the sun as well as from sunlamps and tanning booths, and your skin is merely protecting itself by generating a large amount of pigmented cells or melanin, that end up as age spots. People with fair skin and those over the age of 40 are most prone to age spots, although the spots can crop up on anyone.
Certain foods, oils and medications can also make the skin more sensitive to the UV rays and thus more susceptible to age spots, Women Fitness adds. Parsnips, parsley and limes contain psoralens, a chemical that increases sun sensitivity. Age spots can appear on your hands if you handle such foods and then go out in the sun. Skin also becomes prone to age spots if you go out in the sun after applying bergamot oil or musk or are on certain medications. These include some water pills, tetracycline or similar antibiotics or some antipsychotic drugs like thorazine or chlorpromazine.
Sunscreen is the ideal way to prevent the spots, while several different methods can get rid of them, Women Fitness and Mayo Clinic state. Removal methods include bleaching creams and medications that contain a mild steroid that help fade the spots or laser therapy and freezing, both of which destroy the darker skin cells. Dermabrasion and chemical peels, two methods that slough off the skin, destroy age spots by removing the top layers of darker skin which is replaced by a newly formed layer.