Skin pigmentation such as melasma, rosacea, or age spots are some skin conditions that prevent you from keeping a glowing, flawless skin. If you are one of the unlucky ones who suffer from visible, unsightly skin pigmentation, you probably know that they can be stubborn and they do not usually resolve on their own with just the use of whitening creams.
When you consult a doctor for skin pigmentation issues, they will invariably recommend laser treatments because they are versatile and powerful treatments for many types of skin problems.
Over the years, laser technology evolved so much that doctors are able to use a variety of lasers to treat various skin issues with better efficacy and shorter downtime.
We speak to Dr. Siew Tuck Wah, Medical Director of Radium Medical Aesthetics to find out the causes of pigmentation and recommend so effective laser treatments to combat stubborn pigmentation.
Common causes of pigmentation
Unless you are one of the very lucky few, you probably have pigmentation on your skin that is regularly exposed to the sun. Pigmentation on the skin is an extremely common skin condition that many of us suffer from. They appear as patches on the skin that is different from the surrounding skin. It is often a harmless condition caused by an excess production of melanin on the skin surface.
Melanin is a complex compound produced by melanocyte cells that are distributed through the top layer of the skin. When melanin is produced, it spreads to other skin cells, giving the skin a unique, uniform skin tone.
Melanocyte cells can form groups with higher levels of melanin deposits in those areas, forming moles, freckles, age spots, and other skin pigmentation.
Some common skin pigmentation conditions are:
- HYPERPIGMENTATION The most common type of hyperpigmentation is Post-Inflammatory Pigmentation (PIH). When our skin is under attack, the body responds by sending melanin to the skin’s surface to protect the skin. Some common causes are burns, cuts, excessive laser treatments, or IPL burns.
- AGE SPOT Sometimes called liver spots, they often appear as small, dark spots on the hands and face.
- FRECKLES It is often a hereditary skin pigmentation issue. They often spread out uniformly in a concentrated area rather than standalone blemishes. Freckles can be associated with some systemic disease. It is advisable to seek medical attention before getting rid of it.
- MELASMA Melasma is characteristically large. They often as brown patches on the cheeks, upper lip, bridge of the nose, and forehead. It can be triggered by high levels of oestrogen as well.
How Do Lasers Get Rid of Stubborn Pigmentation?
Different lasers are configured to produce specific wavelengths to break down the pigmentation with higher concentration of melanin. As the pigmentation absorbs the laser energy, the pigments will disintegrate, reducing the concentration of melanin in the dark patch. After a few sessions, the pigmented spot will look lighter, blending in with the color of the surrounding skin.
It is important to realize that not all lasers are made the same way. Most of the time, your skin also may not only have one type of pigmentation. You could have different types of pigmentation on different parts of the face. It is challenging to use one laser to give you a flawless, smooth skin.
This is why Skin Illumination Program was designed. Putting the client’s interests first, Dr. Siew put together a treatment plan that consists of not one, but three types of pigment-reducing lasers to remove all stubborn pigments on the face. This effective pigmentation treatment consists of 5 sessions of a combination of Dual Yellow Laser, Spectra XT Laser, and Thulium Skin Resurfacing Laser.
Dr. Siew understands that different people have different pigmentation issues with different expectations. Skin Illumination Program was designed to provide a wide range of laser options during each session to increase the chances of obtaining optimal results with minimal downtime.
Are there any side effects after laser treatment?
There is a plethora of laser treatments that doctors offer, claiming that those treatments are effective against skin discoloration and pigmentation. While many lasers are effective for treating pigmentation, they come with side effects.
One of the most common side effects associated with laser treatments is PIH. As mentioned earlier, PIH occurs when the skin reacts to the trauma and heat produced by the laser treatment, thereby creating and releasing more melanin.
One of the biggest and most dangerous misconception is to increase the frequency of laser toning treatments if you want to see faster results. The truth is that excessive laser treatments can lead to mottled hypopigmentation. This usually appears as darkening and lightening of patches on the skin. Instead of treating the pigmentation, it becomes worse.
Another undesirable side effect of laser treatment is the downtime associated with it. Some lasers such as fractional thulium, CO2 laser, or Erbium-Glass laser break the skin surface by creating micro-channels on the skin. Hence, some downtime between 3 and 5 days can be expected.
Since laser is a machine-based treatment, is it important to choose a doctor?
Go to a doctor that you trust. A good machine is useless if the doctor does not have the experience or knowledge to operate the machine. Laser machines are pretty much operator-dependent. While all doctors are qualified to perform laser treatments for cosmetic purposes, it is wise to place your trust in a doctor who has intimate knowledge of skin care and the functions of the laser machine. Ultimately, it takes just one treatment to ruin your skin and a lot of effort to repair the skin.