Locations:
Search IconSearch

How to Get Rid of Age Spots (or Liver Spots) and Avoid More

What to do about those brown spots on your skin + how to avoid getting more

woman's hands with age spots holding bible

Your doctor has told you that those brown spots that appeared suddenly on your skin are nothing to worry about – they are simply age spots. That’s great news.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But if you don’t like how they look, you might be wondering how you got those spots, how can you get rid of them and how to avoid getting more.

Age spots, which are sometimes called liver spots or solar lentigines, happen after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, says dermatologist Amy Kassouf, MD. They can be tan, brown or black, vary in size and usually appear on the areas most exposed to the sun such as the face, hands, shoulders and arms.

“Age spots are common in adults older than age 50,” Dr. Kassouf says. “But younger people can get them too, especially if they spend a lot of time in the sun or use tanning beds.”

How age spots develop

Your skin contains melanin, which gives your skin its color. Melanin also gives you a tan when your skin is exposed to UV light.

Age spots appear when melanin becomes clumped in the skin or is produced in high concentrations, such as when your skin is exposed to lots of UV light, Dr. Kassouf says.

Anyone can develop age spots, but you may be more likely to develop the condition if you have light-colored or fair skin or have a history of frequent or intense sun exposure or sunburn.

Older women are more susceptible to age spots — and sun damage — because they have reduced amounts of melanin in the skin.

If you noticed you have spots that have grown or changed in size, are multicolored or bleed, see your dermatologist. These could be cancerous and need to be treated immediately.

How to prevent age spots

Sometimes the best place to start is before you develop age spots. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen to prevent them from occurring in the first place, or to prevent them from reoccurring. Mineral-based sun blocks with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the best for both our skin and for the environment. But don’t forget about sun protective clothing, hats and sunglasses too! If you drive a lot, you might even want to consider getting an ultraviolet protective coating on the driver’s side window of your car.

What you can do about age spots

If you’re unhappy with the appearance of age spots, you can lighten or remove them. The pigment is at the base of the epidermis — the topmost layer of skin — so any treatments meant to lighten the age spots must penetrate this layer of skin.

Age spot treatments include:

  • Prescription lightening creams (hydroquinone) used alone or with retinoids (tretinoin) and a mild steroid may gradually fade the spots over several months.
  • Laser and intense pulsed light therapies can target melanin granules and melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) without damaging the skin’s surface.
  • Freezing, or cryotherapy, involves applying liquid nitrogen or another freezing agent to the age spots to destroy the extra pigment.
  • Laser resurfacing, which can remove sun-damaged cells to freshen skin and fade spots.
  • Chemical peel, which involves applying to the age spots an acid that releases the outer layer of your skin.

Advertisement

These procedures can have side effects, so discuss your options carefully with your dermatologist, Dr. Kassouf says. It’s important to make sure your dermatologist is specially trained and experienced in the technique you’re considering, she says.

Home treatments

You can purchase over-the-counter fade creams and lotions for lightening age spots in department stores and drugstores and on the Internet. These may improve the appearance of age spots, depending on how dark the spots are and how often you apply the cream, Dr. Kassouf says.

“Regular and consistent use over the course of several weeks or months may be necessary to produce noticeable results,” she says.

When buying a nonprescription fade cream, choose one that contains hydroquinone, glycolic acid or kojic acid, Dr. Kassouf says. Some of these products, especially those that contain hydroquinone, may cause skin irritation.

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

A person's back, covered in moles and freckles, with their hand reaching over their shoulder
July 22, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
What To Expect During a Full-Body Skin Cancer Screening

During an annual exam, your provider will check for any moles or spots that have changed in size, color or shape

Person grimacing while scratching an itch on their arm
July 19, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Why Am I So Itchy? Common Causes and How To Know if It’s Something Serious

Dry air, harsh soaps and even some medications can bring on an itch, but in some cases, itchiness can be a sign of an underlying condition

Person in towel in front of bathtub, with shelves of lotions, holding jar of moisturizer, applying to face
June 17, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
14 Natural and Home Remedies for Psoriasis

Moisturize often, take oatmeal baths, use Epsom salts and follow a healthy diet to help reduce your symptoms

Person in towel standing in bathroom, with milk pticher on edge of bathtub
June 13, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Take the Plunge: 4 Reasons To Try a Milk Bath

Adding a little milk to your bath can leave your skin smooth, silky and refreshed

Blister on bottom of big toe
June 11, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
5 Ways To Avoid Blisters (and the Best Way To Treat Them)

Wear properly fitted shoes, break them in ahead of time and wear moisture-wicking socks

Older hands rubbing in lotion
June 10, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Have Crepey Skin? Here’s How You Can Address It

Topical treatments — and even some cosmetic procedures — may help reduce the appearance of this crinkled-paper look

Older person applying skin cream to their face
June 7, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Benefits of Ferulic Acid as Part of Your Skin Care Routine

Ferulic acid can help make other antioxidant products more powerful

Glass of beer on table at beach with beach-goers
June 3, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Why Experts Say To Avoid Beer Tanning

You’re putting your skin at risk of sunburn and even skin cancer when you pour on the beer

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad