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Fingerless gloves and liver spots

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A well known international pop star has been sporting fingerless gloves as a fashion accessory in recent months. This has led to speculation from the media that she has developed “liver spots” on the back of her hands. This got me thinking: why are they called liver spots when it really has nothing to do with the liver?

Age spots, or should I say solar lentigines, are called liver spots because they were once thought to be caused by a “bad liver”. In fact they are skin blemishes associated with ageing and exposure to the sun. These can appear as red, brown or black spots of varying sizes and usually found in areas of the skin where there is a lot of sun exposure (eg, back of the hands, face, shoulders and forehead).

As we all know, one of the side effects of overexposure to the sun is extra pigmentation in the skin. The body creates melanin in order to protect it from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Over a long period, there is enough pigmentation to create age spots.

So it comes as no surprise that, as we get older, the tendency to develop age spots in areas of the body where there is maximal sun exposure increases.

Although age spots are painless and generally pose no health risks, it is recommended to check these for changes in size and shape in case they are cancerous.

So, perhaps next time when you speak to someone who is not “sun-wise”, ask them do they want to be sporting fingerless gloves in five, 10 or 20 years’ time. (Although I guess if the gloves are made by Chanel they might say “yes”.)

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