A laser is a device that emits a high intensity, high energy beam of light. The laser that we use are called Q-switched Nd:YAG (QS) lasers which derive their name from the neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet crystal used as a laser medium. Nd:YAG laser has a wave length of 1064nm and has the capability to reach deep layers of skin tissue compared to other types of laser.
As the laser is passed over pigmented skin, energy contained within the laser light microscopically shatters melanin pigments into tiny particles that are then slowly eliminated by the body.
IPL or intense-pulsed light on the other hand is not a laser, but light. The IPL machine emits a very bright spectrum of light with every shot. The light gets converted to heat energy in the skin where melanin is the target.
Before we talk about lasers used to treat pigmentation problems, we need to understand how pigmentation problems occur in the first place.
Melanocytes are cells deep in the skin that produce melanin (pigment). Melanocytes transfer the melanin to superficial skin layer (keratinocytes) via multiple arms. Melanin is found in the eyes, hair and skin.
Everyone has the same amount of melanocytes. Dark-skinned individuals produce more melanin than those with pale skin. Melanocytes produce melanin in response to UV rays to protect the skin.
That is why people with pale skin get sunburn easily because they have less melanin in the skin to protect them from the sun. When there is irregular accumulation of melanin in the skin, we get pigmentation problems.
If there is excessive melanin deposition, we get hyperpigmentation. On the other hand, when there is lack of melanin, we get hypopigmentation.
Common hyperpigmentation problems that we encounter daily include freckles and age spots (solar lentigo). These are easy to treat and can be cleared with just 2-3 sessions of QS laser or IPL.
Melasma is a common pigmentation problem as well but is difficult to treat because the severity is very much dependent upon sun exposure and bodily hormones. Melasma treatment requires a combination of lasers, creams, peels and aggressive sun protection for best results.
Almost everyone with hyperpigmentation problems are eligible for laser / light therapy except only for those who have photosensitive epilepsy and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. Clients who have a sun-tan however should wait for at least 4 weeks for the skin to recover before considering any laser / light procedures.
Always arrive for your laser / light procedure without any make up on for the doctor to be able to assess your original skin condition. For both the QS laser and IPL, no prior skin numbing is required as they are gentle lasers that do not disrupt the superficial skin layer.
skin conditions i.e 695nm filter for hair removal, 560nm filter for freckles, etc. Both the QS laser and IPL bypasses the superficial skin layer to reach pigments found deep inside the skin. Downtime is therefore minimal.