What Causes Old Age Spots and What Can Be Done to Prevent It?

Age spots light-brown spots that appear on the skin. They’re not cancerous so they’re “benign.” While the sun usually causes the spot sometimes they’re true “age spots” and result from the aging process.

hands with old age spots

If you have tiny spots on your skin it might be sunspots. It’s important to know different facts about this skin condition including what causes old age spots. It’s also known as “liver spots” but isn’t related to the vital organ. In most cases, it’s caused by UV light from sunlight or machines.

The irony is the spots are the way the skin protects itself from ultraviolet light and serious damage like skin damage. One of the main issues about the spots is whether or not they contain cancer cells. This is a critical issue since skin cancer is a serious condition you’ll want to avoid.

Besides knowing what the age spots are you’ll also want to know how to treat them. The treatments can include skin creams, lasers, and liquid nitrogen. Basic skin creams/lotions are easy to apply but they only hide the spots instead of removing them. That’s why you might want to consider other options that provide more lasting results.

There are pros and cons of these treatments. They’re more “invasive” so they can cause some pain/discomfort. There’s also a greater chance of side-effects. Still, if you want long-term results then you should consider laser-zapping or nitrogen-freezing age spots.

What Causes Old Age Spots?

These tiny spots on the skin are known by various names including age spots, liver spots, and sunspots. They‘re non-cancerous areas of skin pigment that are usually caused by contact with ultraviolet (UV) light.

The sun can provide humans with many benefits.  For example, it helps plants grow and provides people with light and warmth. It can also increase how much Vitamin D a person’s skin has. The irony is the term “age spots” usually refers to damage caused by the UV light whether it’s from natural or artificial sources.

Age spots light-brown spots that appear on the skin. They’re not cancerous so they’re “benign.” While the sun usually causes the spot sometimes they’re true “age spots” and result from the aging process. It’s always important to get any new spots or growths on your skin to determine what health condition is causing the spots.

Most therapies only cause the spots to become lighter. So future therapy might be needed. You can use several over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription treatments to help lighten the spots. These provide affordability.

There are other treatments you could consider to treat the age spots. They include lasers and liquid nitrogen. While these treatments can be effective they also cause some extra risks and side-effects you should be aware of.

Another difference between these more “invasive” treatments is that they also have a higher price tag. The procedure can cost $3,000+ depending on factors like the number/size of the spots.  So it’s an issue you should take up before deciding whether or not to zap or freeze your sunspots.  

Another issue is that it’s important to have a skin doctor check out any brown spots you have. It’s always helpful to be in the know about your condition so you’ll know the likely cause of the pigment and the best treatments for your situation.

Top Treatments for Age Spots


This includes standard laser treatments and something called Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPLT). They both zap the pigment-making cells without harming the skin’s top layer. These treatments usually require 2-3 sessions so it will take some time until you see major results.

Following the treatment, the spots lighten over many weeks/months. However, keep in mind that laser therapy has a couple of possible side-effects. These include a little skin-lightening. In addition, you’ll need sunscreen or other protection after these two light-related therapies.  


There are various over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines that can treat your condition. They can help fade the spots although it might take many months. The treatment might cause some short-term results like redness, itching, dryness, and burning.

While using the medicines you should make sure to apply sunscreen with SPF 30+ to help protect your skin and prevent further damage while treating your sunspots.


There are two types including dermabrasion/microdermabrasion. The first one involves sanding down the skin’s surface layer using a fast-turning brush. This removes the skin’s top layer where the sunspot is. This might require multiple sessions. Side-effects include short-term scabs and redness.

Then there’s microdermabrasion. This is less invasive. It makes skin smoother and causes mild marks. This procedure requires multiple sessions. This condition can worsen facial skin with small red veins.


The fancy name is “cryotherapy” and involves liquid nitrogen. A cotton swab is used to add a freezing agent like liquid nitrogen to the liver spots. This helps to destroy any extra pigment that’s causing them. When the skin looks lighter as the area heals up. This process is usually used on one or a small group of liver spots.

One side-effect of this treatment is short-term skin irritation. There’s also a small risk of long-term skin lightening or scarring.

Top Tips to Prevent Age Spots

1. Apply lip balm

An alternative is a lipstick with SPF 30. However, one of the issues is lighter shades of a lipstick provide less UV protection. Then there’s the issue that lipstick wears off over time. So it’s best to use lip balm to provide the best protection. Lipstick can provide added protection but shouldn’t be your first line of defense against UV rays.

2. Wear a wide-brimmed hat

This is the best option when picking a hat for UV protection. You can go with other options like caps or visors but they provide less protection. Wide-brimmed hats are the best option for protecting your face and neck from UV rays.

3. Wear sunscreen

Make sure to go with at least SPF 30+. This will help to protect your skin from damage caused when ultraviolet (UV) rays contact your skin. Make sure to follow the product’s directions about how often to reapply to your skin.

You should also make sure to pick “broad spectrum” sunscreen to help block UVA/UVB rays, which have different wavelengths. This will help to provide the best protection. Make sure to apply sunscreen about 15 minutes before going outdoors. SPF 30 protects your body from nearly 95% of the sun’s UV rays.

4. Limit sun exposure from 11 AM to 2 PM

These are the hottest parts of the day. While the sun can provide benefits like Vitamin D you should try to limit how much time you spend outdoors from 11 AM to 2 PM. These hours are when the sun’s rays are the brightest and thus can cause the most skin damage.

5. OTC skin cream/lotions

These products can help to lighten existing sunspots to help prevent them from getting darker. There are several products on the market and some include 100% natural/organic ingredients. That said, these are mostly cosmetic treatments so they don’t deal with what causes old age spots.

causes and prevention of old age spots

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