Certain conditions can cause your skin to darken, either wholly or in patches. Because of this, many people have turned to laser skin whitening as an option for remedying this unwanted side effect. This article aims to answer commonly asked questions regarding laser skin whitening.
What causes darker skin?
Your skin may darken for a variety of reasons. The most common of these are medical conditions such as melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)1. Melasma is a common skin disorder; although its pathogenesis is unconfirmed, it is likely to be linked with overexposure to the sun, leading to higher melanin production in the skin2.
PIH is also reasonably common, though it is particularly prevalent in darker skin types3. This occurs when the skin has been inflamed or injured, which can cause alterations to pigmentation3. It is also noted as a side effect of other conditions, such as acne and eczema3.
What is skin whitening?
Skin whitening procedures vary in terms of how they work and what they can achieve. The following are the leading skin whitening options4:
This is a process undertaken by a cosmologist who scours the upper layers of skin in affected areas. This is typically used to soften the edges of skin irregularities and treat dark spots or acne scars.
A lower-level approach to the previously mentioned dermabrasion can be completed by your dermatologist or even in a spa. It involves light scraping of the affected skin to remove dead and damaged skin cells in dark spots.
Arbutin is a natural extract; therefore, it minimizes the risks associated with some chemicals. In addition, it helps to suppress darker pigmentation, particularly that caused by sunburn.
Arguably the most effective natural form of vitamin A, retinol helps to cause cell division in the skin. This generates natural exfoliation and regeneration of the skin, which can reduce unwanted dark blemishes. As a sidenote, retinol also encourages collagen production, meaning that wrinkles are reduced.
Either by consuming products high in vitamin C (such as citrus fruits) or by applying directly to the skin, vitamin C can improve the skin’s elasticity and help it repair naturally. This is a suitable alternative to chemical options.
Serums are packed with active ingredients. In the case of whitening serums, this can be up to 70% of the product, meaning that it has excellent effects. They can brighten your skin, help to prevent acne, and improve hydration.
Creams typically contain a lower proportion of active ingredients than serums (approximately 10%, rather than 70%). This makes them lower cost but also less effective. Nonetheless, regular use can help to lighten skin and add hydration.
For this, solutions such as alpha hydroxy acid are applied to pigmented skin. This needs to be performed by a professional as it may be dangerous if not managed properly. Chemical peels are highly effective in rejuvenating the skin and removing dark spots.
The main focus of this article, laser treatment is an increasingly popular method for targeting specific patches or blotches in the skin. More information about how this works is available in the next section.
How does the laser skin whitening process work?
The laser is directed at the targeted areas and fires a jet of intense light. This generates heat that is absorbed by the water, melanin, and hemoglobin in the skin’s affected layers, ultimately leading to these layers being destroyed5. This is what removes the dark spots.
This explanation has previously caused some people to worry that laser skin whitening might hurt. However, it is described as a painless procedure6, so there is no need for such worry. Furthermore, scientific studies have demonstrated how pain can be reduced - or even eliminated - for all patients, including those with very sensitive skin7.
However, there may be some minimal amounts of pain, redness, and swelling for a couple of days following treatment5, but this doesn’t last for long. It is recommended to have between eight and twelve treatment sessions to maximize the results, with gaps of four to six weeks between sessions so that the skin can settle5.
Is laser skin whitening permanent?
In short, the answer is no. The chemicals, vitamins, and other treatments listed above all only last for a limited time. Conversely, laser skin whitening does last much longer, but it is not permanent8. Choosing the suitable laser for the work required is vital, as this has been demonstrated to have significant impacts upon the success of treatment for medical conditions such as melasma and PIH1,9. Although it doesn’t last forever, skin texture and tone improvements can typically be seen directly following the first laser treatment session10.
Ultimately, there are no permanent options for whitening skin affected by medical conditions. On the other hand, laser skin whitening can offer a permanent solution to the removal of tattoos and birthmarks8. However, there are certain things that you can do to help your laser skin whitening last for as long as possible. These methods are explained below.
How can I make my laser skin whitening last longer?
The following steps8 are considered to ensure your laser skin whitening lasts as long as possible:
Lead a healthy lifestyle. Ensuring that you exercise regularly will help to keep your skin hydrated. Also, stopping smoking will improve skin health, as will consuming less alcohol.
Maintain your skincare routine. Ensure that you stick to a solid skincare routine in terms of moisturizing and hydrating. If possible, avoid overapplication of make-up products as these may cause damage to your skin.
Eat a balanced diet. Make sure that you drink enough water to keep your whole body (including your skin) hydrated. Also, by eating a sensible balance of vitamins and minerals, you will be taking on many nutrients required for healthy skin.
Use quality sunscreen. One of the best ways to protect your skin from becoming damaged or darker is to avoid exposure to the sun. Therefore, if you are going into the sunshine, make sure you’re wearing high-quality sunscreen.
Why would I not be able to have laser skin whitening treatment?
The following issues5 may preclude you from having laser skin whitening treatment:
If your skin is particularly sensitive, you may experience slightly more pain or discomfort in comparison to other people undergoing laser skin lightening. That doesn’t mean that it’s not possible for you though. Some studies11 have shown how combining the treatment with other options - such as polyhydroxy acids - can be helpful when the skin is sensitive.
Keloids are scars formed primarily from collagen12. The tendency to develop these may be hereditary, but it could be that you, unfortunately, suffer from it even if there’s no trace previously in your family. If you have a keloidal tendency, you may wish to avoid laser treatments that could trigger the formation of such scars.
If you have an active infection in the area to be treated, the laser skin whitening may not work correctly. In this case, simply rebook your treatment session for a time when your infection has cleared.
Darker patches of skin are caused by the over-production of melanin in those areas. This can be due to various factors, but it is most commonly down to a medical condition or overexposure to the sun. There are many options for skin whitening, with laser treatment offering the longest-lasting benefits.
Although it is not permanent in reducing darkness in the skin, laser skin whitening treatment can last for a significant amount of time, particularly if you ensure that you look after yourself and the affected area properly afterward.