Age spots and chloasma

Age spots and chloasma

Next to wrinkles, nothing bothers most women as much as pigment spots, which, unlike pimples or freckles, do not always go away on their own. Women who take the pill, are pregnant or going through menopause are particularly affected, but you can do something to prevent chloasma and age spots. “Beauty draws part of its magic from transience” – as the writer Hermann Hesse said. But does one have to see this transience all too clearly? It is not for nothing that more and more dermatologists are offering cosmetic treatments aimed at all kinds of pigment disorders. For example, age spots can be removed with a laser.

The link between chloasma, sunbathing and hormones

There are differences between chloasma and age spots. Chloasma (also called melasma) is brownish hyperpigmentation, i.e. extreme but benign pigmentation on the face, chest, abdomen and genitals. They develop during pregnancy or through hormone preparations such as the pill and hormone therapies during menopause.

When exposed to the sun, normal skin reacts with even pigmentation. This is due to the work of melanocytes, which change colour when exposed to sunlight to protect the body from damage.

However, if the estrogen level is increased, many women have an excessive immune response: brown spots of different sizes disfigure the skin, which sometimes happens very quickly. Intensive sunbathing is enough, and my skin has changed so much. It is said that the hormones enlarge the cells responsible for forming the pigment melanin, influencing their distribution.


What to do with chloasma?

If you notice irregular skin tanning after taking hormone preparation, ask your gynaecologist if they can recommend a more suitable preparation.

In the case of superficial pigmentation, the dermatologist can try to lighten the pigments with a bleaching substance or remove them with a chemical peel . However, if the pigments are intense, covering them with cosmetics often helps.

prevent chloasma

As a preventive measure, hormone preparations such as the pill should preferably be taken in the evening because the hormone concentration is at its highest one to two hours after taking it and then breaks down again overnight.

In addition, you should use sunscreen with a high sun protection factor and not stay in the sun for too long.


Age spots: Cell damage caused by long-term UV radiation

Age spots (lentigo senilis or lentigo solaris) measuring a few millimetres to centimetres are pigment accumulations in the epidermis. They are also benign, form in men and women, and are a visible sign of long-term exposure to the sun. Therefore, they are mainly found on the face and hands. Ninety per cent of 60-year-old Germans are affected by them.

Age spots are accumulations of the pigment lipofuscin, an end product of the oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids in cell walls. For years, free radicals have played a significant role here, those molecules that only have a single electron and attack molecules with electron pairs to snatch an electron from them. For example, if cells are weakened by too much solar radiation, the connection between the electrons breaks. The cells age and the skin becomes leathery, wrinkled, and blotchy, producing lipofuscin.

Prevent and treat age spots.

It’s never too early to start protecting yourself from too much sun. Once the age spots are there, the dermatologist can remove the pigments in a targeted manner using a laser or a unique applicator plus heat. The side effects are minor; skin reddening can last a few weeks.

In addition, bleaching creams in pharmacies contain chemical substances, such as vitamin A acid derivatives, which peel off the epidermis and can irritate the skin. Again, it would help if you were very careful when sunbathing.

Those affected should have the pigment changes examined by a dermatologist before deciding on a cosmetic treatment for age spots and chloasma. In the case of liver spots (nevus cell nevi), the pigmentation is deep in the skin and can become malignant due to laser treatment.


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