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How can I Lighten Age Spots?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Age spots can occur anywhere on the body, although they most commonly affect the backs of the hands, shoulders, and the face of people over 55. They are the result of excess pigment in the areas they affect and are caused by exposure to the sun. In people who tan frequently, they occur more often, and are likely to occur earlier. There are many treatments to lighten age spots, including both home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments. Others involve prescription creams and solutions, or skin treatments at a dermatologist or plastic surgeon’s office.

Home remedies include using lemon juice, onion juice, or castor oil on areas with age spots. None of these are thought particularly effective, but they might be a good place to start since they are unlikely to damage the skin.

Most often, individuals first turn to OTC remedies to lighten age spots. Most of these focus on applying some form of acid to the skin. Citric acid peels or moisturizers containing vitamin C may slightly lighten the dark areas. Alpha hydroxy acid may be strong enough to lighten spots that aren't too dark. Other OTC moisturizers or gels containing beta hydroxy acid or lactic acid also might prove somewhat effective.

The gold standard prescription ointment treatment is hydroquinone, which bleaches the skin. Hydroquinone is not suitable for everyone, however, and it works best on people with light skin. People with darker skin may end up with lighter or darker spots in the area, and they may be better served using kojic acid. This works in much the same manner as hydroquinone, but it usually doesn't cause problems for most people with darker skin.

Professional medical treatments to lighten age spots are usually one of three methods. Healthcare professionals can use laser resurfacing, intense pulsed light, or chemical peels. Chemical peels, especially surface ones, may need to be repeated a few times before being effective. Laser resurfacing is more common, but can sometimes result in skin that appears too light or in light spots on the skin instead of dark ones.

Intense pulsed light therapy is a newer age spot treatment, and many people prefer it because it requires very little recovery time. It delivers light to all the skin layers and may also improve the look of broken blood vessels and spider veins. The procedure usually has to be repeated several times for best results.

Whatever treatment you plan to use, you will have very little positive effect without appropriate protection from the sun. You must wear sunscreen on all areas of exposed skin whenever you plan to be outdoors. Continued sun exposure will cause more age spots to appear, and generally renders any treatment useless.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By gregg1956 — On Sep 03, 2010

Has anybody tried using citric peels to fade age spots?

By CopperPipe — On Sep 03, 2010

What is the best cream for lightening age spots? I've read about all these different methods for age spot lightening, but which one works the best?

I have a lot of brown age spots on my face, and would really love to learn how to lighten them -- age spots on the face are the worst.

So can anyone tell me which method, particularly a cream, is good for lightening or fading age spots?

By galen84basc — On Sep 03, 2010

My grandmother was a huge fan of using lemon juice for bleaching and removing ages spots.

She swore up and down that it was the only thing you needed, and turned up her nose at those hydroquinone age spot products. And it appeared to work for her, so who knows? Maybe lemon juice really is the way to go.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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