Age Spots

Fend Off Unfriendly Freckles

some people might think that age spots are really just mini suntans spattered over your face, chest and hands, but they’re not. “Age spots are the result of sun exposure,” explains Dr Eileen Labors, a clinical instructor of dermatology. “They have nothing to do with age.” And they’re more permanent than a suntan. They’re pigmented spots that represent an increased number of melanocytes, which contain melanin, a natural coloring pigment in skin that tends to darken after the skin has been repeatedly bombarded with ultra violet rays.

 TURN OFF THE MELANIN MACHINE

There are ways that you can minimize any existing spots and give yourself a spotless future. Here’s what Dr Labors and other women doctors recommend.

 Lighten spots.

If an age spot isn’t too dark, you may be able to lighten it with an over-the-counter bleaching preparation—a so-called fade cream-containing a 2 per cent solution of hydroquinone, says Dr Labors. Darker age spots need a 3 per cent solution, which is available only by prescription.

So, go ahead and try a fade cream like Porcelain. But be very care full to follow package directions exactly, adds Dr Labors. Any bleaching preparation can irritate your skin, particularly if left on too long,

opt for an alpha hydroxy acid lotion.

If you want to lighten age spots and even out skin texture and tone, Dr Labors suggests making alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) a part of your daily skin-care regime. These mild natural acids are derived from sugar cane, fruit and milk. Glycolic acid, made from sugar cane, and the most commonly used AHA, loosens old dead cells on the skin’s surface and accelerates the skin’s ability to swap them for the new, fresher one’s underneath. And they get rid of age spots by exfoliating superficial pigmentation.

To start using AHA, smear a drop of a 5 per cent AHA preparation on a small section of skin under your jaw, says Dr Labors. If there is

no sign of redness or irritation by the next day, wash your face, pat it dry, apply your usual sunscreen, then apply the AHA preparation. Smooth it over your entire face, but no closer to your eyes than the length of your eyelashes. Give your face time to dry, then apply your regular moisturizer and follow with your favorite make-up.

If no redness or irritation occurs, begin using the preparation once a day, says Dr Labors. You may experience some tingling as the AHAS begin their work, but the tingling should subside within a few minutes. If there is no sign of any redness or irritation after two to three weeks, you may increase your use of AHAs to twice a day once in the morning and once at night.

AHAs with a higher percentage of acids must be obtained through your dermatologist, says Dr Labors. Use camouflage. Some women who use AHA lotions see results in as little as 60 days, while others may have to wait up to a year to see improvement. While you wait for fade creams or AHAs to work, you may want to cover up your spots. Dr Anita Celia suggests using a heavy-duty foundation similar to theatrical make-up. For best results, she suggests that you ask a salesperson to help you pick the right shade and show you how to sponge it on and coordinate it with the rest of your make-up.

Block the sun.

To prevent age spots from enlarging or multiplying, make sure that you wear a sunscreen on your face every day of your life, says dermatologist Debra Price. “If I could have only one skin-care product, it would be a sunscreen,” says Dr Price. It should go on right after you wash your face in the morning and before you apply anything else. She recommends non-chemical sunscreen containing titanium dioxide, which reflects all the sun’s harmful rays-both ultra-violet A and B.