Hyperpigmentation can be known by many names: sunspots, senile lentigo, lentigines, age spots, or liver spots. These dark spots appear on the face, arms, and hands as we age.
While nicknamed "age spots" because they typically don't start to make an appearance until later in life, they actually have little to do with "normal" aging. They can be attributed to inflammation, hormonal changes, certain illnesses, and medication, but the most notorious cause is the sun. They are a major result of sun damage, appearing on the areas of skin that get the most exposure to UVA/UVB rays.
What Are Sunspots?
When your skin absorbs too much sun, it produces extra melanin, the pigment that gives skin color and makes you tan. Melanin's purpose is to help protect your skin from harmful UV damage. Over time, melanin clumps together, forming age spots. Uncontrolled free radicals instigate that process.
Damage from inflammation, UV exposure, and other environmental insults to the cells cause them to try to protect themselves by producing more pigment. Changes in estrogen levels (from birth control pills or pregnancy) can also play a role. Other factors like vitamin and mineral deficiencies, stress, and medications can contribute, resulting in uneven dark spots.
Pollution, toxins, and harmful chemicals also play a role, especially when liver and kidneys don't detoxify the body effectively.
Sunspots are typically more common in people over 40 since sun exposure accumulates over time.
Preventing Sun Spots
- The best way to prevent those spots from forming is to protect your skin from the sun. Wear protective clothing when you're outside and avoid the direct rays when possible. Always apply a generous portion of broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF before you ever go outside, not after you start to turn red.
- Watch your diet. Cut out the polyunsaturated fats like vegetable oils, margarine, and nut oils and trade them for saturated fats like coconut oil, real butter, and animal fats. Get rid of excess iron in your diet (cut out multivitamins including it), and balance your copper, eating foods like shellfish and dark chocolate. Antioxidants can strengthen your body's defense system to combat the damage caused by free radicals. Ripe fruits and easy-to-digest veggies are great sources.
- Include a good probiotic formula to boost the good bacteria in your colon and reduce gut flora imbalances that can contribute to autoimmunity conditions.
- Since free radicals are contributing factors to sun spots, utilizing an effective skin care regimen that incorporates beneficial antioxidants (to neutralize free radicals) can be a great way to slow the process down.
- Excess estrogen levels have been linked to sunspot formation, and multiple factors can contribute. Be aware if you take synthetic hormones like the pill, have increased stress, or protein deficiency, because all of these are known to contribute to increased estrogen levels.
- If you're already seeing sunspots on your skin, topical lotions can harness the power of reparative probiotics and antioxidants to even out, brighten, and beautify skin tone. Powerful antioxidants seek to halt and repair damage from free radicals caused by UV rays. Look for one that doesn't contain mercury.