ATLANTA - If you've lived in the South for a while, and you're over 40, you probably have a few sun spots.
"We find all ages and all genders are concerned about the brown spots, says Dr. Rutledge Forney, the founder of Dermatology Affiliates in Atlanta. "They're just not cute!"
Dr. Forney says the skin discolorations, caused by overactive pigment cells, typically appear on areas of skin that get a lot of sun exposure, like your face, hands, and, in Georgia, your legs.
"Oh, it's one of the highest concerns we've got in people over 40 because all of us got too much sun when we were younger," she says. "We didn't have the benefit of the sunscreens we have today. And nobody discouraged us from getting a lot of sun."
So now that you've got age spots, how do you get rid of them?
"What I like to say is all brown spots are not created equal," Forney says. " Some brown spots will respond to a cream. They all are better with sun protection. But, many of them either need to be lasered or treated with liquid nitrogen. And that's the best way to try to get rid of them and to try to start over again."
A laser treatment is your fastest and most expensive option.
Forney says lasers can peel away age spots in 7 to 10 days.
Freezing the spots, she says, can get rid them in about 6 to 8 weeks.
Or, she says, you could try a hydroquinone bleaching cream.
"The creams work by trying to go into the skin and lightening up the pigment that is inside the skin," Forney says.
The creams take about 8 to 12 weeks to make a difference, she says.
"We often use that (cream) in conjunction with a laser or chemical peel or something else that might lighten skin overall," she says.
Most brown spots are not cancerous. Still, Forney says, they are a sign you've had too much sun.
So, you want to keep an eye on the spots, watching for changes in color, texture, and size.
"So if you have a spot that's got multiple colors, and it's changing and is larger than a pencil eraser, that's something that needs to be checked out to make sure it's safe."