How to treat age spots on hands, according to a dermatologist

Age spots on hands? This expert-approved guide will help you fade and prevent pigmentation

woman smile age spots on hands
(Image credit: Future/Getty)

Age spots on hands are incredibly common and those little brown splodges can be an irritating reminder of a careless youthful attitude towards the sun. They are not dangerous and you don't have to do anything about them, but if you do want to know how to get rid of pigmentation on your hands, heed this advice.

Skincare doesn't necessarily stop at our faces. Looking after your skin can be an all-over affair and gives you the best shot at looking and feeling great. Of course, even the best skincare products have to be taken with a pinch of salt and there's not one definitive secret to top-to-toe confidence, but taking care of your hands is a good place to start.

Our hands go through a lot every day, from regular handwashing in harsh detergents to gardening, and without proper skincare, common concerns such as wrinkles and pigmentation can end up becoming more prominent.  All is not lost though, we've spoken with Dermatologist and founder of Dermatology Consulting, Dr Anne Farrell, to reveal every way you can help to combat age spots on your hands.

Age spots on hands: everything you need to know

What are age spots?

According to Dr Farrell, "The medical term for age spots is solar lentigos. They are harmless areas of increased skin pigmentation caused by the long-term result of excessive sun over the years." 

Age spots, sometimes called brown spots, liver spots, or sun spots, resemble freckles on the skin. They are flat and can appear as single spots or in a cluster, and just like dry skin, you may notice them getting more prominent with age. 

They are most typically found on areas of the body that are exposed to UV rays often, like the hands, face, and chest. "The backs of the hands are particularly prone to sun damage as they are exposed to the sun most of our life and it can be difficult to keep reapplying sun block after washing hands," explains Dr Farrell. Similarly, if you are or have been a sunbed user, age spots will likely develop as you get older. 

How to prevent age spots on hands

Prevention is superior to cure when it comes to age spots on hands. Aside from wearing gloves 24/7 (which isn't the most practical solution) these are the tips to follow:

  • Avoid exposure: "As age spots are caused by the long-term effects of sun, the most important thing you can do to stop them from developing is to protect your skin by avoiding direct sun exposure," says Dr Farrell. The sun is at its strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm so seek shade or head indoors during these times when it's hot.
  • Wear protective clothing: Long sleeves, a high neck, long trousers, and a hat will keep harsh UV rays from penetrating your skin.
  • Apply SPF: The best SPF is one you will wear and reapply. "Wearing a broad-spectrum sunblock all year round is paramount," says Dr Farrell. The best facial sunscreens have a protection factor of at least 30 and the same should go for your hands and body.

Pro treatments for age spots on hands

A woman with age spots on her hands

(Image credit: Getty images)

Just like baby botox for lines or Ultherapy for loose skin, the most effective treatments for age spots on hands are likely to be in-clinic and a little more expensive than your average cream. If pigmentation is bothering you, going down the professional treatment route is a reliable option for effective results. 

Lumecca IPL (Intense Pulse Laser)
Delivering wavelengths of light to the affected area of skin, an IPL laser interacts with brown and red pigments in the skin which absorb the light and are destroyed. It's perfect for fading freckles, age spots and other types of hyperpigmentation. A great side effect of this treatment is stimulated collagen so not only does pigmentation improve, elasticity does too. Dr Farrell is an advocate of IPL for pigmentation. "It's an excellent treatment and results can be seen after one to three treatments."

Chemical peels
A course of medical-grade facial peels can help to lighten areas of pigmentation. They're normally used on the face to improve acne scars but can be used anywhere on the body. However, downtime can be challenging for the hand area specifically. "Chemical peels can be helpful but the healing time can be difficult for hands as we use them consistently throughout the day," explains Dr Farrell.

Cryotherapy
Freezing benign skin lesions such as age spots on hands with liquid nitrogen can be a very effective treatment. It works by destroying the skin cells it comes into contact with so must be done with precision. Dr Farrell approves but a side effect of this treatment can include marks being left on the skin. "Freezing the sunspots with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) can be successful and is relatively cost effective, but sometimes it can leave white marks."

Skincare ingredients for age spots on hands

If you prefer to tackle age spots on your hands with topical products, these ingredients are the ones to look out for:

  • SPF: One of the easiest ways to prevent age spots on hands is using an SPF of 30 or over in your hand cream, every day. Reapply every time you wash your hands to keep up the protection level promised.
  • Retinol: This hero ingredient speeds up cell turnover, revealing fresh skin cells at the surface which in turn brightens pigmentation and softens lines in a dual-pronged attack. Learning how to use retinol safely and effectively can really transform your skin.
  • Vitamin C: Brighen dull skin and lessen the look of sun spots with one of the best vitamin C serums. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects from UV damage while improving uneven skin tone by impeding excess melanin production.
  • Glycolic acid: An exfoliant that's famed for its tone-boosting properties, glycolic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) that increases cell turnover and boosts collagen production. It's often found in daily toners or more intensive at-home chemical peels. It can make the skin more sun-sensitive though, so ensure you wear an SPF every day when using it.  

Hand treatments our beauty team loves

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Hello Sunday The One For Your Hands Hand Cream SPF30 | RRP: $13/£9

One to throw in your handbag and keep hands soft and protected on the go. It's hydrating without being sticky and the SPF30 will ensure any age spots on your hands don't worsen over time. 

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Priori LCA fx141 Hand and Body Replenisher | RRP: $38/£26

Rich in lactic acid and vitamins A, C and E, this hand cream gets to work on pigmentation and exfoliates the top layers of your skin so hands are left smooth and clear. 

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No7 Pure Retinol Hand Cream | RRP: £14.95

Before you settle into a slumber, smother your hands in this retinol-based hand cream. The active ingredient will speed up cell turnover for more even and smooth-looking hands with every use.

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La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum | RRP: $39.99/£38

Although this serum was designed for the face, applying a few drops onto the backs of your hands is a great idea. Its lightweight formula sinks in without sticky residue and lightens areas of discolouration. 

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The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution | RRP: $10/£8

Another product that's technically for the face but can be used anywhere. Use a cotton round to sweep this tingly toning solution over your hands, but remember to use SPF afterward as it will make the skin sun-sensitive. 

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Margaret Dabbs SPF30 Sun Defence for Hands | RRP: $33/£22

A quick solution for busy hands, this lightweight spray makes applying sun protection a breeze. Every time you wash your hands, ensure you reapply to keep your hands sun safe. 

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Chantecaille Retinol Hand Cream | RRP: $80/£64

Expensive it might be, but this luxurious hand cream makes hands feel like velvet. Its retinol-rich formula retextures the skin and banishes pigmentation with regular use. 


woman&home thanks Dr Anne Farrell at Dermatology Consulting for her expertise 

Emma North is a Beauty Writer who works for digital titles including woman&home, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own, Chat and GoodtoKnow. Emma’s career in beauty journalism began with internships at publications including Vogue, Elle, The Telegraph and Glamour. She was then taken under the wing of Funmi Fetto, Contributing Beauty Editor at Vogue where Emma assisted with Funmi’s debut beauty book, Palette.