What Are Liver Spots

  • Amaan Siddique Bsc (Hons), Biomedical Science,University of Surrey, UK


Age spots are little, black patches on the skin. The hands, face, arms, and shoulders are typical sun-exposed locations where they can be found. Age spots are referred to by a variety of names, including sunspots, solar lentigines, and liver spots.1 There is no connection between age spots and the liver, but they are sometimes referred to as liver spots because they are often brown.

It might be better to call them sunspots since they are usually caused by prolonged exposure to the sun. See your doctor first if your age spot is expanding quickly or if it has any lumps or black patches inside it. In rare circumstances, you might require a specific evaluation by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.2

Age spots are frequently seen in people over the age of 50, although sun exposure can sometimes make them appear earlier. Age spots could look like cancerous growths however normal age spots are not harmful and don't require treatment, but they are an indication that your skin has been overexposed to the sun and is attempting to defend itself. They can be lightened or removed for cosmetic reasons. By routinely using sunscreen and avoiding the sun, you may help prevent age spots.3

Causes of liver spots

Overactive pigment cells are the cause of age spots. Melanin, a naturally occurring pigment that gives skin its colour, is produced more quickly by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Age spots can develop on skin that has been exposed to the sun for a long time when melanin congregates or is generated in large quantities. Age spots can also result from using tanning beds and lights in business settings.3 Signs and symptoms of liver spots

All skin types are susceptible to age spots, but they are more prevalent among lighter-skinned individuals. Age spots do not vanish, in contrast to freckles, which are frequent in children and disappear when exposed to no sunlight.

Age spots:

  • Are flat, oval sections that are darker in colour
  • Generally, they range from dark brown to tan in colour
  • Occur on areas of skin having spent most time in the sun, such as the shoulders, upper back, backs of the hands, and tops of the feet
  • Range in size from freckles to nearly 1/2 inch (13 millimetres) in diameter
  • May assemble in groups, becoming more visible

Management and treatment of liver spots

Age spots can be treated in one of two ways:

Creams & lotions

Creams and lotions: There are several over-the-counter treatments offered to treat age spots. The American Academy of Dermatology advises seeing a dermatologist prior to using a cream or lotion to get rid of age spots. The dermatologist can determine if it is genuinely an age spot or if there are additional lesions present, such as skin cancer, seborrheic keratoses, and actinic keratoses. Instead of treating skin cancer with age spot medication, which might promote the growth and spread of the disease, it is critical to have a professional diagnosis.4

Age spots can be treated rapidly with one or two laser procedures, and the effects are likely to remain longer than they would with a cream that can lighten age spots. 

In contrast to creams, lasers can have certain undesirable side effects, including crusting or transient worsening of age spots. These negative effects usually pass rapidly.

  • Cryosurgery (procedure): Cryosurgery is a frequent method used to cure age spots. Dermatologists use this process to freeze ageing spots. The skin becomes more evenly toned as it recovers. Despite being rapid, treatment can be uncomfortable. After treatment, you can have mild discomfort, a blister, or brief redness and swelling. Lasting side effects may include scars, skin whitening around the age spot, or a darkening of the age spot. Permanent adverse effects are extremely uncommon when cryosurgery is carried out by a board-certified dermatologist.
  • Microdermabrasion (procedure): Age spots are removed by a dermatologist using the microdermabrasion process. Studies reveal that the technique is particularly effective when a patient additionally has a chemical peel. One trial involved administering microdermabrasion to certain participants once biweekly for a total of 16 weeks. Roughly 40% of these individuals had their age spots completely removed.
    Results were better for those who underwent chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Age spots vanished entirely for half of these individuals. You can notice a small amount of soreness following a microdermabrasion procedure and cracked skin for up to four days in some individuals. 
  • Chemical peeling (procedure): Chemical peeling is an excellent method for removing age spots from the hands. Cryosurgery was contrasted with chemical peeling in a study that discovered that 47% of patients who had the chemical peel experienced a 50% disappearance of their age marks. Although the results for individuals who had cryosurgery were marginally better, a chemical peel promotes skin healing faster.5


Diagnosis of age spots includes:

Visual examination

Usually, a doctor can identify age spots only by glancing at your skin. Age spots must be distinguished from other skin conditions because they require different treatments, and if the wrong approach is used, other necessary therapies may be delayed.

Skin biopsy

Other tests that your doctor may do include a skin biopsy, which involves taking a tiny sample of skin for laboratory analysis. This can aid in the differentiation between age spots and other disorders like lentigo maligna, a kind of skin cancer. With the aid of a local anaesthetic, skin biopsies are often performed in a doctor's office.6


How can I prevent liver spots

During the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, it is recommended that you avoid the sun. You should avoid outdoor activities during peak sun hours, as the sun's rays are strongest at these times.

Apply sunscreen: Be sure to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 before going outside. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently each time you're swimming or sweating.

Cover up: Wear tightly woven clothes that conceal your arms and legs and a broad-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the sun.7

How common are liver spots?

People over the age of 50 are more likely to get age spots, although younger people who spend time in the sun can also develop them.

Who is at risk of liver spots?

Age spots may be more likely to appear if you:

  • Have fair skin
  • Someone who has been exposed to the sun frequently or intensely in the past

When should I see a doctor

Age spots don't necessarily need medical attention. Ask your doctor to examine any patches that are dark or that seem to have changed. Melanoma, a dangerous kind of skin cancer, may be indicated by these changes.

Any freshly observed skin changes should ideally be examined by a physician, particularly when spotted:6

  • It is dark in colour
  • Has an uneven boundary and is growing
  • Has a fascinating colour combination


Age spots or solar lentigines, often known as liver spots, are harmless skin discolourations that frequently take the form of tiny, flat, darkish patches on the skin. The hands, face, arms, and shoulders are often the first to show signs of these conditions because they have been exposed to the sun for a long time.

Melanin, the pigment that gives our skin its colour, builds up in these spots because of either continuous sun exposure or the ageing process. Although liver spots are usually not harmful and don't need to be treated medically, some people may opt for cosmetic procedures to lessen the appearance or for purely cosmetic reasons.

The growth of liver spots can be minimised through prevention and sun protection. Broad-spectrum sunscreen application on a regular basis, wearing protective clothes, and finding cover at the height of the sun's rays can all help reduce the risk. To rule out any possible worries or underlying diseases, it is advised to visit a healthcare provider or dermatologist if someone finds new or changing patches on their skin.


  1. Choi W, Yin L, Smuda C, Batzer J, Hearing VJ, Kolbe L. Molecular and histological characterization of age spots. Exp Dermatol. 2017 Mar;26(3):242–8. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27621222/
  2. Ortonne JP, Bissett DL. Latest Insights into Skin Hyperpigmentation. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2008 Apr 1;13(1):10–4. 
  3. What can get rid of age spots? [Internet]. [cited 2024 Mar 16]. Available from: https://www.aad.org/public/cosmetic/age-spots-marks/get-rid-spots.
  4. Schilling LM, Saedi N. Commentary on a Prospective Trial Comparing Q-Switched Ruby Laser and a Triple Combination Skin-Lightening Cream in the Treatment of Solar Lentigines. Dermatol Surg. 2016 Jul;42(7):858-859. DOI: 10.1097/DSS.0000000000000792.
  5. Schaffer JV, et al. Benign pigmented skin lesions other than melanocytic nevi (moles). https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Nov. 19, 2019.7.
  6. Sunscreen: How to protect your skin from the sun. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/understanding-over-counter-medicines/sunscreen-how-help-protect-your-skin-sun
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Titilayo Ologun

Master's degree, Bioinformatics, Teesside University

Titilayo is a versatile professional excelling as a Biochemist, Public Health Analyst, and Bioinformatician, driving innovation at the intersection of Science and Health. Her robust foundation encompasses profound expertise in scientific research methodologies, literature reviews, data analysis, interpretation, and the skill to communicate intricate scientific insights. Driven by an ardent commitment to data-driven research and policy advancement, she remains resolute in her mission to elevate healthcare standards through her interdisciplinary proficiency and unwavering pursuit of distinction. With a passion for knowledge-sharing, she brings a unique perspective to each piece.

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