Hyperpigmentation occurs when excess melanin production leaves your skin with darker spots. Causes of hyperpigmentation include trauma or injury to your skin, genetic disorders and general aging. Treatment options range from creams and gels to cosmetic surgery. Laser hyperpigmentation removal treatments offer an improvement in skin tone and increased collagen production.
Laser treatments are not a new idea in skin resurfacing and hyperpigmentation treatment. According to DermNetNZ, lasers were used as early as 1964 in the treatment of birthmarks such as port wine stains. These birthmarks, also known as vascular birthmarks, can cause serious cosmetic concerns depending on their size and location. Although laser treatments using argon or carbon dioxide lasers were effective at fading vascular birthmarks, scar formation risk was high during these early years.
Since 1964, laser treatment procedures have been refined and more effective laser models developed. Today, the benefits of laser hyperpigmentation removal outweigh the risks. Modern lasers are efficient at focusing on smaller areas of your skin and can emit stronger laser energy to boost collagen production and limit scar formation risk. Hyperpigmentation treatment involves using lasers with a range of light emissions; the light range used depends solely on the extent of your condition.
Types of Lasers
Argon and carbon dioxide lasers, also known as CW lasers, are still used in extensive cosmetic treatments; they emit a constant stream of intense light energy. Quasi-CW lasers provide short bursts of this highly concentrated light, lowering the risk of scarring that would be apparent with their predecessors' constant emissions. Pulsed lasers provide an even longer rest period between bursts of light and are used for long-pulse or short-pulse therapies. Each of these lasers is used to treat varying degrees of hyperpigmentation.
Lasers are effective for the treatment of hyperpigmentation, but are not free of side effects. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational and Safety Health Administration, or OSHA, serious risks are associated with laser therapy. Damage to your eyes can occur when lasers are used improperly during facial hyperpigmentation treatments; laser contact with your eyes can cause burns from laser exposure that can result in permanent blindness. Also, lasers that create extreme heat can cause your skin and tissue to heat up to damaging temperatures causing redness, blistering and burning.
The Procedure and Aftercare
In their book "Photodermatology," Henry W. Lim, Herbert Hönigsmann and John L. M. Hawk describe laser hyperpigmentation removal treatments as lasting anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, with larger areas taking longer. You may feel stinging and discomfort at the treatment site, but the treatment is not painful. Your skin will appear red and possibly slightly swollen for the first 24 hours; it's advisable to avoid applying makeup or fragranced skin products, to avoid excessive sun exposure, and to use a sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher if you must go outdoors. Avoid any further procedures for four weeks after your laser treatment. Laser hyperpigmentation removal generally calls for multiple treatments; the treatments can be repeated monthly until you achieve your desired outcome.
- DermNetNZ: Lasers in Dermatology
- PubMed: Esthetic Treatment of Gingival Melaninhyperpigmentation
- OSHA: Laser Hazards
- "Photodermatology"; Henry W. Lim, Herbert Hönigsmann and John L. M. Hawk; 2007