As I get older, I notice many things changing. Some things are good, like having an increased sense of self and a really stable lifestyle. Other things, not as good. My metabolism is remarkably slower now than it was in my 30's, my eyesight is deteriorating, my joints ache, and my hair is thinning. Aging is not for the faint of heart! in the years to come, I will continue to fight for superior dermal health, but I fully expect that I’ll have to deal with some lumps bumps and spots. There is a fairly large list of growths we lovingly refer to as barnacles. Shall we discuss?
One of the more common skin lesions we see here in Arizona is Actinic Keratosis, AK for short. Actinic Keratoses are scaly patches of skin that are light brown, pink, white, red and sometimes dark brown. They appear as a result of prolonged sun damage and can become invasive squamous cell carcinomas over time. There are several home remedies for removing AKs, but the best way to handle them is with your dermatologist. Dermatologists will often freeze these pesky lesions with liquid nitrogen, but sometimes a topical chemotherapy medication such as 5-fluorouracil 0.5% aka 5-FU may be used. There is also the option of ablation. When patients come in with lots of mild AK, and want to have a big rejuvenating treatment, it is a great opportunity to treat with full field Erbium resurfacing.
Another keratosis is seborrheic keratosis, a benign (non cancerous) growth that typically comes with age, sun exposure and can be genetic. These lesions are raised, often brown or black in color, waxy, wart-like growths. They do not cause any pain but may be slightly itchy. They are not dangerous, but they have an undesirable appearance so many people will opt for removal. Lamprobe is a radio frequency tool that we use to remove several different types of benign lesions and is great at removing seborrheic keratoses while leaving surrounding tissue undisturbed. Alternate methods of removal include liquid nitrogen, or minor in-office surgery.
Moles, due to their connection with skin cancer identification, have gotten a bad wrap. Moles are a collection of pigmented cells called melanocytes that develop on the body over time. They are very common. It isn't unusual for a given person to have between 10 and 40 moles appear in their lifetime. The majority of moles will be fully developed by the age of 40. Moles can be surgically removed by a dermatologist or a dermatologic surgeon. Moles can change over time and as I mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph, can serve as markers for skin cancer. It is very important to keep an eye on your moles and look for changes that are suspicious. Check out my post "Do You Know Your ABCDE's" to learn what you should be looking for.
Next up are skin tags. Skin tags are harmless sheaths of skin that are connected to a core stalk. They are hereditary and can also develop as a symptom of weight gain. Skin tags don't hurt or itch but can become irritated by friction from garments. There are lots of home remedy ways to remove skin tags, but the most efficient way is to call your aesthetician or Dermatologist and have them freeze or Lamprobe those annoying squishy little growths off in short order!
What about those little white bumps that you can't squeeze, but they look like a whitehead pimple? Those are called Milia. Milia are solid bead-like collections of keratin that get trapped under the skin. Nobody really knows exactly why some folks get them and some do not. Mostly, in my experience, they seem to be genetic. Your aesthetician should be able to remove them easily using a sterile lancet to make a small opening and then some pressure to pop that little white pearl out. Gross to some, but sooooooo satisfying for us pickers!
Cholesterol deposits or Xanthalasma, are small flat yellowish fatty growths on the inside upper and lower lids of the eye. They sometimes join together to form larger lumps. The plaque forms when there are too many lipids in the bloodstream. That can be a result of familial predisposition or unhealthy lifestyle choices. They are often mistaken for milia, but are not treated the same way as milia. Improper treatment of cholesterol deposits can lead to long term pigment changes in the skin. Lowering your cholesterol levels with a healthy diet is one way to avoid cholesterol deposits. There are also medications to help lower cholesterol. Removal of existing deposits can be done via surgical excision, radiofrequency ablation (Lamprobe) or chemical cauterization.
A cherry angioma is a non-cancerous, mole-like, bright red growth made up of small blood vessels or capillaries. It is a benign tumor that results from an overgrowth of capillaries. lesions. They aren't aesthetically pleasing, but aren't harmful. Removal of these little red spots is easiest with a 1064nm gentle Nd Yag laser, but can also be achieved with Lamprobe.
Last on my list for today are solar lentigines (singular: lentigo) which are sunspots. These flat, tan, brown, or black spots appear, usually in middle age, after repeated natural or artificial UV exposure. These spots are larger than freckles and can grow and change over time. Solar Lentigines (aka: age spots) are harmless, but detract from the reflectivity of healthy skin. Treatment is easy and can drastically improve skin's appearance. The fastest way to remove age spots is photodynamic therapy where light targets and destroys excess melanin in the skin. Forever Young BBL by Sciton is one of the best forms of Photodynamic therapy on the market. This specific protocol along with Sciton's superior technology is unbeatable if you ask me. If you have a contraindicated medical condition or medication that won't allow you to use phototherapy to remove your sun damage, you can always opt for peels. The VI Precision Plus Peel is fantastic for targeting pigment. You may need a few to get the bright clear skin you are looking for, so be patient.
As you blow out the candles on your next birthday cake, you can wish for your heart's desire, and focus on the all of the positives that come with your annual levelling up instead of worrying about all of the barnacles that you can look forward to...or already have. Now you know what each of them is and how to care for them. Remember that many are preventable with healthy lifestyle choices including a healthy diet, exercise, and the daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or better...don't forget to reapply! If you have a few lumps, bumps, or spots that you want to eradicate and you are local, call to make an appointment for a complimentary in-office or virtual consultation today.