Actinic Keratosis –How Can I Resolve it?

Actinic Keratosis on the Face Actinic Ketatosis – What is it?

Actinic Keratoses (AK) are small, scaly or crusty skin growths. Possible precancerous lesions that may also resemble warts, actinic keratoses are caused by sun damage (UV rays). They may be pink, red, light or dark tan, a combination of colors or may be the color as your skin.
Also known as solar keratoses, the lesions are oxidative (free radical) damage that typically appear on body areas exposed to the sun – face, bald scalp, ears, lips, neck, backs of the hands, shoulders, back, and forearms.

The first sign of the potential development of skin cancer, untreated AKs can advance to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Individuals with the least amount of melanin protective pigment in their skin are at greatest risk for AKs – blue- and green-eyed blondes and redheads, prone to sunburn, are most susceptible. Darker-skin individuals, exposed to the sun, without protection, however, are not immune.

Cumulative sun exposure increases the risk of developing actinic keratosis. So the damage that occurred in your twenties can show up in your sixties and older.

This post “Actinic Keratosis – How Can I Resolve It?” is in answer a reader’s question. For the sake of thoroughness, I’ve included Medical Choices as well as Natural Treatments. Of course, we all know what my choice would be. Even so, the information is fascinating and may cause further speculation relative to other aspects of anti-aging skin care options.

Medical Choices

There is a wide range of medical treatment available for actinic keratosis from topical medications to cryosurgery, curettage and desiccation, chemical peeling, laser surgery and photodynamic therapy. They may cause redness or inflammation. The more invasive treatments can cause sensitivity, scarring and/or loss of the skin’s pigment.

Overview videos have been included as well as individual treatments.


Topical Medications

Medicated prescription creams and solutions can be very effective alone or if someone has many actinic keratoses, combination treatments are an option. But I strongly  suggest you do your due diligence and research the risks and possible reactions to the medications. And if pregnant or nursing, inform your doctor. The following video is a quick overview of several treatments.


Topical Prescription Medications include:

  • 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) ointment or liquid in concentrations from 0.5 to 5 percent, FDA approved, is the most widely used. Effective for the subclinical as well as the surface lesions, rubbed gently onto the lesions one or two times daily for two to four weeks, cure rates of up to 93 percent are known. Temporary redness, swelling and crusting may occur. Lesions usually heal in about two weeks after treatment. Cosmetically the results is are considered good with very little scarring. The video below, by a patient, gives a good view of the progression of this treatment. The gentleman has a wild imagination and a sense of humor.

  •  Imiquimod 5% cream, FDA-approved, stimulates the immune system to produce interferon to attack and destroy cancerous and precancerous cells. (Interestingly, the cream is a treatment for recalcitrant herpes simplex (cold sores) and external genital warts.) Rubbed gently on the actinic keratosis lesion twice weekly for four to sixteen weeks, the cream is generally well-tolerated. However, some individuals develop redness and ulcerations. The video below is an explanation of the treatment for actinic keratosis in Spanish.

The following video refers to the use of Imiquimod 5% cream in genital warts, but includes general contraindications which are noteworthy.

  •  Diclofenac- hyaluronic acid gel, used in persons who are oversensitive to other topical treatments, is applied twice a day for two to three months. Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that prevents an inflammatory response, combines with hyaluronic acid, a chemical found naturally in the body that delays uptake of the diclofenac and leads to higher concentrations in the skin. Diclofenac is also used as a topical arthritis treatment.
  • Ingenol mebutate, FDA approved topical gel, used in 0.015% or 0.05% concentrations depending on the AK site, effectively treats AKs in two or three days. The lower concentration is applied to the face and scalp once daily for three consecutive days, and the more concentrated 0.05% gel is applied to the trunk and extremities once a day for two consecutive days. common side effects are redness, flaking/scaling, crusting and swelling. The mechanism of action of this plant extract and statistical results afe given in the video.



Liquid nitrogen, sprayed or applied with a cotton-tipped applicator freezes the growths. It is the most common treatment for a small number of lesions exist. This shrinks the lesions which become crusty and fall off. Some people may experience temporary redness and swelling and permanent white spots may remain. Video shows the use of cryosurgery on seborrheic keratosis a very common harmless, usually pigmented, noncancerous growth on the skin.

 Curettage and Desiccation

A curette, a 1 mm to 6 mm, round, dull instrument is used to scrape off the cancer down to the dermis. After scraping, an electrosurgical device is employed to electrocoagulate (electrodesiccate) over the raw surgical ulcer to denature a layer of the dermis. The curette is again used over the surgical ulcer to remove denatured dermis down to living tissue. The process is usually repeated three times or until the surgeon is satisfied that reasonable margins have been achieved. If you are more squeamish than curious, know that this video is intended for medical professionals and medical students. It contains footage of a minor surgical procedure on basil cell carcinoma.


Chemical Peeling

Many women are aware of chemical peels to reverse the signs of photoaging, the process of applying Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and/or similar chemicals are applied directly to the skin is also used to remove some actinic keratoses on the face. Upper layers of the skin slough off and are usually replaced within seven days. Local anesthetic is required and the treatment can cause temporary discoloration and irritation. The video demonstrates a skin peel in a spa and will give you an idea of the process.

Laser Surgery

A YAG (carbon dioxide or erbium) laser is beamed onto the lesion to cut through the tissue avoiding bleeding — a good option for those on blood thinners and for lesions in small or narrow areas as found on the face. scalp and actinic cheilitis on the lips. Local anesthesia may be required. Pigment loss can occur.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Particularly useful for AKs on the face and scalp, 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA), a topical photosensitizing agent, is applied to the lesions. The treated area is then exposed to strong light activating the 5-ALA, selectively destroying the actinic keratoses. This treatment causes minimal damage to to the surrounding healthy skin, although some swelling and redness is usually seen.


Combined Medical Therapies

Some of the above medical options are more effective when used together or in sequence. This approach can both improve the cure rate and reduce side effects. For instance, one to two weeks of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) followed by cryosurgery can reduce the healing time for 5-FU and decrease the likelihood of white spots following cryosurgery.

Natural Choices for Removing/Reversing Actinic Keratosis

All having been read and viewed, if your physician determines there is no immediate cause for the removal of an actinic keratosis or need for a biopsy, my personal choices, listed by fastest acting are:

Sunspot ES

See my post: “How to Remove Your Sun Spots” where I give the procedure for Lane Labs Sunspot ES.

Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Another option that should give good results but take a little longer is topical daily applications of Organic Virgin Coconut Oil for at least a month. It is known to have completely removed serious actinic keratosis from the face, nose, forehead, neck and scalp.

When initially applying the coconut oil, you might find that more spots than just the original area will show up. The spot(s) will turn red and may burn from the application, which indicates the treatment is working. The redness and burning will generally resolve quickly. But in a month, you may see that the spot(s) totally resolve. You may however, want to continue to apply the coconut oil several times weekly to protect and soften your skin.

Be sure to use organic, virgin coconut oil. My personal favorite is Jarrow’s Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil.

Please Note:

A reminder that all information posted on this site is for educational purposes only. Nothing presented is meant to diagnose or cure any medical problems. You are invited to check with your medical practitioner before undertaking any treatment, new diet or exercise plan.

If you would like a personal issue addressed, you are welcome to drop me a note in the comments section.

And if you feel this article  “Actinic Keratosis – How Can I Resolve It?” is of value, please like and share it, so more people can benefit. Thank you for being my reader.

Some Resources Include:


Skin Cancer Forum

Wellness Letter

Medline Plus




  1. I agree that diligence should be practiced in finding the right treatment process. there are a lot. I have seen all of them in the Internet. I am glad to have picked up the best treatment for me. It’s a combination treatment. Just like what is said in this article, combining treatments requires intensive research on risks and possible effects.

    At one point, my doctor suggested that if treatments should be combined, it should be natural-chemical combination. I created mine. I use SR Lotion which in itself a blend of natural ingredients and a diet program (natural approach). I watch what I eat.

    You can do the same. SR lotion + Good food regimen equals excellent treatment.

  2. Karen Dahne says:

    Carac helps my actIonic keratosis greatly, but I checked with my pharmacy and a small tube cost $2,300.00. How is that possible and what else can I use.

    • Julia M. Busch says:


      You may want to do a little research into Turmeric Curcumin.

      Julia Busch

  3. I did the Carac and it is horrible, turns your face pink, hurts and stings everywhere. It works on most AK’s but I had several on hands and a few areas on the face that were unaffected, plus some areas on the face that were not AK’s but something unknown to the dermatologist, plus brown age spots. So I scoured the web, and came up with several natural therapies: BEC5 (made from Apple Cider Vinegar/eggplant), Magnesium Oil and Vitamin C. I rotated these by applying the BEC5, then the Mag Oil, then the Vitamin C crystals with water, repeat as many times as you like. FIRST clean up the diet, drink only filtered water without chlorine or fluoride, get rid of fluoride toothpaste, take lots of Vitamin C and a good multi.

    The BEC5 seemed to be pretty powerful and went after the affected areas, the mag oil helped dry everything out and replenish minerals, the vitamin C was then taken up readily. Then when repeated, every time moisture was applied the mag oil and vit C was reactivated, so it was worked over and over.

    during PM and Am I applied healing things, coconut oil, Aloe, derma-E and then applied therapies after work and on weekends . after 2-3 weeks, the AK’s were peeling off, Several affected areas on my face had turned red and healed, I had small open sores that completely healed for the first time in YEARS!

    Everyone is different, do your own due dilligence and trails to see what works for you. My approach is as natural as possible now and these methods work for me. Good Luck

  4. LENNIE LEFLER says:

    Hi—I’m 71 been a runner hiker all my life–blue eyes—now I have Actinic Keratosis in several spots on forehead…After much research it seems the best natural treatment is—- Baking Soda and Coconut oil—– or Apple Cidar Vinegar and coconut oil…….Which has gotten best results?????


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