Laser treatment for pigmentation
Beauty is about being comfortable in one’s own skin. A lot has been said about flawless skin. The truth is, it is not hard to have a pigment free skin!
Skin pigmentation is a widespread problem in Singapore regardless of age and sex, and is especially a beauty concern among women. To make things worse, they usually appear on the face. Age spots, freckles, melasma and various birthmarks are commonly referred to as pigmentation. Pigmentation can have a hefty impact on the way others see us – and the way we see ourselves. A person’s face, after all, is perhaps the very first thing you notice about her/him, since skin is our largest and most visible organ.
There is a lot of misconception about how to treat melasma. In order to demystify melasma treatment, we have written an article on “How NOT to treatment MELASMA”
With advanced technology these days, we can easily get rid of skin pigmentation. What I am talking about here is laser treatment for pigmentation. Before the development of laser-specific lasers, most pigmented lesions could be treated only with surgical excision, often leading to unsightly scar formation. Modern lasers can now treat pigmented lesions without causing damage to the skin.
What is a laser?
It is a device that produces an intense beam of coherent light. It comes with different wavelengths to target different tissues or molecules. It can be used to treat and improve skin conditions. It is also used in surgeries for cutting purposes.
There are many types of lasers in the market catered for different uses. The most commonly used laser for skin pigmentation is a Q-switch Nd:Yag laser.
A Q-switch Nd:Yag laser typically looks like this.
How does it work?
As mentioned, melanin is responsible for skin pigmentation. Laser machine delivers an intense beam of light that targets melanin. This light is then absorbed and converted into heat, which either disperses the group of melanin cells, or destroy the skin cells carrying the melanin molecules.
What do I need to know before undergoing laser treatment?
You need to consult a doctor. A doctor needs to assess your pigmented lesions to recommend the best treatment regimen for you, to answer any questions that you may have, and to give you post-treatment care advice.
Inform your doctor if you are on any medication.
It is best to avoid sun exposure and excessive facial products or makeups 1 week before the laser treatment.
Is it painful?
It is not painful, but it can be uncomfortable for some people. The impact of the laser feels like a snap of a rubber band. A numbing cream is usually applied on your face before the treatment to minimise discomfort. Treatment duration varies from 5 minutes to 1 hour depending on your skin condition. After a laser treatment, the area will feel similar to that of a sun burn. Any discomfort will typically disappear within a day or two.
What results do I expect?
Most pigmented lesions require more than 1 sessions of laser treatment. Freckles and age spots usually resolves satisfactorily with 1-2 sessions. However, pigmented birthmarks such as café-au-lait spots and Becker’s nevus will require multiple sessions. Follow-up reviews are usually scheduled at intervals of 6 to 8 weeks. Your doctor will suggest the best treatment regimen for you.
What happens after the treatment?
Some swelling, redness, bruising or crusting can occur but all these should resolve within 1 to 2 weeks. Do not scratch or pick on the treated area. You should avoid sun exposure or direct heat contact. You should also avoid abrasive skin care products such as scrubs. You will be prescribed a gentle skin cleanser or antibacterial ointment for the treated area.
Any side effects?
Laser treatment for pigmentation is generally safe with minimal complications such as:
1) Skin darkening
Darkening of the skin can occur in treated areas and is more common in people with dark skin tones. Exposure of the treated area to sun can worsen it. Fortunately, it usually resolves within 4 to 6 months.
2) Skin lightening
Light spots can appear in treated areas after several treatment. However, these areas usually darken or re-pigment after 4 to 6 months. In rare cases, it can be permanent.
This is rare. You should follow all post treatment care instruction to avoid this from happening. Inform your doctor immediately if it happens.
Are lasers always very effective for pigmentation?
This really depends on the cause of the pigmentation. Some lesions such as dark-coloured birth marks may not disappear completely. Some may recur after multiple sessions of treatment. Therefore, it is important to get a proper assessment and advice before initiation of treatment.
Any reason why I cannot have a laser treatment?
Hypopigmentation (lightening of skin) cannot be treated with laser.
If you have photo allergy (skin sensitivity to light), you cannot have a laser treatment because it will trigger a serious reaction on your skin.
You cannot have a laser treatment if you are pregnant.