1. What type of pigmentation do I have?
It is important to identify what type of pigmentation you have in order to treat them effectively and safely.
Fortunately for us, there aren’t 50 types of pigmentation conditions – pigmentation can essentially be grouped into three main classifications – Epidermis, Dermis & a mix of both.
The skin is made up of two main layers. The epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis is the outer layer of these two main layers. Epidermal pigmentation includes freckles, sun spots, and age spots. Epidermal pigmentation can be identified as light to medium brown spots with well-defined margins.
Dermal pigmentation includes conditions such as post-inflammatory pigmentation (pimple marks/chicken-pox marks), hori’s nevus, nevus of ota, etc. Dermal pigmentation appears to be hazier under the skin compared to epidermal pigmentation. They do not have well-defined margins and are usually slightly lighter in colour.
A good example, and also one of the most common pigmentation problem faced by women is melasma. Melasma can be either epidermal, dermal, or a mix of both. A mixed picture of both epidermal and dermal pigmentation takes more time to treat.
2. Can pigmentation be treated with topical creams and facials?
While certain pigmentation can be treated at facial salons or using topical creams, the most efficient remedy would still be lasers, which are safe when done by a doctor.
Superficial pigments such as epidermal pigmentation can be slightly reduced with facials or creams that has acids or chemicals in them – however this thins the surface of the skin, and for most cases, pigmentation only appears to be lighter as the skin is temporarily brightened by facials or topical creams. This can be a long drawn process as it takes longer to treat topically instead of lasers which targets and breaks down pigmentation directly. Your mileage may vary for topical creams and facials especially if you are not sure what pigmentation you have, and this is why topical treatments may not work for everyone.
Treating pigmentation, especially dermal pigmentation, with a topical cream is akin to removing a tattoo with a cream or facial treatment – tattoos are essentially ink pigmentation purposely deposited in the dermal layer of the skin, and can only be removed by lasers.
Both epidermal and dermal pigmentation can be treated safely and efficiently by different lasers with lasting results when done by a doctor. Epidermal pigmentation requires a laser with a shorter wavelength such as the ProYellow laser (577nm) and dermal pigmentation requires a laser with a longer wavelength such as the popular Q-switched laser (1064nm).
Creams such as Hydroquinone, Crystal Clear, etc. helps with pigmentation by controlling the production of pigmentation instead of removing existing pigments in the skin.
3. How many sessions do I need, and how much will it cost to treat my pigmentation?
On average, epidermal pigmentation takes between 4-5 sessions to treat, and dermal pigmentation takes between 6-8 sessions. Patients with a mix of both epidermal and dermal pigmentation might require slightly more sessions.
Laser sessions do not cost an arm or a leg – they typically average around $180 – $300 per session, and a trial session of the Q-switched laser is at $50 at Mizu. Make sure you go to a doctor who can correctly identify what kind of pigmentation you have, and is able to recommend you the right treatment for it.
4. What should a proper laser treatment be like? Why are there clinics that offer laser treatments at such a low price point?
A proper laser treatment should last between 15 – 20mins, and is done once every 3 – 4 weeks. This saves time compared to shorter laser treatments by certain clinics which only lasts for 1 – 2mins each, and has to be repeated up to 3 – 7 times a week.
There are clinics which offer low cost / ‘cheap’ laser treatments – these treatments are usually not tailored to your specific needs (standard laser settings, low power and only at one wavelength), are shorter in duration (1 – 2 minutes each treatment session) and needs to be done more regularly (up to 3 – 7 times a week).
The risk of side-effects from shorter laser treatments are greatly increased due the frequent number of sessions you would have to go in order to see similar results. These side-effects include hypo-pigmentation (white patches on the skin) and hyper-pigmentation (darker pigments due to over-stimulation of the skin).
The cost of a usual Q-switched laser treatment done in a clinic averages between $180– $300. Shorter laser treatments might seem cheaper (as low as $30/treatment) due to a lower cost per treatment, but is in fact more expensive when you work out the sums. The shorter duration (1-2mins/treatment) and increased number of treatments (30-50 treatments) required will amount to higher cost for a similar (and possibly less effective) result.
5. Why do I still get pigmentation despite wearing sunscreen?
Unfortunately, sunscreen isn’t everything. Sunscreen is extremely important, but it still does not block out 100% of UV rays. UV damage can accumulate over time, and cause pigmentation to surface.
Pigmentation can also be caused by hormonal changes, and this is why pigmentation is 3 times more common in women than men. Pigmentation has a higher chance of occurring when a woman is pregnant or undergoing menopause.
Genes play a part in pigmentation as well – you are more likely to have pigmentation if it runs in your family.
6. Will lasers thin my skin?
This is probably one of the most common question I get asked. Non-ablative lasers (Q-Switched, ProYellow Lasers) that are used to treat pigmentation does not thin the skin. In fact, these lasers actually help thicken and strengthen the skin. Heat and mechanical effect from these lasers help stimulate superficial collagen production and makes the skin thicker and feels firmer.
The right laser treatment not only treats pigmentation, but can also brighten, cleanse, and tone the skin at the same time.
7. Will my pigmentation come back?
Just like a tattoo, pigmentation do not reappear after treatment. However, new pigmentation can still form over time due to various reasons such as hormonal changes or sun damage. It is therefore important to maintain a good regime to prevent new pigmentation from forming and this regime can include both maintenance laser treatments and skincare products.
Still have questions? We’d love to clarify your doubts, and have you at a trial to experience how lasers can work for you. If you are unsure of how to identify your pigmentation type still, Dr. YZ Tan can do that for you during a consultation as well.
Feel free to contact us through our enquiry forms or call us at 6634 4033 / Whatsapp us at 9384 8915 for quicker time slot confirmation!
Q-Switched Laser Trial at $85 | Pro Yellow Laser Trial from $180