Summer is over…… how about those sun spots?

Blog by: Dean-Richard Johansson

I am often asked by our clients to help them correct various types of pigment problems in their skin.  It could be patches of discoloration or simple sun-spots. Skin pigment issues can have various sources  – and while laser therapies can help,  other factors such as sun exposure or hormonal changes need to be addressed and considered.

How does skin pigment work?

Normal skin pigmentation is a complex process that takes place in the base layer of the epidermis and within the walls of your pores.  It begins with the production and releasing of melanin from within our melanocytes.

Melanin is a broad term for a group of natural pigments found in our skin. Melanin is produced through a multistage chemical process known as melanogenesis, where the oxidation of the amino acid tyrosine is followed by polymerization.

In the base layer of the epidermis, melanin is released in the shedding epidermis, thus causing ‘tanning’.  There are 100,000 – 200,000 melanocytes within a square cm of skin, so a “suntan” is really a complex process.  We’ll talk about tanning in another blog (simple answer: “NO” ), but let’s stay on the topic of pigmentation processes.

When Melanin is released in an uneven or clustered way it can produce undesirable spots or patches of hyper-pigmentation. Treatment using IPL (Intense Pulse Light), Fractional, or Q-Switched YAG laser can break down undesirable pigment and it will shed away or will be absorbed into the skin. Often a combination of therapies will be used depending on your skin type

What are age-spots or sunspots?

As we age, our melanocytes can break down in their ability to work consistently across your entire skin.  Melanin gets stuck in the dendrites (branches of the melanocyte), thus causing a darker pigment spot.  For lighter skin; total removal of sunspots should be achievable, and darker skin will achieve at least some noticeable lightening.

What is Melasma?

Melasma is patches of brown, tan, or gray discoloration on the face.
It is caused by hormonal changes; usually in women, during their reproductive years.  Melasma is found commonly on your cheeks, upper lip, chin, and forehead.  Although possible, it is occasionally found in males.  Combination laser therapies can usually lighten the melasma, and on rare occasions, cause it to disappear completely.

Why do I get brown spots after a blemish?

Brown spots can appear after a blemish heals in darker skin types.  This is called Post-Inflammation Hyperpigmentation.  The blemish has disrupted the melanocytes, and the melanin is ‘stuck’.  Often these brown spots will disappear on their own. Laser can be used to quicken the healing.

The precise choice of laser or combination of therapies that can be used for your unique condition will depend on your skin type, age, and overall reaction to the therapy itself.

How many laser treatments will my pigment correction require?

Anywhere from four to twelve sessions with a wait time of 5-6 weeks or longer between each session.  The timing of your treatments is very important.

Will my age spots, sunspots, and melasma reappear?

Yes, even with the mildest of sun exposure, they can reappear.  Sunscreen inhibits skin from burning, but not tanning.  Total sun avoidance is required for long-lasting effects.  With Laser therapies, you can greatly reduce pigment irregularities and thus be far less reliant on extensive make-up

If you have any questions about laser services for pigment corrections, do not hesitate to call us.


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