Laser Treatments for Melasma- What are the Best Options?

Posted November 19, 2021
Options for laser treatment for melasma

Thankfully melasma is not harmful to your health, but the look of brown and blue-grey spots on your face can be embarrassing, and you want to get rid of it fast and permanently.

You have tried all sorts of topical creams with ingredients to make the skin lighter and even chemical peels for the face. But the marks and spots of melasma still appear on your face. You’re starting to consider laser treatments that go beyond the skin’s surface. 

Treating melasma with laser treatments may be a viable option for the type of melasma that has developed.

Did you know there are different variations of melasma? Luckily, there is a variety of laser and light therapy treatments in response. 

We share the different non-surgical options for treating melasma for the face. And why laser treatments may be the solution you have been searching for. 

Why Treat Melasma with Lasers and Light Therapy? 

When melasma develops, it’s the body’s way of responding to a change of hormones, being pregnant, giving birth, or exposure to the sun.

There are three types of melasma based on the different layers of skin and depth of pigmentation. 

Three types of melasma that can affect the skin: 

  1. Epidermal melasma has a dark brown color with a well-defined border and can typically respond well with treatments.
  2. Dermal melasma has a light brown or hint of blue tone and can be more challenging to treat topically, but with laser or light treatments, the different color pigmentation is not an issue.
  3. Mixed melasma is the most common type with a blue-like tone and brown patch appearance that be challenging to treat. But laser treatments aimed to treat this form of melasma can be effective without damaging the skin’s surface with laser and light treatments. 

Laser and light therapy treatments are ideal for treating melasma resistant to other treatments such as topical skin-lightening agents or chemical peels and for the types of melasma with different color tones. 

If you aren’t sure which type of melasma you have, make sure to consult with a doctor or board-certified dermatologist. 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the three most popular laser treatment options for melasma. 

IPL Treatment for Melasma

IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light that comes from a device that emits a spectrum of pulsing lights, like a camera flash. The light from an IPL device is scattered with different wavelengths, enabling it to treat different tones of discoloration, making this an ideal treatment for melasma.

An IPL treatment (also known as photo facial) penetrates the second layer of your skin called the dermis without harming the top layer of skin, making it a zero recovery time. The light and energy from the IPL convert into heat that absorbs the skin cells’ pigment, destroying the pigmentation. 

One of the biggest misconceptions about light therapy treatments is that it’s only light, and the risk of having a bad treatment is low- this is not true. Finding an expertly trained specialist experienced with an IPL device will be critical for the optimal outcome. 

You can start your search here with our “Find a doctor” navigation tool. Find a local expert in your area. 

What to Expect with IPL Therapy

IPL treatments are done in a series of doctor’s visits. It typically can take 2-6 sessions, depending on how severe the pigmentation is on the skin. The treatment sessions should be scheduled three to six weeks apart.

A few days after your IPL treatment, the skin will develop what looks like brown pepper flakes. This is a sign that pigmentation is naturally going away, and the entire process can take up to a week for the flaking to stop. 

Fraxel Laser Treatment

Fraxel is the brand name of what is known as fractional laser treatment. Fraxel is a laser device that makes microscopic holes in your skin by pushing out damaged skin cells with new healthy cells (it can also stimulate collagen growth). The technology behind Fraxel is the “fractional” lasers that form a grid light pattern, splitting the beams and creating “micro-injuries,” allowing the skin to heal naturally after the treatment.  

It will take more than one treatment to treat the pigmentation fully. A single Fraxel treatment only takes care of 25-45\\\% of the treated areas at a time. It’s best to consult with a dermatologist or fractional laser specialist to learn how many treatments are needed to achieve your desired results. 

What to Expect with Fraxel Laser Treatment

Patients are treated with a topical anesthetic before the procedure and wear protective eyewear during the process. The treatment will cause slight discomfort of a prickling feeling to the treated areas. Fraxel treatment is typically 30-40 minutes long, depending on the severity of the discoloration of the skin. 

After the treatment, the skin will be red, discolored, and raw but normalize 3 to 5 days after the procedure. Patients are recommended to avoid the sun, harsh cleansers, and apply protective sun treatments to protect the skin. 

PicoSure Laser Treatment for Melasma

PicoSure is a laser that converts the energy into pressure instead of heat. The pressure from the laser breaks up the pigmentation of the skin, similar to that used for tattoo removals. The technology from a PicoSure laser penetrates the discolored areas in short bursts of lasers without damaging the top layer of the skin. The energy from the laser activates the cells to form new collagen, pushing out the damaged skin cells and allowing the skin to heal naturally. 

The number of laser treatment sessions will depend on your consultation with a dermatologist or PicoSure specialist. It could take a series of up to 3-4 treatments, based on the level of discoloration of the skin. Each session should be spaced out by 2-4 weeks apart. 

What to Expect from a PicoSure Laser Treatment

PicoSure Laser treatment requires no numbing cream or anesthesia, and most patients claim a slight stinging sensation like a rubber band snapping on the skin. 

After the treatment, the skin will begin to flake off at the treated areas, starting the natural healing process. Patients might experience mild swelling and redness, but it is temporary and will dissipate after a couple of hours. Patients are recommended to avoid sun exposure and wear sunscreen on the treated areas.

How Do I Prepare for a Laser Treatment for Melasma? 

With any cosmetic procedure, it is always recommended to research the practitioner performing the laser or light treatments. It is essential to determine how long they have been performing and using the devices. 

When treating melasma with a laser or light therapy treatment, you will want a trained expert with extensive knowledge and experience with these types of devices. You’ve already endured unwanted marks on your face. Best not to take a chance with professional performing the treatment. 

To find a local board-certified doctor or dermatologist, take a look at our “Find a Doctor” navigation tool. 

- VM


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