My arms, hands and neck are covered with liver or age spots (brown spots). They don’t bother me in the summer as my hands are lightly tanned.

Is there a cream that will lessen these spots? A few of them are crusty to the touch.

Some of the bleaching creams that are recommended for lightening freckles, melasma and other excessive pigmentation might contain forms of mercury which seems to block the chemical reactions that produce melanin (pigment). But irritation or allergic reactions can cause additional problems. The other medication most widely used is a chemical called Hydroqinone. It’s usually found in the drugstore; you should ask for bleaching creams. In some lotions or salves it has been used in combination with retinoic acid which increases penetration and a corticosteroid which reduces the irritation arising from the acid.

The creams must be applied once or twice daily to the area for several weeks or months in order to be effective. A more conservative approach would be to avoid exposure to sunlight and to use a good sunscreen to prevent further pigment deposits. There are cosmetics designed to blend the hyperpigmented area with the surrounding normally pigmented skin. The spots will become progressively darker, year after year if exposure to sunlight is continued.

Regarding the crusty spots, most pigmented areas are not scaly. We strongly recommend that you see your doctor, skin specialist.

Can a person be allergic to the sun? Every time I go into it, my face and areas on the body itch.

Fair-skinned people sometimes think they are allergic to the sun because they burn so badly after a short period of time. But this form of hypersensitivity is related to a lack of protective melanin pigment and not to the actions of antibodies and lympocytes, as in the case of a true allergy.

Both fair and dark-skinned people can become allergic to the sun and can develop hives and other forms of itchy rashes on the exposed parts of the skin after sun exposure. Most of these symptoms (blisters, flat spots or small hives, headaches etc.) disappear within a few hours after getting out of the sun.

Prevention is the key; you need to try to avoid the sun as much as possible or use a highly protective sunscreen lotion – one containing Paba or benzophenones. One of the better choices may be a complete block-opaque cream which forms an impenetrable barrier to all burning and tanning rays. Be aware that several well- known cosmetic suntan lotions contain a chemical called homomenthyl salicylate. This is a rather ineffectual sun screen that should not be relied on.

Sometimes, sunlight in conjunction with medication will induce an allergic reaction. A number of chemicals in fruits and vegetables cause similar problems if they come in contact with sun-exposed areas of the body – eg. citrus fruits – limes, lemons, plants of the carrot family, and artificial perfumes. The cause of this form of sun sensitivity is unknown and treatment at best will only relieve the symptoms.

I like the dewy look that I get with the “glitter” makeup that I use. Is this harmful to the skin?

Usually the glitter shades, blushers, etc. have a drying effect on the skin and are best used on an oilier skin. Perhaps those with drier skins could use the glitter makeup in the evening only, for a special effect.

Those under 15 years and those over 45 should avoid the shiny makeup altogether. On older skin, the colors should be muted, soft and matte (no shine) since lustre only magnifies lined skin. A touch of bright or softened color on the lips and cheeks can add sparkle. The “dewy” look can also be achieved by the use of a good eyecream so the eyelids don’t look as crepe-like, and the shadow will apply much more smoothly. The foundation should be light in application. Avoid complicated contouring and highlighting effects as these can look unnatural on a wrinkled skin. Rather, concentrate on enhancing color.

It is sometimes difficult to find non-glitter makeup these days. We have found that there are matte colours within many makeup lines. Most commonly, the non- glitter colors were misty heather, muted soft grey, cool beige, grey-blue, misty green and grey-mauve.