Just about everyone has a few obvious brown spots on their skin. Freckles, “age spots”, and dark birthmarks are just a few of the commonly known skin discolorations generally referred to as pigmented lesions. While Retin-A and bleaching creams may help some, results are often disappointing. Today’s advanced laser technology allows us to dramatically lighten or altogether eliminate these discolorations.
How does laser treatment work?
Melanin is what gives our skin its color. Pigmented lesions are dark in color simply because melanin is abnormally concentrated in one area of the skin. High concentrations of melanin can be due to various factors. Some types present at birth, but most occur with age or as a result of over-exposure to the sun’s damaging rays. Lasers used for pigment removal emit an intense beam of green or red light which is absorbed by abnormal concentrations of melanin-containing cells. The melanin granules are broken up into tiny fragments by the laser energy, and are then absorbed through the bodies natural cleansing system. This disruption of melanin results in lightening of the lesion.
What are the alternatives?
Topical medications and creams can lighten age spots and freckles but the process if often very slow and the fading incomplete. Other options include surgical excision, dermabrasion, chemical peel, cryotherapy, or electro-surgery. Unfortunately, the results of using these techniques are often less than satisfactory and significant complications such as scarring and pigmentation changes are commonly seen. Lasers offer a much safer alternative, targeting the abnormal pigment while sparing the healthy surrounding skin.
What types of lesions can be treated?
Laser treatment is most commonly used for removing age spots, liver spots, freckles, and many brown birthmarks. The laser cannot be used for removal of lesions that are cancerous or suspected of being cancerous.
What are the treatments like?
The laser emits energy in very short flashes of light called “pulses”. The impact from the energy felt from each pulse of light is similar to the snap of a thin rubber band. The vast majority of patients tolerate this well without anesthesia.
How many treatments will I need?
Freckles and age spots, the most commonly treated blemishes, typically require only 1-2 laser treatments to achieve the desired degree of lightening. More extensive pigmented lesions, such as certain types of birthmarks, always require multiple treatments. Treatment sessions usually take from 10-30 minutes and are scheduled at 4-8 week intervals.