What Are “Age Spots” and When to Have Them Checked

What Are “Age Spots” and When to Have Them Checked

Many people develop age spots as they get older (some folks refer to them as liver spots), which are areas that appear to be darker blotches of skin and can range in color from barely noticeable to quite dark. Have you ever wondered what they are or why they show up? Most people do since they are inevitable for some people to develop. In most instances, though, an age spot is nothing more than the accumulation of years of sun damage becoming visible on your skin. Do you need to be “aged” to get them? Not necessarily….

What Causes Age Spots?

The more time we spend outside in our youth, the more likely we are to get age spots as we get older. Age spots can show up for some while they’re still in their 30’s, while others may not notice them until several decades later. Typically, an age spot will be brown or gray in color, and the color will be uniform across the spot. The edges of the spot are easy to define, and they most frequently show up on your hands, chest, neck, and face.

Are Age Spots Something That Require Treatment?

In nearly all circumstances, age spots will not require any type of treatment. They are simply there and cause no ill effects other than the aesthetic aspect. However, if you do not like how the age spots look, there are many treatments that your dermatologist can review with you – one treatment of age spots that tends to be quite effective is a prescription-strength cream that can help fade the look of the spots, allowing them to more evenly blend in with your natural skin tone.

When Are Age Spots Something to Worry About?

It’s important to note that, over time, age spots may change – making it difficult to tell when you should have them looked at by your dermatologist. However, there are some warning signs that you can look for when it comes to changes in your age spots. These signs include:

  • The pigmentation of the skin gets very dark or takes on a blackish hue.
  • There are several colors noticeable within the spot.
  • The spot grows rapidly. If your age spot goes from tiny to large in a short period of time, this is a sign we need to take a closer look.
  • If your age spot begins to hurt, bleed, or itch.

Age spots are common and, most of the time, they’re nothing to worry about. However, at times, what starts off looking like an age spot is actually something else. If you ever have any concerns over spot – or if you notice any of the signs listed above – please don’t hesitate to give our office a call to schedule an appointment. If, after a thorough examination, we see anything that we feel warrants additional testing, we will talk to you about what we see and what the testing means. No matter what your age spot(s) may look like, we will always take the time to look at the spot and make sure it is not something that could affect your overall health. The healthcare providers at Complete Family Dermatology are committed to helping keep our patients’ skin is as healthy as possible!

The Importance of Skin Checkups

When was the last time you came in for a skin checkup? If it’s not been relatively recently, then you’re probably due to an appointment. Making sure your skin is healthy is just as important as getting your annual physical, or biannual checkups from your dentist. To achieve an optimum state of health, your whole body needs to be healthy – which, of course, includes your skin! And, routine skin checkups help to ensure that if there ever is an issue we can catch it before it goes any further.

Early Detection Is the Key to Risk Reduction

As with all health issues, if the problem is caught early, there are typically more treatment options available. For example, if you have a tiny cavity, it is easy for your dentist to fix but, if it is left untreated, you could be putting the entire tooth at risk. The health of your skin is no different – if we can find a problem when it is in its earliest stages, then it is much more likely to be treatable than if it is left to get worse or progress.

To give you the best chances of reducing the risk of problems turning into something more, you need to make sure that you take the health of your skin as seriously as the rest of your body. After all, your skin is exposed to a LOT – sediments in the air, sun exposure, the chemicals we clean with, and so much more. All of these moments of exposure add up over time and can damage our skin. By having regular annual checkups, we can make sure that everything on your skin is safe to be there.

Times When You Need to Come In Between Checkups

There are some specific times when you need to come in to see us in between your regular checkups. If you notice any of these issues, it is important to call us and set up an appointment to get checked out.

  • Moles That Change: When you have a mole on your skin that begins to change, you need to take note or have us take a look. It could be larger, become a different shape, or even add colors to it. When it goes from one color to multiple, it is important that you have us look to make sure it is normal growth.
  • Uncured Itches: When you notice that your skin gets itchy and it will not go away, that could be the sign of dermatitis or even the early signs of skin cancer.
  • Unexplained Scar Tissue: If you notice a random scar show up on your skin but have no recollection of how you got the scar, you need to reach out to us. We will want to look at the scar tissue and make sure it is not some other type of abnormal growth.
  • Colored Spots: When your skin develops redness that does not go away or you get different colored spots, we should take a look. While we keep an eye on these things during your checkups, if something develops between when you see us each year, we need to take a look to ensure it is not a new type of growth.

Getting an annual checkup is important, especially for your skin! Remember – if we can find the problem early, it is often something we have a greater chance to treat. One little area may be totally normal, or it may be a sign of something more problematic that needs treatment. If you’re interested in scheduling an exam – be it for an annual checkup or for any other skin condition you might be dealing with – please don’t hesitate to give us a call! The healthcare professionals here at Complete Family Dermatology in Lincoln, NE are here to help keep your skin healthy and happy!

SPF Makeup — Does It Work?

People are becoming much more keenly aware of the dangers of UV radiation thanks to recent scientific research. Skin damage from UV radiation is the number 1 cause of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, rates of skin cancer over the past 40 years have risen more than 200 percent, more than breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancer combined. More than 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year.
The knowledge of the dangers of sun exposure has caused a new trend in the cosmetics industry. Makeup manufacturers are now making makeup products containing SPF (Sun Protection Factor), which are meant to double as both cosmetics and sunscreen. SPF cosmetic products include primers, foundation, lipstick, and more, which promise to deliver protection from the sun.
So, there is a very real question for consumers: Do these makeup products containing SPF actually work? Moreover, can they function as a substitute for regular sunscreen?

Does SPF Makeup Actually Work?

Short Answer: No. Cosmetic products containing SPF do not do an adequate job of protecting your skin from the sun’s rays. When it comes to UV protection, there is no substitute for a dedicated sunscreen.
Longer Answer: Technically, yes, SPF makeup can protect against sun rays, but it is still not an effective means to protect your skin.
Let’s talk about sun rays. UV radiation comes in two forms, UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are normally seen as the UV rays that cause skin aging, while UVB rays are the UV rays that cause sunburn. UVA rays have a larger wavelength and are less energetic, while UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and are more energetic.
Both UVA and UVB rays can damage your skin, but evidence suggests that UVB ray exposure is most associated with the risk of developing skin cancers. Since UVB rays are very energetic, they can damage the DNA in your skin cells, causing them to multiply out of control, which creates the malignant tumors associated with skin cancer.
The fact of the matter is that most makeup products with SPF do not have the right amount of coverage to protect against both kinds of UV rays. While SPF makeups may be able to guard against some of the lower-energy UVA rays, they do not have the coverage to block UVB rays, the most dangerous ones. Makeup products hardly do a good job of guarding against UVA rays, either, as UVA rays make up about 95 percent of the UV radiation from the sun.
According to Dermatologist Leslie Bauman, you would need 7 times the normal amount of foundation and 14 times the normal amount of powder to get adequate SPF protection. Moreover, proper sun protection requires you to reapply sunscreen every one to two hours. Imagine applying a half-dollar coin-sized blob of foundation every two hours of the day. Your face would be perpetually caked in makeup if you did that. Makeup products simply are not applied with enough regularity or in high enough amounts to make them effective at protecting the skin from sun damage.
Further, the chemicals that make SPF sunscreen so effective, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are often left out of cosmetic products because they change the spread and wear of the products. Some cosmetics lines use these chemicals as the basis for their products, though.
So, if you are going out in the sun, there is no substitute for a dedicated sunscreen. Experts recommend sunscreen with at least SPF 50, which blocks about 95 percent of the sun’s rays.

Protecting Your Face From Sun Damage

The easiest way to prevent skin cancer is by using sunscreen. Most skin cancers are caused by too much UV exposure, mostly from the sun but also from other human sources, such as sunlamps and tanning beds.

The two major kinds of UV rays that cause skin damage are UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are typically more energetic and associated with a greater risk of skin cancer, but UVA rays can also be dangerous. In short, there are no safe UV rays, so you should try to protect yourself from all of them. UV rays can cause cancer by damaging the DNA in your cells, causing them to multiply out of control and create malignant tumors.

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to protect your face from sun damage. From sunscreen to limiting the amount of time you spend in the sun, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Use Sunscreen Every Day

Even if it is cloudy outside, you should use a bit on sunscreen every day. UV rays are different than visible light rays, so they can penetrate through the clouds and we cannot see them. Even on days when it is cold, you can still get sunburnt, as UV rays are not directly related to heat.

To apply sunscreen appropriately, use about 1 ounce (a shot glass or palmful) to cover the arms legs, neck, and face of the average adult.

Apply Sunscreen Every Two Hours

When you are out and about, make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours. Make sure you cover sensitive areas, such as your ears, lips, and the tops of the feet. Even if you do not feel like you need to reapply, be diligent. Reapply every hour if you are swimming or sweating. Even if your sunscreen is a high SPF, that does not mean you can go longer without reapplying.

Choose Broad-Spectrum Sunblock

Make sure to pick a broad-spectrum sunblock that guards against both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure the sunscreen is at least SPF 30 or higher and water-resistant. Sunscreens that have a high SPF but no UVB protection will prevent sunburn, but they won’t reduce the risk of skin cancer. Sunscreens come as lotions, creams, ointments, gels, wipes, and lip balms. Even some cosmetics, like lipstick and foundation, have sunscreen properties.

Be Careful Around Water and Sand

Both water and sand reflect UV rays and increase the chance of skin damage, so you need to be careful around those surfaces.

Limit Time Spent in the Sun

Try to limit the total amount of time you spend in the sun. If you are working outside, take regular breaks in the shade. The sun is normally the hottest and most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so be the most careful during those times. Keep tabs on your shadow; if it is shorter than you, the sun is too intense, and you should find shade.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

If you are going to be spending an extended period in the sun, make sure to dress appropriately for the situation. Long-sleeved shirts and pants can protect you from the brunt of the damage, and dark-colored clothing blocks more UV radiation than light-colored clothing. Consider keeping a pair of shades and a hat on hand to protect your eyes, face, and neck.

Watch for Medications

Some medications, like some kinds of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and antifungals, can make you more sensitive to the sun’s rays, so make sure to consult with your doctor if you are taking any medications.

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