Many people associate “laser” with “hair removal”; however, laser treatment is also a widely used standard method of skin rejuvenation, especially for the treatment of pigmentation. Laser therapy is a simple, quick, and effective treatment that can be completed during your daily free time. The laser may cause temporary side effects immediately after treatment. Skin irritation and pigmentation changes are the most common side effects.
What is hyperpigmentation after laser therapy?
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a temporary or permanent pigmentation that is resulted from damaging the skin. PIH is more common in patients with dark skin, which is more sensitive to the laser beam. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can result from inflammatory acne, eczema, various dermatoses, or laser treatment. When such unwanted laser side effects occur, inflammation of the epidermis stimulates melanocytes to increase melanin production and transfer pigment to the surrounding keratinocytes. The top layer of the skin can also be damaged, and melanin gets stuck in and changes color. Inflamed areas will heal then, leaving light brown to almost black spots on the skin. Exposure to ultraviolet light exacerbates this inflammation as well as laser treatment.
Topical treatments for hyperpigmentation after inflammation
There are many different topical creams and cosmetic products that can lighten hyperpigmentation after inflammation and improve the appearance of the skin. The following topical treatment will help lighten the skin as well:
- Vitamin C
- Azelaic acid
- Glycolic acid peels
- Steroid creams
- Tri-Luma (Prescription of fluocinolone acetone 0.01%, Hydroquinone 4%, tretinoin 0.05%)
- Orchid extract, grape seed, Aloe Vera, seaweed or green tea
Who is more susceptible to laser hyperpigmentation?
People with darker skin are more prone to general laser complications. In particular, Asian patients, Hispanic patients, and African American patients are more at risk of hyperpigmentation. While most lasers are considered safe for patients with dark skin tones, they are at risk for erythema and pigmented areas resulting from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The darker your skin color, the harder it will be to lighten epidermal melanosis.
Preventing hyperpigmentation after laser skin treatment
Keep in mind that different laser treatments vary in risk and severity of PIH, so it is essential to talk to your doctor about this before treatment. Pigmentation after laser treatment may decrease but not be completely avoided. What can be done to reduce the incidence and severity of PIH after laser includes:
- Use skin lightening creams a few weeks before laser treatment and continue treatment after laser treatment.
- Avoid laser treatment if you have tanned skin because tanned skin is more prone to PIH. Start treatment only after your tan has completely subsided.
- Avoid and severe sun protection after laser treatment. Ultraviolet light after laser treatment stimulates active melanocytes and worsens PIH.
- Avoid excessive skin irritation after the laser hair removal. Use spicy soaps and scrubs.