Freckles (lentigines) and sun spots (liver spots)
These are harmless, flat, brown discolorations of the skin which usually occur on the back of the hands, neck and face of people over the age of 40. These spots give away a person’s age and are caused by the skin exposure to too much sun over many years without adequate sunscreen protection. Most spots are usually harmless and do not require treatment unless they begin to change color, size or become raised and crusty.
Melasma or Chloasma
These are skin colorations that appear as blotchy brown spots, often covering cheeks, forehead or temples. This type of hyper-pigmentation can be hereditary, or triggered by hormonal changes such as pregnancy or menopause. Taking birth control pills can also cause Melasma.
Age Spots or “Liver” Spots
Smaller darkened patches usually on older adults who have been exposed to the sun for many years. These spots can be seen on the face, forearms and backs of hands.
This type of hyper-pigmentation may result from any inflammatory injury or skin trauma. Causes of post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation include:
- Acne and particularly cysts or nodules which often leave dark discoloration after the blemish heals.
- Poorly administered chemical peels or laser surgery can likewise leave hyper-pigmentation.
- Rashes like psoriasis and eczema often darken the skin as well.
Even seemingly innocuous activities like leg waxing and electrolysis can cause the melanin cells to over react.
Laser treatment of pigmented lesions
There are various ways to remove unwanted facial and body pigmentation, including laser, IPL, acid skin peels, prescription bleaching creams, etc.. The method that will provide the best results depends on the nature and the depth of the pigmentation. No all encompassing method will remove all pigments, and in many cases combination treatments may be necessary. It is our experience that laser treatments with our state-of-the-art laser often provide the best results.
Laser treatment of age and sun spots is the most effective method to remove such discolorations, and it is quick and practically painless. There is no need for numbing or anesthesia. These spots rarely return and the risk of scarring is minimal. Laser works by selectively targeting the brown pigment (melanin) that is more concentrated in these spots.
This pigment absorbs the laser’s energy and becomes scattered within the skin’s tissues. The rest is done by the body’s own immune system as the skin’s cleansing cells (macrophages) digest the excess pigment and clear it from the spot area.
Age spots usually require between one to four treatments. Small, pale and freckle like looking spots usually clear after one treatment, while larger or darker spots may require more. Once treated the age spots will not return. However, no laser treatment will stop the skin from aging so in time more age spots usually develop.
To minimize aging spots patients should use sunscreen and avoid direct sun exposure. Depending on patients’ skin type, hereditary factors and sun exposure touch up treatments may be required every few years.
After the Treatment
Avoid any sun during and after laser treatment. If your skin is exposed to the sun you may develop hypopigmentations (white spots) or hyperpigmentations (dark spots). These spots usually disappear after several months, but in some cases they become permanent.
Any self tanning products must be discontinued a minimum of three weeks before treatment. Redness can appear immediately after the treatment and it may lasts 2 to 3 hours or longer. It is also normal for the treated lesion to appear darker in color and look ashy and shriveled.
To reduce the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after the treatment, be sure to avoid any sun exposure. Wear protective clothing with a hat and use sunscreen if you need to be outdoors.