Please be informed that our outlets will be closed from 9 Feb 2024, 3.30PM (Friday) to 13 Feb 2024 (Tuesday). We will resume operations on 14 Feb 2024 (Wednesday). Happy Chinese New Year!
Please be informed that our outlets will be closed from 9 Feb 2024, 3.30PM (Friday) to 13 Feb 2024 (Tuesday). We will resume operations on 14 Feb 2024 (Wednesday). Happy Chinese New Year!

Dr Lau Chun Lim: Is Laser Pigmentation Removal Right for You?

laser skin pigmentation removal singapore

Over half of my patients (females especially) struggle with pigmentation, a condition characterised by abnormal discolouration of the skin due to damaged or unhealthy skin cells.

Depending on the severity of the pigmentation, some may need non-topical interventions, such as laser. 

How effective is laser pigmentation removal, and does it work for everyone? Read on to find out.

What Are the Causes of Pigmentation?

Contrary to popular belief, abnormal skin pigmentation isn’t just caused by being under the sun all day. Other causes of hyperpigmentation include:

  • Hormonal disorders
  • Skin inflammation
  • Pregnancy
  • Birthmarks
  • Scarring 
  • Haemochromatosis (iron overload)
  • Ageing

 

Of these, pregnancy is the most common cause. 

What is Laser Treatment for Skin Pigmentation?

Laser treatment for skin pigmentation is an aesthetic treatment that involves the use of laser technology to eliminate melanin from the cells, hence, reducing pigmentation. These treatments are minimally invasive and have virtually no downtime, which means you may return to your daily activities right after the procedure.  

SL Aesthetic Clinic utilises a variety of energy-based laser treatments to penetrate the skin and different depths to target pigmentation in skin. Light energy from the laser is converted to heat energy, which gets absorbed by abnormally pigmented areas. These pigments are broken down in the cells, and are then filtered out of the body through the lymphatic system. This, in turn, helps lighten pigmentation and even out skin tones. 

Common types of laser technology include:

  • Q-switched lasers — emits high-intensity light in short bursts (nanosecond pulses), heating deeper layers of the skin and breaking down pigments, without causing damage to the surrounding skin tissues. 
  • Fractional lasers — fractional lasers are good for skin resurfacing, and work on evening out skin colouring on more superficial layers of the skin. Tissues on the skin are heated, kickstarting the skin’s natural healing process and increasing collagen and elastin production. At the same time, the melanin in dark spots is broken down and the discolouration fades over time. 
  • Pico lasers Pico lasers treat various forms of pigmentation. Termed after “picosecond”, which is 1/1000 of a nanosecond or one trillionth of a second, the Pico Laser delivers ultra-short bursts of energy to break down pigmentation in the cells. The shorter pulse durations are able to target smaller pigment particles, and generate less heat, making it safer for the surrounding skin tissues. 

Is Laser for Pigmentation Safe?

Laser pigmentation removal treatment is generally safe. It is recommended for individuals who are experiencing uneven skin tones and hyperpigmentation, and are looking to lighten their pigmentation. Before deciding on the treatment, there are some key factors to consider.

Skin Type

As laser pigmentation removal treatment works by targeting and absorbing melanin in skin cells, results can vary greatly based on how much melanin is originally present in the skin. This can lead to varying outcomes based on your skin type. 

Skin type suitability for laser treatment is measured with the Fitzpatrick scale — a scale that helps classify how skin tone reacts to UV light, with Type 1 being the fairest and Type VI being the darkest.

In general, darker skin types are more susceptible to unwanted side effects like blistering and scarring due to: 

  • Inappropriate Use of Laser Settings

In general, darker skin types warrant lower laser settings 

  • Sensitivity 

Some skin types can be over reactive to certain lasers – this reaction may be immediate or delayed. Hence it is important for the doctor to observe the patient’s skin reaction and titrate energy throughout treatment accordingly. 

  • Non-compliance to pre and post-laser care 

Avoid excessive sun exposure, regularly moisturise and apply sunscreen and use non-irritant or hypoallergenic cosmetics. 

That being said, individuals with darker-toned skin can still undergo laser pigmentation removal. Your doctor will advise you on the most suitable treatment for your skin type and pigmentation concerns. 

Types of Pigmentation

There are a variety of skin and abnormal pigmentation in people. Common types of hyperpigmentation include: 

  • Birthmarks — birthmarks are common skin colourations that appear at birth or shortly after. They come in various shapes and sizes, but can be broadly classified as vascular birthmarks and pigmented birthmarks. 
    • Vascular birthmarks: Often appear in hues of pink, red and purple. Vascular birthmarks are caused by abnormal blood vessels under the skin, and common ones are salmon patches, haemangiomas, port-wine stains, and venous malformations. 
    • Pigmented birthmarks: Often appear in hues of bluish light to dark brown, and are the result of an overgrowth of pigment cells in the skin. Common pigmented birthmarks are cafe-au-lait spots, mongolian spots, congenital moles and Becker’s Nevus. 
  • Melasma — these are identified as light or dark brown patches that appear on the face, more commonly in the forehead, cheeks, and other t-zone regions. Melasma can be caused by hormonal fluctuations, UV exposure, genetic predisposition, skincare irritation and underlying skin conditions. 
  • Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) — post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can occur in areas of the skin that suffered injury or inflammation, such as acne, burns or cuts. As the skin heals, you may notice increased pigmentation in the area. 

 

Based on your skin type, your doctor will choose a specific laser or a combination of lasers.

Medical Evaluation

During your consultation, be sure to communicate both your needs and concerns with your aesthetic doctor, so that they can better recommend a treatment. It is also important to let them know about your medical history, such as:

  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding — Avoid laser treatment procedures if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Skin reactions are unpredictable and the treatment may adversely affect the development of your baby.  
  • Skin Condition — If you suffer from a skin condition like eczema or have active infections on your skin, you may want to avoid a laser treatment to prevent skin complications. 

 

When it comes to skin pigmentation, it is important to note that any suspicious patch or lesion that changes shape, size, or colour may be a sign of skin cancer, and should be attended to immediately. 

One quick tip would be to take pictures of your area of pigmentation or skin growth, and examine how it changes over time. This would be a helpful reference for your doctor during your consultation and visual examination. A biopsy and other tests can then be carried out to determine the presence of skin cancer. 

Treatment Expectations

Laser pigmentation removal treatments are non-invasive aesthetic procedures and require little to no downtime. Sometimes, a combination of treatments may be recommended for improved results. Knowing what to expect before and after the treatment can help you make more informed decisions and better prepare for the treatment. 

Before Treatment

  • Before any treatment, you will undergo a thorough skin analysis and physical consultation with your aesthetic doctor for them to better understand your needs and concerns, and to figure out the depth of your pigmentation and its possible causes. After which, the most suitable laser treatment for your pigmentation will be recommended.
  • Schedule your treatment appointment at the right time. If your lifestyle involves lots of time under the sun, you may want to schedule your laser pigmentation removal procedure during a period where you can avoid the sun’s UV rays and let your skin heal. 
  • Choosing the right aesthetic doctor is also paramount to achieve the best possible outcomes and minimise complications. Things to avoid post-treatment are:
    • Sun exposure 
    • Hot water
    • Harsh skincare products 
    • Makeup
    • Physically strenuous activities 
    • Scratching and picking 
    • Smoking 
    • Complicated skincare routines 

 

After Treatment

  • Laser treatments for skin pigmentation are generally non-invasive and require little to no downtime. This means you can return to your daily activities right after your treatment. 
  • You may experience slight swelling, redness and skin peeling. Rest assured, this is normal and will subside in a few hours to 1-2 days.
  • Getting pigmentation-free skin doesn’t stop at the end of your laser procedure — proper post-treatment protocols are very important and should be followed to maximise your results, promote skin healing, and prevent complications. 
  • Keep the treated area clean and remember to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. 
  • Generally, pigmented spots that have been lightened will not return after your treatments and results are permanent. However, pigmentation may recur after further sun exposure or other causes, which will require further laser treatment sessions in the future. 

Potential Side Effects and Risks

Laser pigmentation treatment is generally safe, but like any other medical procedure, it comes with certain side effects, especially if done by an inexperienced doctor.

  • Pain and discomfort — As heat energy is used, you may experience minor discomfort during the treatment. A topical anaesthetic can be applied to keep you as comfortable as possible. 
  • Redness and swelling — You may experience some redness and swelling after treatment. Rest assured, this is normal and will subside within a few hours to a few days. 
  • Changes in pigmentation —Some patients may experience over-lightening (hypopigmentation) or hyperpigmentation after treatment. Undergoing the right treatment and going to an experienced doctor minimise this risk. 
  • Minor scarring — Some laser treatments may result in scarring as the skin heals. This is rare, and the risk can be minimised with proper post-treatment aftercare. 

Combination Treatments

As mentioned above, the right treatment plan can make waves of difference when it comes to achieving your desired results. 

A proper skin analysis and accurate diagnosis are crucial to understanding your type of skin pigmentation, and hence, the right laser treatment for your condition. Sometimes, a combination of treatments could also be recommended by your doctor or skin specialist. Some examples are:

  • Chemical Peelschemical peels can help lighten pigmentation and reduce superficial scars by exfoliating the top layer of the skin. When combined with laser treatments, this can effectively reduce pigmentation and improve skin texture. 
  • Microneedlingmicroneedling refers to strategically placed micro-injuries to trigger the body’s natural healing process. This stimulates collagen and elastin production, which helps remodel the skin and lighten pigmentation. 
  • Prescription Topical Cream — laser treatments can be combined with prescription topical creams with lightening agents, such as Cysteamine Whitening Cream, to effectively treat melasma, sun spots and other pigmentation issues. 

SLMS – Pigmented Skin 1 of 4 (Stem Cell Mask, Luminance Max, Cyspera)

  • Dermal Fillers — dermal fillers can be used to reduce the appearance of pigmentation in areas that some lasers cannot treat, such as dark eye circles. Tear trough fillers reduce dark eye circles by filling up the sunken areas under the eyes, hence, minimising the shadowing. 

 

Read: 9 Things to Know Before Getting Under Eye Fillers

Laser pigmentation removal treatments can generally yield significant results in improving pigmentation issues. However, it may require a series of sessions to achieve optimal results. After which, maintenance treatments will be required every once in a while. 

Seek Professional Advice From Sl Aesthetic Clinic

With all the pigmentation removal treatments available on the market, you’re spoilt for choice. However, it’s very important to first determine whether your pigmentation issue is an underlying medical condition that requires urgent treatment. A thorough analysis of your skin type and condition can also help discern what laser treatment – or combination of treatments – would help you achieve enhanced overall skin tone and texture. 

Seek professional advice with our certified aesthetic doctors here at SL Aesthetic Clinic, and contact us for a detailed skin analysis and comprehensive treatment plan. We can advise you on the price of skin pigmentation treatments in Singapore and address any queries you have.

Like what you read? Share them!