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What can I do about brown spots on my face and hands?

Answer by:
Laurie Polis, MD

American Academy of Cosmetic Surgeons

Age spots, technically called “solar lentigines,” are well-defined, uniformly colored areas of brown or grayish pigment that generally appear on the hands, face, neck, and chest. Despite the name, these spots are the result of sun exposure, not age.

You can treat age spots several ways. The most popular at-home treatments are over-the-counter (OTC) hydroquinone (HQ) preparations, which inhibit melanin production in the skin. But they tend to be more effective for treating melasma or hormonally induced irregular pigmentations than for true age spots.

Dermatologists often have better results with prescription-strength retinol and HQ creams, which work faster than OTC formulations. Dermatologists also use microdermabrasion, chemical peels, chemical spot treatments, laser treatments, and light therapy to lighten age spots. Some of these procedures require just one treatment; others take two or three sessions.

Remember to have a dermatologist check your age spots yearly to make sure they truly are benign. And if you notice changes in color, size, shape, or feel, tell your skin care specialist right away.