Sun Spots, Age Spots & Sun Damage Treatment

Dermatology & Laser of Alabama has multiple lasers that remove unwanted freckles, age spots and sun damage.

Sun spots, age spots, and wrinkles, often attributed to aging, are in fact secondary to sun damage. With almost year round sunshine in Birmingham, it’s difficult to avoid the intense sun rays at all times and prevent the formation of the ensuing bothersome symptoms on our bodies. Freckles, on the other hand, also caused by sun damage, are rarely attributed to aging—we all have seen freckles on the faces of children, sometimes as young as age 1 or 2.


What are Freckles?

Freckles (also known as ephelides) are multiple, flat, circular spots which develop over sun-exposed surfaces, particularly the cheeks, nose, upper shoulders, and arm. The spots develop due to an increase in the amount of melanin, a dark pigment, in cells called melanocytes. Freckles are always darker than the surrounding skin and may be red, yellow, light brown or dark brown. They are prominent in summer but fade considerably or disappear in winter. Fair-skinned people, especially those with red hair, have an inherited predisposition for them. The prominence of freckles is related to sun exposure—sunburn makes them bigger and darker. Freckles caused by sunburn have irregular jagged borders and commonly appear on the upper back and shoulders where people get their most severe sunburns. There is no permanent cure for freckles; however, several safe and effective methods are available to help lighten or reduce their appearance. Sun avoidance and sun protection may help to suppress their appearance.

What are Sun Spots and Age Spots?

Sun spots, also known as age spots or liver spots are harmless, large, flat, gray, brown, freckle-like circular spots, often with irregular borders. They vary in size from as small as a pea to as large as a nickel. Unlike freckles, these spots tend to persist and do not fade and darken with the seasons. Sun spots are common in those with fair skin but are frequently seen in those who tan easily or have naturally dark skin. Although these spots appear on the skin of older adults, age spots, or liver spots have little to do with aging or the liver. They develop slowly over time and get bigger as our skin produces excess melanin (pigment) in response to overexposure to sunlight. It is for this reason that these spots usually appear on the face, hands, shoulders and arms—areas of the body most exposed to the sun. Accordingly, the prevention of age spots requires sun avoidance and sun protection. Sun spots are harmless and do not need to be treated; however, many people seek treatment because they believe these spots can detract from their skin’s appearance, making them look older. Although age spots do not change into cancerous growths, some skin cancers may resemble these spots. Accordingly, anyone who has one or more uncertain pigmented spot should report them to a physician or dermatologist for evaluation.

What are the Sun Spots and Freckles Treatment Options at Dermatology & Laser of Alabama?

Traditional treatments for sun spots and freckles, such as topical bleaching agents and medications, often produce only temporary results. In contrast, Dermatology & Laser of Alabama uses several effective and long-lasting therapies to get rid of unwanted sun damage. The minimally invasive photorejuvenation light and laser technologies available at the practice are specially designed to permanently eliminate your undesirable age spots and freckles, and will even eliminate any small facial veins and superficial or moderately deep wrinkles (only laser resurfacing). The cosmetic procedures designed to reduce or eliminate the appearance of redness and age or sun spots available at our practice are as follows:

  • Chemical peel: Safely uses one of the chemicals intended for skin peeling, from superficial to medium depth, to get rid of the undesirable spots. As the damaged skin peels, new skin forms to take its place. Superficial chemical peels require several treatments to achieve good results. Microdermabrasion: Consists of sanding down the surface layer of the skin carrying the spots with a rapidly rotating head containing microcrystals. A new layer of skin grows and takes the place of abraded skin.
  • Photorejuvenation with Candela’s Elipse: Photorejuvenation therapy, also known as photofacials, is performed with a light technology known as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL). The IPL technology utilizes the power of pulsed light to deliver excellent phototherapy results. The IPL system works much like a laser, but instead of having just one wavelength of light, the machine produces a spectrum of light made up of a range of wavelengths. By selecting an appropriate filter, your laser technician will select the wavelength range to treat the damage caused by skin aging and sun exposure. Photorejuvenation treatments are non-ablative treatments requiring minimum downtime. These treatments are capable of altering the targeted skin component while leaving the surrounding tissue healthy and intact.
  • Laser resurfacing with Candela’s QuadraLase™ laser: Laser resurfacing; is an ablative laser modality that removes most age spots, age related discoloration, and wrinkles, by completely “burning” off superficial skin layers in just one session.

Dr. Sarah Sawyer is a board certified & fellowship trained dermatologist in Birmingham Alabama.