It may not be deep frown lines or crow’s feet that you have, but if you feel like you have aged, chances are it’s due to an uneven skin tone. Blotchy skin doesn’t reflect light as well, making your complexion dull and lifeless looking. Many of us suffer from pigmentation problems these days, sometimes triggered by hormonal fluctuations like pregnancy or birth control pills, damage to the skin due to injury and prolonged sun exposure.
What is pigmentation?
Skin pigmentation is a condition that causes the skin to appear lighter or darker than normal. Our skin contains cells called melanocytes, which produce a substance called melanin, which is the natural pigment responsible for the color of our skin, hair and eyes. Hyperpigmentation occurs when excess melanin formed deposits in the skin, leading to patches of skin becoming darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. Similarly, hypopigmentation occurs when patches of skin become lighter or whiter in color compared to the surrounding skin.
Lasers to the rescue
Essentially, pigmentation can be treated with lightening creams or lasers. The main difference between the two is that lasers can produce a faster and more effective result in most cases. For stubborn pigmentation that do not draw a satisfactory response from creams alone, they can be safely treated with a variety of lasers. However, one should not see lasers as a last resort to tackle pigmentation. In fact, early treatment with the correct type of lasers matched appropriately to one’s skin type not only help to clear pigmentation faster and earlier, it has the dual benefit of preventing further pigment formation.
At Freia Medical, complemented with purpose built cosmeceuticals from Future Cosmetics & SkinCeuticals, we wage war against pigmentation problems armed with a comprehensive range of established lasers used singularly or combined for the best possible outcome. With the Sciton Profile BBL, PicoSure, Medlite, Dual Yellow and Spectra Lasers on hand, we aim to refresh, rejuvenate and renew troubled complexions, to help bring out the best in your skin, for a clearer, fresher look.
Common types of hyperpigmentation
One can be more prone to getting freckles from their family genes and they often appear early in childhood and continue into adult life. These little brown flecks on the skin are caused by the sun and typically affects the upper cheeks where the sun exposure is at its most intense. Freckles can appear cutesy on the rosy cheeks of a child but once you hit adulthood, they are nothing but annoying spots that taint your complexion.
Daily application of a good quality sunscreen and the clever use of protective clothing, hats and umbrellas go a long way to protecting your skin from developing freckles. The Sciton Broadband Light or BBL treatment is an effective way to remove superficial freckles. A supercharged skin rejuvenating light therapy that’s a grade up from your traditional IPL, BBL engages the help of high-intensity light in short blasts to produce younger-looking skin that’s brighter, firmer and so much more. The treated lesions will have an immediate darkening, usually flaking off in the next three to five days to give a dramatic improvement to the complexion. We turn to the Medlite C6 and PicoSure Laser to address more resistant or deeper freckles, giving appreciable clearance of unwanted pigmentation with nary any downtime.
Solar lentigo (pl: lentigines) is one of the most commonly encountered unwanted pigmentation in our practice. They can appear at any age and on any part of the exposed body. Also known as liver spot or sun spot, it is a coin-shaped, darkened area of hyperpigmentation that can occur slowly over a few years, or quite suddenly as one crosses into the 30-50 age group. The main cause is due to sun exposure earlier in life, although many patients report that the problem accelerates after childbirth. Though largely benign and not harmful to health, solar lentigines are cosmetically disfiguring, and hence the high number of requests to have them removed.
The traditional Medlite C6 NdYag laser is an effective and safe tool to tackle solar lentigines over a few sessions, but for better and faster clearance, the PicoSure Laser engaging the latest picosecond laser technology is highly recommended. To help prevent recurrence and maintain a glowing complexion, proper daily skin care and protection, together with maintenance laser sessions would help immensely.
Seborrhoeic Keratosis (pl; keratoses) is another fairly common condition that tends to show up on the skin after 30 years of age. It appears as brownish dots or patches on the skin and may get more numerous or bigger with the passage of time. It is different from solar lentigo in that it appears slightly “waxy”, and is often raised with a “stuck-on” appearance.
Commonly abbreviated and referred to as “Seb K”, excellent clearance is achieved with the use of an ablative laser to vaporize the unsightly lesions. Post treatment the scabs formed will fall off in seven to ten days’ time, and usually, all it takes is one session for a significant improvement to the appearance. Recurrence is generally slow, taking many years if proper sun protective measures are taken, with a good skincare regime is in place.
Naevus of Ota
Nevus of Ota is a bluish grey birthmark due to an abundance of pigment producing melanocytes located on the face and is of unknown origin. It is largely seen at birth and may increase in size and darken with age until its final appearance stabilizes in adulthood. Most frequently seen in Asians and being more common in women, many inflicted with this condition had suffered silently throughout the decades due to superstitious beliefs.
While previously bearers have to suffer in silence, significant reduction and at times, total clearance of this hideous looking pigmentation can now be achieved with several sessions of the Medlite C6 and/or PicoSure Laser. Set at a wavelength that aims to destroy the dermal melanocytes located in the deeper layer of the skin, one may experience pinpoint petechiae under the skin but not frank bleeding. The skin usually takes about 4 to 6 days to heal and the treatment can be repeated at 4 to 6 weekly interval till optimal outcome is achieved.
Port Wine Stain
Port wine stains are vascular malformations that affect about 3 out of every 1,000 newborn. It is a birthmark that literally looks like some red or maroon colored wine was spilled or splashed on the skin. With no sex predilection, they often change in texture over time, from being flat and smooth to a thickened, pebble-like appearance with a deepened hue of reddish purple in later life. Port wine stains especially those on the face can make bearers feel self-conscious, with negative psychological effects that should not be undermined.
Although port wine stains won’t go away on their own, none in our present day of modern aesthetics medicine should put up with such disfiguring marks if he or she chooses not to. Yellow light at 578nm emitted from the Dual Yellow Laser system is designed to target the oxyhemoglobin present in our blood, shrinking capillaries effectively to reduce the appearance of red patches on the face. Early laser intervention reduces the likelihood and severity of unwanted associated effects, including cutaneous hypertrophy with disfigurement of normal tissue architecture.
Melasma is an acquired pigmentation disorder characterized by greyish-brown patchy discoloration on both cheeks and sometimes forehead, upper lip, chin and even the nose. It is a very common condition in Asia, affecting women more often than men. The causes of melasma are not fully understood but we know that genetics influence, infrared and UV exposure and even some oral contraceptive pills can trigger melasma. Also known as the “mask of pregnancy”, it can affect up to 70% of pregnant women. Although the skin discoloration may improve post- delivery, our experience tells us that very often, it may persist for long periods if the appropriate treatment is not given in a timely fashion.
Types of Melasma
There are predominantly three different types of melasma: epidermal (superficial), dermal (deep) or epidermal/dermal (mixed). Epidermal melasma are the most common (70% of cases) and thankfully the most treatable type. Sometimes, melasma may co-exist with other skin conditions such as Hori’s Naevus, solar lentigines and freckles. That is why it is important to make an accurate diagnosis rather than indiscriminately applying the wrong types of over-the-counter creams which can show some initial improvement only with further worsening in the long run. Our trained doctors will be able to accurately diagnose your skin problem and differentiate between the types of melasma using clinical judgement and the aid of special instruments to prescribe you with the best possible treatment plan for optimal outcome.
Treatment options for Melasma
It is important to avoid aggravating or causative factors. We therefore recommend the daily use of a good quality sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or more. Protective clothing, hats and umbrellas are also strongly advised. At Freia, we routinely prescribe FDA approved, oral skin brightening health supplement such as Heliocare and Crystal Tomato for even better UV protection. Combined with scientifically proven, medical-grade agents that can lighten and even suppress the melanocytes responsible for melasma, a highly customized skincare regime will be drawn out to address the specific needs of each individual patient.
The combination of a sound skincare routine with the appropriate laser treatment bears a synergistic effect on this much dreaded skin condition, with the Dual Yellow Laser consistently proven to be one of the most effective and safe treatment option for patients suffering from melasma. The unique yellow and green lights emitted by the Dual Yellow Laser not only help clear existing unwanted pigmentation, it actually curbs the production of melanin to reduce the likelihood of recurrence. In a published Korean study, the Dual Yellow Laser can gently but effectively reduce melasma load after five to ten sessions. There is virtually no down-time associated with this treatment, so you can go back to work right away, feeling radiant and refreshed!
To tackle more challenging cases of melasma, the PicoSure Laser which addresses both the epidermal and dermal components of mixed type lesions does it with finesse. From the latest generation of pigment lasers engaging the advanced picosecond technology, the PicoSure Laser with its unique 755nm wavelength works exceptionally well for Asian skin types, offering faster and better long term clearance of unwanted pigment with reduced risk of side effects and minimal downtime.
Call us to find out more about our pigmentation treatment programme: +65 6735 8180
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*Due to MOH guidelines in Singapore, accredited medical clinics are not allowed to show before and after photos on websites and marketing materials. We apologize for that. We would be delighted to showcase our photographs and actual results during the consultation in our clinic.