Spots and Age
Seborrheic Keratosis in Your 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s
Did you know that seborrheic keratosis (SK) can create different challenges depending on your age bracket?
What’s more, your feelings about SK can vary depending on your age. A few age-influenced SK scenarios:
- Are you 40 and stricken with your first SK, while your friends are still fresh-faced? (And does it mean you’ll age faster?)
- Are you 60 and stemming the scourge on your torso or back?
- Do you wonder why your spots have gotten itchier as you’ve gotten older?
Here, experts offer insight and advice on age driven SK issues:
The bad news: When heredity plays a role, as it often does, you may develop SKs in your forties. This is particularly true for African Americans who develop an SK variant known as dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN). This form of SK tends to be abundant on the upper cheeks, “aging” the eye area.
Anyone with early-appearing SKs can have a sense of accelerated aging. So when you look at yourself in the mirror, you may see onto yourself the SKs that plague your parents and elderly relatives. “You may not be seeing yourself accurately,” says Mary Lupo, M.D., a dermatologist at the Lupo Center for Aesthetic and General Dermatology in New Orleans and clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine.
“SKs in the 40s can be especially hard-hitting for working folks with facial SKs”, says John C. Browning, M.D., a dermatologist at Texas Dermatology and Laser Specialists in San Antonio. “Some patients mention the fear that colleagues think they’re older than they are or not as productive as they could be,” he says.
The good news: When they appear in the 40’s , the number of SKs is typically low. A recent study showed that only 23% of people with SKs in their 40s had more than 20 SKs.*
The potentially great news: Consider a strong family history an opportunity to take swift action. “However, when it comes to early-appearing SKs, a stitch in time saves nine,” says Dr. Lupo. “It’s easier to treat SKs before their numbers get out of hand.”
The bad news: “Many 50-year-olds feel like they felt when they were 30. They feel vibrant inside and out. When SKs show up during this decade, they may undermine self-image and confidence,” says Dr. Lupo.
The good news: “The desire to treat SKs is often strongest among people in their 50s. This group is fighting the new reality of aging and removing SKs is a way to take positive action,” says Dr. Browning.
The potentially great news: Based on Dr. Lupo’s clinical experience, “if your SKs show up for the first time in your 50s, they’re likely to be less plentiful over your lifetime. When they start to develop on your face, they tend to be flatter. They may look like age spots or freckles and might be concealed with makeup,” she adds.
The bad news: “SKs can be more physically bothersome during this decade,” says Dr. Lupo. The spots grow to be more elevated and brush uncomfortably against bra straps, clothing, and jewelry. “Or SKs can become itchy because skin becomes drier with aging. Cholesterol-lowering drugs also can make skin generally itchier because the drugs dry the skin by depleting the cholesterol within the skin that acts as a natural hydrating agent,” says Dr. Lupo.
The good news: “Many people are ‘empty nesters’ now, and they have more time and money to spend on themselves if they’re not supporting their kids. They often shift attention to themselves, and removing their SKs is part of their self-care,” says Dr. Browning.
What’s more, “the Baby Boomers tend to be more interested in staying youthful than the previous generation was,” says Dr. Browning. They have “a lower threshold for tolerating a blemish, such as an SK.”
The potentially great news: “In my practice, SK removal is a high priority for patients in their 60s. Once their SKs are gone, they feel rejuvenated.” says Dr. Lupo.
The bad news: If you haven’t been tending to your SKs through the years, you may be saddled with lots of SKs by your 70s. What’s more, “older people’s skin is slower to heal. This means it’s more susceptible to infection with any invasive removal method,” says Dr. Browning. In addition, any mark left behind, such as redness or hyperpigmentation, can tend to linger longer.
The good news: “Far more 70-year-olds still look really good. They continue to work and remain active in their communities. They’re not ready to look old,” says Dr. Browning.
The potentially great news: Even the patients who have loads of SKs have the option of removing most (or all!) of them. “But these folks must remain patient. I advise doing up to 15 or 20 at a time. I want to avoid risk of infection as well as scarring,” adds Dr. Browning.
*Del Rosso JQ, A Closer Look at Seborrheic Keratoses: Patient Perspectives, Clinical Relevance, Medical Necessity, and Implications for Management. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017; 10(3):16-25.