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Both women and men covet having flawless skin. A big chunk of the cosmetic industry today devotes its efforts in developing a wide range of products that promise consumers of achieving that youthful glow. But, which of all these actually deliver to their promise?
Let’s take, for example, skin pigmentation.
Our skin’s colour is brought about by a component in the dermis called Melanin. Aside from this trait, Melanin also serves as protection from certain skin diseases. However, with the skin’s continuous sun exposure without proper shield each day, such as sunblock, the skin can overproduce Melanin. For some people, this can already be present upon birth. This occurrence is called pigmentation.
Patches of dark marks on the face characterise Pigmentation.
Clinics all across Singapore offer one type of laser treatment for this skin condition, the Q-switched Laser. Read on to the very end to see if this procedure might actually work wonders on your skin pigmentation despair.
Introduction to Q-switched Lasers
Q-switched lasers use energised laser beams that pound through the skin in nanoseconds. The light pulses penetrate through the skin, eventually breaking down extra pigmentation, which causes uneven skin tone. The powdered pigments are then absorbed by the body and flushed out of its system naturally.
Q-switched lasers are most effective in addressing certain kinds of pigmentation. The best results also vary from person to person.
Q-switched Laser Treatments
There are several skin pigmentation conditions that respond to Q-switched laser treatment well. Melasma, on the other hand, is a severe type of pigmentation that poses as a challenge for Q-switched lasers. I have yet to see a case of Melasma that a Q-switched laser is able to remove completely.
What is melasma and why is it hard for Q-switched lasers to banish?
Melasma is a skin condition that develops on the face due to excessive sun exposure. It comes in brown or grey-brown patches seen on the cheeks, chin, forehead, or nose bridge. In some instances, melasma may also show on other areas of the body, like the neck. Aside from exposure to the sun, hormones may also cause melasma. Pregnant women are normally prone to this skin impurity.
Doctors would usually recommend a skin biopsy done to be sure that the area being treated is melasma.
Compared to other disorders affecting the skin, Melasma is harder to treat as the discolouration penetrates deep into the skin. Melasma may need repeated rounds of laser treatment before any improvement can be seen. Aside from laser treatments, oral medications or topical creams may also be used for effective results.
The use of Q-switched laser to treat Melasma may not be permanent. Discontinued use of the same laser may also cause the recurrence of Melasma. I personally do not recommend the use of Q-switched laser, as the chances of the relapse of the skin condition are high. Patients will only squander time and money for results that are not even close to mediocre.
However, Q-switched lasers are best in addressing the following types of skin pigmentation:
|TYPE||DESCRIPTION||NUMBER OF Q-SWITCHED LASER SESSIONS NEEDED FOR REMOVAL|
|FRECKLES||Tiny brown spots caused by sun exposure that normally appear on the face (top of the cheeks).||2 to 4 sessions|
|POST-INFLAMMATORY HYPERPIGMENTATION||Dark spots or marks that are left on the skin’s surface after healing, which are caused by swelling or bruising.||3 to 5 sessions|
|SOLAR LENTIGOS||Commonly known as sunspots, solar lentigos resemble freckles but are bigger in width comparison. Sunspots normally affect middle-aged adults and are seen on the face and upper limbs of the body.||2 to 4 sessions|
Q-switched Lasers vs. Pico/Picosecond Lasers
The latest development in pigmentation removal is the laser called Pico/Picosecond. This type of laser is an improved version of the Q-switched laser. Pico laser produces beams that are blasted onto the skin 10 times faster as compared to Q-switched lasers.
As mentioned, lasers used for pigmentation removal use high energy that is targeted to the excess pigments on the skin through laser beams. Lasers that do not have the sufficient energy needed to be able to destroy the pigments most of the time fail to this. Likewise, the skin around the area being treated is at risk of getting damaged.
Pico laser, which was initially developed to erase tattoos, is the best choice to make when treating Melasma. Shorter laser beams that are released in picosecond rhythms effectively smashes the pigments caused by Melasma. Due to the quick and efficient effect of the laser, the other parts of the skin that are untouched remain undamaged.
Studies made in order to compare Q-switched and Pico lasers found out that Pico lasers are more successful in producing optimal results. Pico lasers also have a quicker turnaround time, hence cutting shorter the number of needed sessions for treatment.
When treating Melasma, I recommend the use of both lasers subsequently. The reason for this is that each laser has a feature that can contribute to treating the dark and deep-seated pigmentation in a quicker way.
Korean dermatologists discovered that nanosecond lasers are helpful in breaking huge pigments into minor portions, after which the Pico lasers’ short pulses are utilised to finally smash the pigments into powder-like substances that are easily absorbed, processed, and released by the body from its system.
Everything that I have included in this article is based on my own professional practice and at the same time from consultations with prominent laser dermatologists here in Singapore and abroad. It is always my goal to put my patient’s well being first, thus I see to it that they only get the best and innovative treatments available. I hope this article is able to broaden your knowledge about pigmentations and similarly, answer the questions you may have in case you are looking for the most efficient procedure to get rid of skin imperfections caused by discolouration. Always remember that, more than cosmetic procedures, one of the keys to achieving healthy and glowing skin is to find a competent dermatologist to address your specific needs.