Laser treatment is often a safe and effective solution for ridding the appearance of wrinkles and skin discoloration. Ironically, however, laser treatment can also result in hyperpigmentation of the treated skin area.
Hyperpigmentation is a form of skin discoloration characterized by dark patches on the skin. These brown spots appear because of an overabundance of melanin (responsible for skin pigmentation) in the skin cells.
Patients at higher risk
Darker skinned patients are at higher risk of hyperpigmentation after laser treatment. So, too, are patients who undergo laser treatment with tanned skin.
Laser resurfacing with a CO2 or Er:YAG laser is associated with post-treatment hyperpigmentation, which occurs because the melanocytes (which produce melanin pigment) of the epidermis (surface skin layer) and dermis (middle layer) skin cells become damaged during thermal vaporization. Risk is minimized with a skilled, experienced surgeon.
The results of a study on post-laser resurfacing discoloration, published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, showed that the hyperpigmentation went away on its own, untreated, within 16 weeks in over 93 percent of cases in which it occurred as a side effect of laser resurfacing.
Consult a dermatologist about treatment options to accelerate the fading of the dark spots. Skin conditions vary, and a dermatologist can recommend (or warn against) treatment methods, be it a cream (with a bleaching agent, if necessary), a vitamin C injection, or another cosmetic procedure. Avoid sun exposure.
A skilled and experienced board-certified plastic surgeon can adjust wavelength, light and pulse specifications to minimize the risk of hyperpigmentation after laser treatment. Seek treatment from a well-qualified doctor.