Age spots seem to be an inevitable part of growing older, but that doesn’t mean that these discolored patches have to be endured.
Various medical treatments can help to eradicate age spots, and when it comes to do-it-yourself home remedies, essential oils have a significant role to play in helping skin to renew itself with less visible damage.
- 1 What Are Age Spots?
- 2 What Causes Age Spots?
- 3 Are There Any Conventional Treatments For Age Spots?
- 4 Who Is Most At Risk Of Developing Age Spots?
- 5 Are There Any Ways To Prevent Age Spots?
- 6 How Do Essential Oils Help Age Spots?
- 7 Frankincense Essential Oil (Boswellia Carteri)
- 8 Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula Angustifolia)
- 9 Helichrysum Essential Oil (Helichrysum Angustifolium)
- 10 Sandalwood Essential Oil (Santalum Album)
- 11 Geranium Essential Oil (Pelargonium Graveolens)
- 12 Orange Blossom/Neroli Essential Oil (Citrus Aurantium Var. Amara)
- 13 Rose Essential Oil (Rosa Damascena & Rosa Centifolia)
- 14 Myrrh Essential Oil (Commiphora Myrrha)
- 15 Yarrow Essential Oil (Achillea Millefolium)
- 16 How To Use Essential Oils On Age Spots
- 17 Essential Oil Quality Matters – A Lot!
What Are Age Spots?
Age spots – also known as liver spots, pigment spots, sun spots, and solar lentigines – are flat hyperpigmented areas of skin. While most commonly seen as a light tan or brown spot on the skin, age spots can also be gray or black.
Color change is the only symptom of age spots and skin texture remains unaffected.
Age spots vary in size, from the very small spots that look just like a freckle, to larger ovals up to half an inch in size. Sometimes a number of smaller age spots can develop in the same area which makes them more noticeable.
The skin on any area of the body can develop age spots, but this discoloration is most often found on areas of the body that have had more frequent sun exposure like the face, neck, shoulders, chest, upper back, arms, lower legs, and the back of the hands.
Although older people tend to be the most likely group to sport age spots (hence the name), younger people can also develop these patches, and no age group is immune to this very common skin problem.
Age spots are unsightly but not painful. If a discolored area on your skin is painful, swollen, has an irregular border, is rapidly increasing in size, is itchy, sore or bleeding, you should have it looked at by your doctor to rule out any serious condition.
What Causes Age Spots?
Age spots are the result of a localized increase in melanin production by the pigment cells in your skin. Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin a golden glow after you’ve been out in the sun or enjoyed a session on a tanning bed.
Produced by cells deep in the epidermis called melanocytes, melanin is later taken up by other skin cells. The amount of melanin skin cells absorb depends on the overall health of the skin.
Experts aren’t entirely sure what triggers the excess melanin production responsible for age spots, but because age spots tend to occur on areas of the body that have, over the years, had the greatest sun exposure, ultraviolet (UV) light is thought to play a significant role.
Because changes in the skin develop over time, older people are more likely to develop visible age or sun spots, but younger people are already accruing the same damage, it’s just not visible yet.
Are There Any Conventional Treatments For Age Spots?
Treatments for lightening or removing age spots do exist, and they range from low tech skin bleaching to high tech laser therapy. Talk to your dermatologist if you’re interested in pursuing treatment.
Prescription creams containing hydroquinone can help to fade age spots with regular use over the course of several months. Mild steroids may also be prescribed for use at the same time.
Over-the-counter skin lightening creams are also available although their lower strength means that spots will take longer to fade.
Cryotherapy involves freezing the age spot with liquid nitrogen to destroy the over a pigmented tissue. Freezing is a quick procedure and usually takes less than a minute although some discomfort may occur and this can last for up to 3 days.
Dermabrasion is essentially a method of removing layers of skin so that fresh new skin without excess pigment grows in place of the age spot. This procedure usually needs to be repeated more than once.
Laser therapy uses pulsed light to penetrate the skin and destroy melanin producing cells. Several sessions are typically needed and age spots will slowly fade over the following weeks.
A chemical peel uses a special acid to remove layers of skin over several treatment sessions. New skin then grows without the excess pigment characteristic of age spots.
After any treatment for age spots, skin needs to be protected with a high quality sun lotion..
Who Is Most At Risk Of Developing Age Spots?
Age spots can affect any person at any time. They are however more likely to appear if you:
- are over 50 years old.
- have fair skin (especially those with red hair).
- have spent a lot of time in the sun without adequate protection.
- have used tanning beds regularly.
Are There Any Ways To Prevent Age Spots?
Because age spots are associated with sun exposure, the best way to minimize your chances of developing more age spots in the future is to use a good sun cream, and to make sure you apply it properly.
Properly means applying a liberal amount of the sun cream instead of skimping with a thin layer. Sun cream should be applied 30 minutes before you head out into the sun and it also needs reapplying regularly through the day.
Look for sun creams with both UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of at least 30.
How Do Essential Oils Help Age Spots?
Certain essential oils are very helpful for skin care in general.
Essential oils are useful for accelerating cell rejuvenation, boosting circulation, increasing hydration, improving skin condition, protecting skin from free radical damage, and for lightening and brightening the skin.
Your skin is your body’s largest organ and by using essential oils you can help it to function at an optimal level, especially with regard to hydration. Damaged and dehydrated skin cells are unable to absorb melanin properly which results in the formation of dark patches.
Essential oils won’t bleach your age spots in any way, instead they work at a much deeper level to restore skin health and support your skin’s own ability to fix itself. As such you will need to apply your oils consistently over a period of time before you notice any improvement.
Frankincense Essential Oil (Boswellia Carteri)
Frankincense essential oil is a very good friend to mature skin, and it’s widely used to help combat at a cellular level, the damage caused by years of sun exposure.
One of the most interesting properties of frankincense essential oil is that as a cytophylactic it is able to stimulate the production of new skin cells and keep tissue healthy.
A double blind, placebo controlled trial investigating the effects of boswellic acid (extracted from frankincense) on skin photoaging, found that after applying a cream with a concentration of 0.5% boswellic acid for 30 days, skin showed improvements in photoaging and elasticity, and a reduction in roughness and fine lines.
Frankincense is also of great benefit in restoring skin tone and texture, eliminating fine lines, and improving the appearance of wrinkles.
If you have dry skin (which becomes increasingly common as skin ages), frankincense will help your skin hold on to moisture and make it more able to absorb topical moisturizing creams.
Frankincense has a rich, exotic fragrance which blends well with the other spicy and floral oils in this list.
Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Lavender is another cytophylactic essential oil. It’s also well known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Inflamed skin is less able to receive nutrients or clear away toxins, and as a result cell renewal will be impaired.
When you use lavender essential oil on age spots and the surrounding area, circulation will improve and skin cell regeneration will be encouraged and supported.
It’s the cytophylactic action of lavender which makes it such a superb remedy for burns. Burned skin treated with lavender recovers more quickly and with less (or no scarring).
Fresh, and herbaceous, lavender is considered both a masculine and feminine fragrance, so this is one oil that men can use without worry.
Helichrysum Essential Oil (Helichrysum Angustifolium)
Helichrysum is a valuable partner, helping mature skin maintain good condition and resilience.
As a cytophylactic, helichrysum works hard to promote healthy skin cell turnover, and as an anti-inflammatory, it clears the way for optimal circulation.
A mild astringent action tightens sagging tissue and produces more youthful, firmer skin, while antimicrobial properties fight bacteria and lessen the stress that skin is regularly exposed to.
This essential oil has a delicate, almost honey like aroma which is pleasant to use.
Sandalwood Essential Oil (Santalum Album)
According to Ayurveda, the ancient system of medicine originating in India, sandalwood essential oil with its cytophylactic properties is of use for fading dark patches on the skin, improving the appearance of scars, and restoring youthful tone to mature skin.
In addition to being of use for lightening age spots, sandalwood essential oil is widely used by Indian women who desire a lighter overall complexion.
Further benefits that sandalwood brings to mature skin are increased hydration and protection for very dry skin.
Frankincense has a light, balsamic aroma which blends well with many other oils and won’t overpower your regular fragrance.
Geranium Essential Oil (Pelargonium Graveolens)
Geranium essential oil is another oil noted for its skin rejuvenating properties. Daily use of geranium helps to keep mature skin in tip-top condition.
Able to improve blood flow just beneath the skin’s surface, geranium ensures that cells are nourished and toxins are swiftly removed.
As an astringent, geranium helps to tone the skin and improve the appearance of loose, sagging skin which can be a particularly problematic as the skin on the back of the hands succumbs to the effects of aging.
Geranium has a very feminine floral aroma and like most essential oils, the scent has good staying power, if you don’t want to smell like a bouquet of flowers all day long, combine geranium with a spicy oil like patchouli, or a herbaceous oil like lavender to tone down the floral notes.
Orange Blossom/Neroli Essential Oil (Citrus Aurantium Var. Amara)
Orange blossom oil has been used in skincare for centuries and during that time it was a firm favorite of royalty and the nobility.
Use orange blossom to boost circulation and provide your skin with much needed antioxidant protection.
As a skin toning essential oil, orange blossom freshens the skin’s appearance and increases dehydrated skin’s ability to hold on to moisture.
Orange blossom has a sweet, rich, utterly intoxicating aroma which blends happily with citrus, floral, spicy and herbaceous oils.
Rose Essential Oil (Rosa Damascena & Rosa Centifolia)
Available as rose absolute (solvent extraction) and rose otto (steam distillation), rose is one of the most expensive floral oils, but its excellent skin rejuvenating properties make it well worth splashing out on.
Rich in eugenol, rose is an outstanding antioxidant, able to help protect the skin from the ravages of environmental pollution and the aging inflicted by the sun’s rays.
Rose oil also increases your skin’s permeability, improving its ability to absorb the nutrients and moisture from the other skin care products that you use.
With a strong antibacterial action, rose helps your skin combat microbes, resulting in a reduction in the stress exerted on your skin and leading to healthier skin overall.
When you use rose your skin will be softer, smoother, better hydrated, brighter and healthier.
Sweetly floral, but not at all overpowering, rose can be blended with most other essential oils.
Myrrh Essential Oil (Commiphora Myrrha)
Myrrh is an ancient remedy with roots stretching back thousands of years into antiquity. Along with frankincense, myrrh (according to biblical lore) was one of gifts delivered to the newborn Christ. But as a matter of fact, myrrh is also a huge boon for those of more advanced years, especially when it comes to skincare.
As another of the cytophylactic essential oils, myrrh aids healthy skin cell renewal. Its rejuvenating properties help to combat fine lines and wrinkles, while its antimicrobial actions keep infectious agents at bay and reduce overall stress on the skin.
When used regularly, myrrh will help your skin retain moisture, and it’s particularly effective when skin is so dry that it cracks or flakes (optimal hydration is an important aspect of correct melanin distribution).
Myrrh is also an anti-inflammatory and so supports healthy circulation and removal of wastes and toxins. Other benefits that come from using myrrh include firmer, smoother skin with a more even, brighter tone.
Sweet and spicy, myrrh has a pleasant unisex fragrance.
Yarrow Essential Oil (Achillea Millefolium)
Yarrow essential oil brings many benefits to older, stressed, worn out skin.
A good anti-inflammatory, yarrow supports effective circulation and waste removal while antiseptic properties help to keep skin clear and reduce the stress it suffers; this increased resilience leaves more resources available for healthy cell renewal.
Dry skin receives a boost from yarrow because it helps to support the skin’s natural protective barrier and prevents excess moisture loss.
A gentle astringent, yarrow isn’t drying, yet is able to tighten tissue and give the skin a firmer, smoother appearance.
Skin tone also receives a boost from yarrow, and with regular use the complexion becomes more even and takes on a brighter aspect.
Yarrow has a green, herbaceous aroma making it easy to combine with other oils and it’s one of the more discrete scents.
How To Use Essential Oils On Age Spots
To make sure that your essential oils help your skin instead of causing further damage you must always dilute them before use. Failure to dilute essential oils can cause irritation, allergic reactions and skin sensitization.
Essential oils don’t mix with water, so don’t try to dilute your oils that way. The correct way to dilute essential oils is with carrier oils. Carrier oils are seed oils (like olive, coconut, almond etc.) and you can use whichever oil you have on hand.
If you only need to use a small amount of oil to cover the odd age spot here and there, the consistency of your carrier oil doesn’t matter much, and a greasy oil like the olive oil which you probably have in your kitchen is fine to use.
However, if you have larger areas to cover then a more easily absorbed oil like sunflower, rice bran, or jojoba oil would be a better choice so that you aren’t left with annoying residue all over your skin.
A standard essential oil dilution is made with a 2% essential oil content. To make this dilution, use a total of 12 drops of essential oil mixed with 30 ml, or one ounce of carrier oil.
Rub your diluted oil or oil blend into age spots twice a day.
A 2% dilution is safe for many oils and for most people, but if you are over 70, your body is less efficient at breaking down essential oils for elimination, and therefore a 1% dilution is recommended.
To make a 1% dilution use 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.
Two percent isn’t the maximum safe level for many essential oils but remedies at this level are often effective because in truth very small amounts of essential oils are usually all that is needed.
According to Tisserand & Young, authors of Essential Oil Safety – A Guide For Healthcare Professionals, the maximum safe amounts for dermal application of the essential oils mentioned in this article are as follows:
- Frankincense -2%
- Lavender -10%
- Helichrysum – 4%
- Sandalwood – 2%
- Geranium – 17.5%
- Orange Blossom – 4%
- Rose – 0.6% (otto) 2.5% (absolute)
- Myrrh – 1%
- Yarrow – 8.6%
Essential Oil Quality Matters – A Lot!
Essential oils vary wildly in quality and in price. A low quality oil is an oil that may be adulterated, too old, or spoiled.
Adulterated oils are essential oils that have been cut with carrier oils, in other cases expensive oils like rose are cut with less expensive essential oils like geranium.
Essential oils don’t last forever and are effective for 4 to 5 years, although citrus oils have a shorter lifespan. Old stock will have degraded and the altered chemical constituents of the oils will no longer produce beneficial effects.
Spoiled oils are oils that haven’t been stored properly. Essential oils oxidize and break down in the presence of heat and light.
The best way to ensure that your oils are the genuine, fresh and potent is to purchase reputable brands like Tisserand or Plant Therapy (both available via Amazon).
Once you become familiar with the characteristics of high quality essential oils, you can use those as a benchmark to compare other brands too.