Discoloration of the skin happens as we age, due to sun exposure and environmental toxins. Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption can also contribute to skin pigmentation problems. Discoloration can be in the form of freckle-like spots, sun damage or cancerous skin anomalies. Depending on the severity of the discoloration and size of the affected area, laser treatment is available as a noninvasive option that can eliminate the discoloration.
Types of Laser Treatments
Laser skin resurfacing uses several techniques and types of lasers. Melanin overproduction is responsible for most forms of skin discoloration. Fractional lasers work on a small area of sun damaged skin to eliminate the damaged tissue and skin cells that are culprits to the melanin overproduction and skin discoloration. This speeds up the healing process and prevents further discoloration. Lastly, there are light emitting device (LED) treatments. You can have these treatments through dermatologists or occasionally spas or devices sold for home use. LED treatments target the melanin in the skin and reduce production, which in turn will fade discoloration, returning melanin levels to normal. The most common lasers used in skin resurfacing for discoloration treatments are the CO2 , Erbium and Fraxel lasers.
How Does it Work?
Lasers remove dead skin cells and promote collagen reformation by destroying harmful bacteria and increasing circulation to the skin. Collagen is important to the skin, as it keeps the skin firm and wrinkle-free, as well as clear. In conjunction with melanin, collagen works to keep skin coloration at a constant and even level. When collagen production decreases and melanin increases, due to sun exposure or toxins, brown or black spots on the skin can occur. Lasers will get rid of the discoloration by removing the affected skin, and leaving well-balanced skin visible in its place. Laser intensity depends on the extent of skin damage and discoloration. Some treatments require stronger lasers and recovery time, because these may consist of the removal of deeper skin layers and tissue.
The benefits of laser skin treatment for discoloration most often outweighs the risk. With laser treatments, you can avoid chemical burns from skin bleaching agents and rest assured that the discoloration will not return. Make up application will also become easier, as laser treatment will leave your skin tone even and eliminate the requirement of concealer or different base shades.
Previously, only licensed plastic surgeons could obtain laser devices, but now cosmetologists and spas can buy them. Proper training is sometimes ignored and problems arise when these untrained personnel perform laser treatments for skin discolorations. According to Mark Jewell, MD, president of the Aesthetic Society, non-surgical does not mean non-medical. Burns, lesions and infection are the three main risks of laser skin resurfacing treatments. Always check credentials and training before allowing any practitioner to provide laser skin resurfacing to treat discoloration. This will save you unnecessary pain and medical expense. Laser treatment effectiveness can also be a concern for those with certain skin cancers and a history of plastic surgeries. In these cases, laser treatments for skin discoloration may not work as well as hoped, even after several sessions. Laser treatments, like all cosmetic procedures are not 100 percent effective.
At-home low intensity laser devices are now on the market to combat minor surface skin discoloration. These devices allow safe amounts of light to penetrate the skin, and break down small amounts of melanin. These devices are expensive, but may be more economical in the long run than treatments at a dermatologist's office.