Age spots are brownish blemishes that develop on the surface of the skin as a result of sun exposure, according to the Mayo Clinic. When ultraviolet light penetrates the skin, it causes the epidermis to produce additional melanin, which is the compound responsible for pigmentation that protects the skin from the sun. Normally, this generates a uniformed darkening along any area of the skin not covered by clothing or sunscreen. But as time goes by, and the skin is repeatedly exposed to UV light, some of this melanin can begin to stick together, which creates these age spots, or solar lentigines.
The best process of reducing brown spots is really dependent on the individual. What works for one person may not work for another, so a dermatologist can often help with this decision. However, there are a couple of prescriptions that tend to work well on most individuals. According to the Academy of Dermatology, people can see an improvement in the signs of age spots with a topical prescription. The Mayo Clinic recommends two: hydroquinone, a prescription bleaching cream, or tretinoin, a prescription acne cream. When used daily, either topical solutions cause brown spots to fade over time. But it can take several months to reduce their signs.
If topical prescriptions fail to provide results, a cosmetic procedure can often improve the appearance of the skin. And much like medicated creams, the success of these procedures is really dependent on the individual. Most procedures involve what is known as skin resurfacing, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, which removes those epidermal cells suffering from hyperpigmentation.
The National Institutes of Health recommends cryotherapy, in which a freezing agent is applied directly onto the age spot to destroy the clustered melanin in the skin. The healing process causes new skin to form that better matches the rest of the skin.
The Mayo Clinic suggests dermabrasion. In this procedure, a wire brush essentially sands away the surface layer of the skin. As the skin heals, epidermal cells form that lack the hyperpigmentation seen prior to the procedure.
Chemical peels can also improve the appearance of brown spots. This procedure works under the same basic principles as dermabrasion. The epidermal layer of the skin is first removed, allowing new cellular growth that lacks great concentration of melanin.
Age spots will likely disappear with laser therapy, advises the Mayo Clinic. When the skin is exposed to the laser, the melanin absorbs the energy, causing the melanocytes to disintegrate. It may take a number of sessions to fully remove the age spots.