Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis (ak-TIN-ik ker-uh-TOE-sis) is a rough, scaly patch on your skin that develops from years of sun exposure. It is most commonly found on areas of the skin that are typically exposed to direct sunlight, such as the face, lips, ears, back of your hands, forearms, scalp or neck. Actinic keratosis can vary in:

  • Color—they can be light, dark, tan, pink, red or even the same color as your skin
  • Size—from a pinhead to larger than a quarter
  • Appearance—from flat to slightly raised
  • Texture—smooth to rough, like sandpaper

Many doctors consider Actinic Keratosis to be a precancerous skin condition, as it can develop into skin cancer. Therefore, you should have a dermatology specialist examine it annually to rule out any common signs of skin cancer. While Actinic Keratosis may give rise to common skin cancers like squamous cell carcinomas, they do not turn into melanomas. Actinic Keratosis also responds well to the following skin care treatments available at SkinSpeaks:


  • Cryotherapy

    Cryotherapy (freezing) usually requires repeated medical dermatology treatments as liquid nitrogen only affects visible lesions. The skin care specialists at SkinSpeaks apply liquid nitrogen, a very cold liquid, to the affected area with a spray gun. This freezes the Actinic Keratosis. However, repeat skin care treatments are often necessary.

  • Topicals

    A topical application of 5-fluorouracil (5 FU) cream is used to activate chemical peeling of the Actinic Keratosis. Continued application is required even after skin is sensitized. This may be a difficult therapy for those with sensitive skin or people with an active outdoor lifestyle.

  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

    By using a special topical solution called Levulan that is activated by light, abnormal cells are targeted and killed. Levulan is a “smart” medical dermatology solution. It is only absorbed by abnormal cells and usually requires 1-3 in-office dermatology treatments.

  • Immunotherapy

    Actinic Keratosis on the face and scalp can be treated by immunotherapy, which involves the application of a topical treatment with the active ingredient imiquimod—an immune enhancing agent that stimulates the body’s immune system to destroy precancerous cells.