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Laser Pigmentation Removal - A Brief Introduction

Updated on August 21, 2011

Skin pigmentation is attributable to various external factors that can cause skin to show different shades of pigmentation in different areas. Generally speaking, skin pigmentation can be divided into two types. One is the body's own production of the pigments, such as the presence of melanocyte in the skin cells to produce melanin (black pigment). As the melanin is located at different skin layers, it shows different shades of colors, for example, the melanin in the epidermis typically will show black or brown color, melanin in the upper dermis generally has grayish blue color, while melanin in the lower dermis is often characterized as blue etc. Other endogenous pigments also include lipochrome (lipid pigment), bile pigment (including bilirubin and dehydrobilirubin) and so on. The other type of pigments come from the outside, which are often called exogenous pigments, such as carotene, drugs (for example atebrin can cause yellowish discoloration of skin), heavy metals (such as skin pigmentation from arsenic, bismuth, silver and so on) and pigmentation due to direct contact with staining agent. Such as tattoos, iron slag, cinder and so on.

What are the main causes of skin pigmentation?

The typical formation process of skin pigmentation is simplified as follow: The human skin, usually after being exposed to sunlight, ultraviolet radiation or cosmetics, drugs and other substances, will be stimulated to form black pigmentation, some of the pigments are shed with the cuticle, while others will accumulate at the bottom layer of dermis until they are removed from the body through blood circulation. Once the above procedure encounters some disorders, skin pigmentation will form. Generally speaking, the causes of pigmentation can be divided into internal factors and external factors.

Internal factors

  • People who are having endocrine disorders will often have facial spots, acne and other serious problems in their skin, and these will typically lead to skin pigmentation.
  • Genetic reasons, typically people who are having skin pigmentation before the age of 18 are more likely to have it due to heredity.

External factors

  • As the environmental change and air pollution are leading to ozone holes and producing large amounts of ultraviolet radiation directly to our skin, the human skin cells have a mechanism to secrete a large number of melanin in order to avoid oxidation and to protect our skins from getting hurt. This will also lead to the formation of pigmentation spots.
  • Our skin's nutrition mainly comes from the blood, and whether the blood has adequate nutrients for the survival of cells depends heavily on the quality of our foods. Basic foodstuff can neutralize the acidic foods such as meat, cereals, and maintain an alkaline environment in the body fluid for the dissolution and removal of toxic substances in the cells, and can speed up the metabolism. Lack of basic foodstuff can lead to skin pigmentations due to the excess accumulations of toxic substances in our blood.
  • Cosmetics and skin cleanliness also have close relationship with skin pigmentation. For example, some cosmetics may contain chemicals and heavy metals such as lead, if not cleaned improperly it is quite easy to cause pigmentation in the skin.
  • Photo sensitiveness is also a major factor of skin pigmentation. Long exposure to the sunlight and other light sources with strong radiations will accelerate the synthesis of melanin, causing skin to become darker.
  • Women during their menstruation or pregnancy are more likely to suffer from skin pigmentation, because the stimulation of progesterone will increase the body's secretion of luteal torso, therefore, leads to increased pigmentation or dark spots.

Laser Skin Pigmentation Removal

Laser treatment of skin pigmentation is safe and effective, and it will not leave scars generally, but it should be noted that laser treatment of skin pigmentation usually requires multiple treatments; the whole course of treatment takes about 5 to 6 times. And if there are liver spots involved laser treatment usually has to be carried with endocrine therapy to achieve good results.

Laser pigmentation treatment is based on the following principle: Laser equipment can produce a high concentration of radiation energy (laser beam) that is very powerful, with very short pulse width and color selective characteristics. The laser energy is highly concentrated in the pigment granules, it will instantly vaporize or crush these pigments for them to be removed from the body through the lymphatic tissue, and the laser beam does not affect the surrounding normal tissue. So typically, laser treatment for pigmentation can achieve great results with less pain and few scars.

The laser treatment process is generally as follow: In operation, there is no need to use anesthetics, the person is treated will not feel pain but the feeling of needle sticks which most people can tolerate. Each treatment requires less than 30 minutes to be finished, and generally, the skin can return to its normal state 7 days to 10 days after the treatment. The whole process does not affect people's normal life. After the end of each treatment, the skin must have a period of recovery (or the natural metabolic process of absorption), so the treatment interval is usually 2 to 3 months. According to the size, number and depth of the pigmentation, some people will be able to achieve the desired results shortly after one or two treatments, while others will need more times to solve the problems.

Care after laser pigmentation removal

Because during the treatment the skin is directly exposed to the energy of the laser, usually it will result in skin swelling, and sometimes even some minor bleeding. All the above are normal phenomenon that you don't have to worry too much about. They will quickly get disappeared.

Some people will need to apply anti-inflammatory cream in the treated area daily for the wound to gradually form a crust and eventually fall off. In this process you should pay attention to cleanliness of the skin and try to avoid direct exposure to the sunlight, otherwise the skin will become darker instead.

If the pigmentation has not yet dissipated, you can be treated again about 2 months after the first treatment. 

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