What are age spots (AKA: liver spots)?

October 14, 2015


One classic sign of aging is the appearance of brown, freckle-like spots on the skin. This pigment is called lipofuscin. It is also known as aging spots, sun sports, or liver spots.

Age spots are caused by free-radical damage in the cells causing the deterioration of the lipids (fats) in our skin, thus the name lipofuscin.

The Antagonist/Villain: Free Radicals

Age spots are representations of free radical explosions all over the body. The more age spots you have on your skin, the more “aging” your tissues have endured. Although there is no “feeling” to age spots, they are a very good indication of the level of free radical damage that is also occurring inside our bodies.

Liver spots are the internal version of external age spots.

We are exposed to free radicals from air pollutants (outdoor and indoor), chemical additives and toxins in foods and drinks, and toxic ingredients we absorb through our skin via household cleaners, cosmetics, skin and hair products, and even synthetic clothing fabrics. Some free radical reactions even occur naturally in our cellular metabolic processes.

Simply put, free radicals are renegade molecules that have lost an electron in its outer shell, leaving an unpaired electron. This creates a highly unstable and powerful molecular entity. Free radicals will quickly attack and steal an electron from a neighboring molecule resulting in a destructive chain reaction that may affect hundreds and even thousands of molecules. Inside the body these reactions can be detrimental to the health of cell tissues and whole organs.

If free radical reactions penetrate the nucleus of a cell it can lead to cellular mutations or cellular death. 

The Protagonist/Hero: Anti-oxidants

Once a free radical reaction has started, it can cause a chain reaction that produces more free radicals, which ultimately damages thousands of molecules.

The only means our body has to fight them is with anti-oxidants.

When a free radical comes into contact with an anti-oxidant, the chain reaction is stopped. For this reason, it is good to have plenty of ant-oxidants available in our cells and tissues to protect us. The number of antioxidants we have in our tissues is determined to a large extent by the nutrients in our diet.

Free-radical reactions occur in the body constantly, and they are an unavoidable result of living and breathing. The more antioxidant nutrients (vitamin A, C, E for example) we have in our diets, the better equipped our bodies would be to fight free radical reactions in our tissues.

Research over the past three decades has identified free radicals as a key player in the cause and development of degenerative diseases and aging.

Avoidable free radical damage:

  1. Sun exposure and UV radiation. UVA and UVB radiation can penetrate deep into the epidermis and stimulate free-radical generation. Exercising smart sun protection and using a natural zinc oxide sunscreen will protect your skin from UVA and UVB radiation without absorbing toxic ingredients.
  2. Pesticides and food additives. Choosing an organic diet without food additives will significantly reduce free radical activity in the body
  3. Oxidized and processed vegetable oils in skincare products. Many vegetable oils can go rancid when they are exposed to oxygen, heat, or light. (Except for saturated oils such as coconut oil). Rancid oils form free radicals, and many skincare products use processed vegetable oils laden in free radicals resulting in long-term aging of the skin!

The safest vegetable oils to use are those processed at low temperatures and packaged in dark containers. Cold-pressed oils are minimally processed, so they retain most of their anti-oxidants. These anti-oxidants are important because they retard spoilage by slowing down oxidation and free-radical formation.

Be very careful what kinds of oils you put on your skin, the quality and processing of the oil can determine whether you are feeding your skin with anti-oxidants (the hero’s), or free radicals (the villains). 

At Miiko Skin Co, we choose every oil for its ability to be a hero, and not a villain.