There is a saying that if you really want to know a person’s age, look at their hands. Apart from lines, one thing that is likely to be there if the person is in their second half of life are brown patches. Age spots, liver spots, solar lentigines – no matter what you call them, they’re all the same thing: dark patches people get on their skin as they get older. The spots derive their name from the fact that they were once incorrectly believed to be caused by liver problems. They have nothing to do with the liver, and are in no way an inevitable part of ageing.
Brown, or even black, these flecks on the skin resembling giant freckles are quite simply caused by over-production of melanin due to exposure to the sun. They are most noticeable on the face and hands, but can also appear on the arms and shoulders, anywhere that sunlight can get to the skin.
‘Age’ spots, then, are not caused by age as such, but by repeated exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Ultraviolet light boosts production of melanin which concentrates in certain areas on the surface of the skin. They can be as big as ½ inch wide, and clump together making them even more noticeable. The spots are most pronounced in those with fair skin and in sunworshippers.
As the sun is causing them, there is nothing inevitable about developing old person’s hands. We need a hand strategy to avoid this immediate age give-away, and it is quite simple : use a sunscreen. Many of us are used to using a sunscreen on our faces even in winter, but we sometimes forget to use it on our hands and wrist area, even though there are plenty of handcreams on the market with an SPF factor. In summer we can wear a broad-brimmed hat to keep the sun off our faces, but the hands are more difficult to hide, so wearing a strong SPF factor on our hands is crucial. The sun can get to our hands through glass, so even if we are not outside, wearing handcream with a sunscreen should be part of our morning ritual. It goes without saying that tanning lamps should be avoided.
If any do appear, there are ways of getting rid of them: laser treatments, dermabrasion, intense pulsed light and chemical peels as well as a variety of anti-age spot creams on the market. We don’t have to live with age spots. Old person’s hands are not an inevitability.