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We’ve all heard the phrase “age is just a number,” but when it comes to suffering from skin issues, the expression couldn’t be truer. From baby diaper rash, to hormonal teenage acne, to possibly cancerous adult moles, battling some sort of skin condition is expected, no matter how many candles you’re blowing out that year.
With age comes new types of skin conditions, and some of these unfamiliar spots can look weird, or even unsightly. We’ve asked Houston, TX board-certified dermatologist Suneel Chilukuri, MD, to give us the down low on three common age spots, how to spot them, and how they can be removed.
1. Skin tags
Acrochordons, or “skin tags,” are overgrowths of skin that are most frequently found in areas of friction, “like the neck, underarms, waistline, and groin,” says Dr. Chilukuri. “Typically flesh-colored, soft, and painless, skin tags can grow between 1 to 2 millimeters in size.” Unfortunately, there is no known cause for these small growths, but Dr. Chilukuri believes there is a hereditary pre-disposition to developing skin tags.
Skin tags are harmless, but there are a couple of options when it comes to removing them. The first option involves liquid nitrogen, where the skin tags are frozen off.The second option includes electrodessication, which uses electrical currents to target each skin tag causing them to burn off. “The last option is to have a dermatologist physically cut off the skin tags with sterile scissors” says Dr. Chilukuri. He warns against cutting them off on your own, as the area may bleed and become infected.
2. Seborrheic keratoses
Seborrheic keratoses (or SKs, as the docs call them), are one of the most common noncancerous skin growths in older adults. “SKs look like waxy or wart-like growths and are tan, brown, or black in color,” says Dr. Chilukuri. They can be flat or raised, and are usually found on the face, neck, chest, and back.“Just like skin tags, there is a hereditary pre-disposition to developing SKs, and most people will see these growths starting in their early 40s (and potentially developing more as they age),” he explains.
“Similar to skin tags, SKs can be treated using liquid nitrogen, electrodessication, shave removal or lasers. An in-office treatment, called ESKATA® (hydrogen peroxide) topical solution, 40% (w/w), removes raised SKs. After a dermatologist makes the diagnosis of a raised SK on the face or neck, ESKATA can be applied to the raised growth, where a patient may feel a tingling sensation or itching during the application,” explains Dr. Chilukuri. “The lesion resolves over time after one or two treatments. ESKATA is safe for all skin types and skin tones.”
3. Cherry angiomas
Also known as senile angiomas or Campbell de Morgan spots, cherry angiomas are red “moles” that appear on the skin in many people starting in their 30s. Cherry angiomas can range from 1 to 8 millimeters in size and can develop on any part of the body. “No one really knows the exact cause of angiomas, but it’s believed that there is a hereditary pre-disposition to developing these little red spots,” says Dr. Chilukuri.
Dr. Chilukuri explains that 75% of people over the age of 75 have at least one cherry angioma “somewhere on their body.” Similar to skin tags and seborrheic keratoses, cherry angiomas can also be removed using electrodessication, shaving, or pulse dye laser, where a concentrated beam of light targets blood vessels in the skin.
While these three age spots are harmless, Dr. Chilukuri strongly encourages to always get any spots of concern checked out by a board-certified dermatologist. “Unfortunately, there are many self-proclaimed “skin care experts” that are not properly qualified to make these diagnoses,” says Dr. Chilukuri. “As a result, my colleagues and I have seen patients come in with lesions they were told are ‘SKs,’ but they’re actually melanomas, ‘skin tags’ which end up being basal cell carcinomas, and ‘cherry angiomas’ that are actually amelanotic melanomas.”