Brown Aging Spots

Dr Sandra Cabot and naturopath Margaret Jasinska explain the causes behind brown aging spots, otherwise known as liver spots. Factors such as smoking, lack of antioxidants in the diet and liver issues can contribute to brown aging spots earlier in life. Changing your diet and supplementing with particular nutrients can help to reduce their appearance.

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DR CABOT: Hello. My name’s Dr Sandra Cabot and today I’m talking to you about how to reduce those awful brown aging spots that we get as we get older. And most people really don’t like them and want to prevent them or if they’ve got them to lighten them.

So, I’m joined by naturopath Margaret Jasinska. Hi, Margaret!

MARGARET: Hi, Dr Cabot. It’s so good to be here with you again.

DR CABOT: And Margaret’s writing a book on skin problems, which we’re all eagerly awaiting, which is going to be full of practical tips of a holistic nature. And we thought one very important topic was brown aging spots that can occur anywhere on your body. But they’re most distressing when they occur on your face and your hands or your neck, visible parts of your body.

MARGARET: Yeah. Places that see sunshine, basically, because they are inevitable as we get older. And exposure to sunshine can make them more prominent.

DR CABOT: That’s right. And some people do get them at an earlier age, which could be partly genetic. But there are a lot of other factors which could cause them to develop earlier and also to be more severe. And Margaret mentioned the sun. And also tanning clinics have the same deleterious effect on your skin, using strong doses of UV radiation in a short period of time and can damage your skin, causing pigmentation, as well as increasing your risk of skin cancer. So, we don’t advise people go to tanning clinics. And, of course, don’t sunbake in the middle of the day.

MARGARET: And don’t ever get sunburnt. Like getting some sunshine is very good for you, in order to make vitamin D. But it’s always good to put a hat on and cover your head and face and get your arms and legs into the sunshine to get the vitamin D. And if there’s a spot on your arms or legs, then it can easily be detected, either by yourself or your partner or by going and getting a skin cancer check. Whereas often, like a spot or a mole on somebody’s scalp may not be seen for a long time. So, cover your head from the sun, but put your arms and legs into the sun safely.

DR CABOT: Yes, absolutely. Because we do need the sun for vitamin D. We can take a vitamin D tablet, but it is good to get some natural sun. Because you really feel good, don’t you, when those sun rays go deep into your body and you think, “This must be doing something for my immune system”. Not just making vitamin D, but doing things that we perhaps haven’t discovered yet.

MARGARET: Yeah, absolutely. It’s certainly a mood booster and immune enhancer. And it’s always so good in spring, the first few rays of sunshine after being covered up for so long in the winter months.

DR CABOT: Yes. And so, sunscreen can be useful. And if you don’t like the chemical sunscreens, you can use zinc oxide.

MARGARET: Yes. So, there are alternatives. Usually, they’re sold in natural health food stores.

DR CABOT: Now, some of the factors that could accelerate the development of these brown aging spots would be smoking. Also, too much alcohol, because that will generate more free radicals in your body. Too much sugar, for the same reason.

And Margaret, explain what happens in our skin and the subcutaneous layer – deeper in the skin – when free radicals are attacking ourselves. What we would call the pathogenesis or the cause of these brown spots.

MARGARET: So, free radicals get produced in our bodies all the time, every day, just as a byproduct of regular metabolism. And we live in a polluted world. So just day-to-day exposure to motor vehicle exhausts, all those things, stress, things that are just a part of life. And as we age, I’m sure you know that an elderly person’s skin has got spots all over it. The information we want to give you is to help delay that process, so you don’t get as many spots and they don’t come onto your body, onto your skin as early in life.

And so, your skin and actually every cell membrane is made of fatty acids. They help to hold your cells together, they give your cells flexibility, help your cells communicate with various hormones and other compounds made in your body. And those delicate fatty acids can get oxidized and damaged from things like you mentioned, Dr Cabot, like cigarette smoking and too much alcohol. But also, if you’re not having enough antioxidants in your diet, if you’ve got a toxic environment in your gut, if your liver is sluggish and congested, you don’t clean up that oxidative damage. You don’t mop up those free radicals well enough or fast enough. So, they have a longer time, a longer chance to do harm to your body. And so, several factors need to combine, like sunshine exposure, just time and aging. And then if you’ve got those certain factors in your diet and lifestyle, where you’re not doing the healthy things for your body, then these brown spots can come up.

DR CABOT: Because the free radicals are being produced in excessive amounts and they’re not being cleared quick enough because you’ve got a sluggish liver or sluggish immune system. So, they’ve got more time to cause damage to your cells. So, these brown spots really are a sign of cell damage. And Margaret said, if you don’t have enough antioxidants in your body, then these free radicals cannot be neutralized. So, antioxidants are very, very important. So, you need a diet that’s plentiful in raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, some fruit to get all the colors. Because the pigments in the fruits and vegetables are actually powerful antioxidants. And some people don’t eat much color in their diet. So, I recommend that many people eat some red-colored fruits and vegetables, orange, yellow, green. And that’s going to help all the cells in their body, not just their skin, but also their eyes or any cells that are rapidly turning over. like your gut cells. So, that’s how you’re treated on the inside!

MARGARET: Just as a funny aside. First thing this morning, I read that a study came out, where red meat contains phytonutrients because the animals ate plants. And actually, no one’s ever looked at them before. No one’s ever done that study before. But those plant phytonutrients were actually found in the red meat and they vary depending on the kind of plants that the animals ate. If they grazed on natural pastures, then the meat is higher in plant phytochemicals, which have antioxidant properties.

So, basically, eat natural food, eat food in its natural state. Whereas, processed, factory-produced food in packets with multiple ingredients, they’re the foods that cause harm. Whereas, if you eat like your great grandmother cooked and you’re having basic, simple, home-cooked meals, then more than likely you’re going to have a healthier diet.

DR CABOT: Yeah. And a lot of processed food has omega 6 processed vegetable oil. They’re not very good for your skin or the retina at the back of your eye. So, explain how they work, Margaret?

MARGARET: Yes. So, what is typically labelled as vegetable oil or otherwise known as industrial seed oil – so things like cotton seed oil, corn oil, soybean, sunflower, safflower, those type of oils. Well, we didn’t make them until we developed the factory process to be able to eat those kind of oils. Traditionally, when people needed fat, they saved the fat that came out of the meat that they cooked and used that for cooking. But now that we have these modern vegetable oils, they’re very high in omega 6 fat. And so, it’s a polyunsaturated fat, so therefore, it has many double bonds. So, basically, the fatty acid molecules are highly unstable and prone to oxidation. So, if you consume foods with a lot of those type of vegetable oils, and they’re often labelled as healthy things, like cholesterol-free potato chips that have been cooked in sunflower oil. So, those type of vegetable oils, they’re highly inflammatory, they’re highly unstable and they are prone to oxidation. So, you are more likely to get free radical damage in your skin and you are more susceptible to sunburn when you have eaten a diet high in those type of oils.

DR CABOT: Yes. People don’t realize that. So, eating food in its natural unprocessed state, so it doesn’t have these cheap vegetable oils that are so processed and unstable and will not really help your immune system at all.

Now, it’s always good to see a skin specialist, a dermatologist, because a brown spot could be an early cancer. It could be a melanoma. It could be something benign, like a seborrheic keratosis, which can grow to a large size, be quite disfiguring and may need excision. So, make sure you have your regular checks with your GP. And if anything suspicious, as dermatologists, that’s very important. And dermatologists will often prescribe creams, which can lighten the brown spots. They usually contain things like hydroquinone or retinoids. Or some dermatologists will use steroids. I don’t particularly like them because they cause thinning of the skin. But these lightening creams containing hydroxyquinone or retinoids can help. And some people will find that natural hormone replacement therapy can help, as well. The bioidentical hormones, when they go through menopause, that can help the skin to look younger and to reduce inflammation.

Now, the other thing is how can we reduce the oxidative damage in our body, reduce these damaging free radicals? In other words, antiaging techniques. Very, very important! And people go to cosmetic dermatologists and they have things done like cryotherapy or laser dermabrasion, microneedling, chemical pills. And these things can help. That’s true. But if they’re overdone, they can really damage your skin. Remember, they’re killing cells.

MARGARET: Yeah. And they will make your skin far more photosensitive. So, you really have to protect your skin from sunshine after one of those treatments, because you could end up worse than where you started.

DR CABOT: And they thin the skin.


DR CABOT: Because you are destroying the top layer of the skin. So, your skin gets thinner and potentially could wrinkle more easily. So, you don’t want to overdo those type of techniques. I really think, try and treat it from within and see what your own body can do to reduce them.

MARGARET: Absolutely! Like when we have patients who do a detox, who really clean up their diet, you can see that their skin glows and their friends and family all mention it to them.

DR CABOT: That’s right. Improve your liver! A lot of people used to call these brown skin spots, liver spots. Because in people who drank too much alcohol or ate a lot of sugar had a fatty liver, they would get more of them. And it was the liver that was blamed. And the liver can be blamed for a lot of things. So, taking a good liver formula, like Livertone Plus can really help. Also, N-acetyl cysteine, which is a wonderful detoxifier for your whole body and particularly the liver. And N-acetyl cysteine, if used with selenium, will reduce the amount of free radical damage in your body by increasing the production of glutathione in your liver. And glutathione can repair cell damage. And a lot of Asian women do have skin-lightening infusions with glutathione. Not that I’m recommending that, because it can be quite expensive. But you can get your own body to make more glutathione and achieve this antiaging effect by making sure you’ve got plenty of selenium in your body and taking supplemental NAC, or N-acetyl cysteine. NAC is the abbreviation for N-acetyl cysteine.

Also, you can take something to improve the collagen in your skin that contains vitamin C, MSM, biotin and zinc. That can really make a big difference.

MARGARET: Yes, because our body is constantly breaking itself down and rebuilding and repairing it. Your cells, your organs, your tissues get worn out and get replaced. And so, you can get collagen from the protein that you eat in your diet. But when you eat it, you break it down into its individual components, the amino acids. Then you have to reassemble it again to form collagen. And you need the nutrients that are in the Collagen Food powder to do that.

DR CABOT: Yes. So, Collagen Food powder is very good because it gives your body the raw materials for your body to make its own collagen. And your body needs those ingredients every day because we’re always making collagen, we’re always repairing the connective tissues in our body. So, the Collagen Food is giving you that every day.

MARGARET: Yes. And the nutrients in that Collagen Food powder are typical nutrient deficiencies for the average person. The average person doesn’t get enough biotin or zinc or vitamin C and the MSM, the natural sulfur. Sulfur is in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cabbage and also onion, garlic. Not everyone eats that many of those foods.

DR CABOT: Eggs as well. Eggs are good.

MARGARET: So, not everyone gets enough of those nutrients. So, taking that Collagen Food powder really helps your skin to renew and repair itself as well as possible.

DR CABOT: Yes. And the Collagen Food powder is different to taking animal collagen products, for example, or marine collagen products. Because your gut will break them down into amino acids which are absorbed. And then your body has to remanufacture the collagen.

MARGARET: Which may never happen.

DR CABOT: It may never happen, if you’re deficient in the nutrients that you need to make the collagen.


DR CABOT: So, that’s how the Collagen Food powder works in a different way; by giving you the high dose vitamin C, MSM, biotin and zinc.

So, there you go! So, try to stay younger. We all want to do that and we want to look our best. So, we can reduce the appearance of these brown spots, as they used to be called liver spots, by taking care of our liver, getting plenty of antioxidants.

MARGARET: And most people are quite motivated to do that. People care about their skin more than they care about their internal organs, in general, because you can’t see your internal organs.

DR CABOT: That’s true. But if you have a fatty liver, it doesn’t look very pretty. But the good news is it’s easy to reverse the fatty liver. Just quit sugar, eat more protein, healthy fats, lots of salads, vegetables, some fruit, nuts. As we said, unprocessed food. And not only will your liver look more beautiful, your skin will look more beautiful.

MARGARET: Yes. Thank you everybody for listening and tuning in.

DR CABOT: Yes. And if you follow our advice, we hope you’ll 10 years younger anyway, in a couple of weeks. That’d be nice.

Okay. Thanks for listening. Bye!