“Wisdom spots” and “liver spots” are common terms used to describe mottled darkening of the skin that occurs from chronic sun exposure. The medical term for these spots is “lentigines”. Many people consider them a sign of aging, but they are not something that occurs naturally. They require a certain degree of sun/ultraviolet radiation exposure over many years to form.
The skin will react to excessive sun exposure in many different ways. Brown spots (lentigines), pink scaly spots (actinic keratosis), wrinkles, sagging skin and skin cancer formation are all examples of how the skin can change from sun exposure. Each person may have different combinations of changes that can require treatment. Some treatments are meant to treat several of these things at once, while others are more specific to treat each problem.
Before & After
How are they treated?
There are many options for treating brown spots. These include using light-based devices such as IPL (intense pulsed light) or lasers. Other options include chemical peels and topical bleaching agents. Some options are meant to treat other cosmetic conditions at the same time (eg red spots, wrinkles, skin cancers, etc). Others are meant to treat just the brown spots. The best option for each person depends on many factors including things such as the skin type/skin texture of the patient, the severity/amount of the brown spots, the timeframe for results, the willingness to put up with “downtime”, the budget, and the general health of the individual.
How do they form?
These brown spots are caused by the pigment-producing cells in the skin, the melanocytes, increasing in number within the skin as a response to excessive sun exposure. These cells then transfer increased amounts of melanin to the adjacent skin cells, called keratinocytes. This results in the appearance of brown spots on the skin.
Where do you get them?
The brown spots tend to occur on sun-exposed areas such as the face, scalp, arms, and back of the hands. You don’t see them on sun-protected areas such as the buttocks or bottoms of the feet.
How does Lumen Aesthetics address patients with brown spots?
There are several steps in managing this condition.
First, we recommend a skin cancer screening by a dermatologist or physician extender within our adjacent dermatology clinic. Sometimes early melanomas can mimic the appearance of benign brown spots. If you have had enough sun exposure that your skin has developed brown spots, you are also at risk for skin cancers, including melanoma. Having a qualified expert examine your skin for a cancer screening is highly recommended.
Second, we listen to the concerns of the patient. Based on that conversation, we then tailor a comprehensive treatment protocol – a plan that addresses removing the brown spots but also includes a maintenance program for keeping them away. We use an evidence-based approach based on the dermatology literature that allows us to get results where others may have failed.
Third, we take baseline photographs of the condition using Fotofinder – a high-resolution professional photography system used for grading skin conditions and monitoring results. This allows for an objective assessment to track progress.
Fourth, once we clear all the areas of pigmentation, we review the best policies on maintenance and prevention to help keep the results long-lasting.
Most Effective & Popular Techniques
Syneron Elos Plus
An enhanced version of intense pulse light (IPL). Unlike standard IPL, the Syneron Elos plus combines the IPL wavelengths with a radiofrequency current that allows for increased pigment clearance with little to no redness/swelling afterward. We consider it to be the gold standard in the industry among the IPL devices currently available.
A great option for patients that want fast results. It can be used to treat brown spots alone or in combination with skin tightening/ skin resurfacing.
These can work well but often requires a series of treatment over several months
Depending on the patient’s skin type and texture, we will recommend a product or combination of products to help fade the brown spots over a series of months.
Regardless of the method used to fade the brown spots, using the right approach to sun-protection is critical to success. It’s also one of the most misunderstood concepts among aestheticians and medspas. Making sure you are using the right procedures, products and techniques for sun-protection can make a world of difference in the results you can expect.