Just about everyone has a few obvious brown spots on their skin. Freckles, ‘sunspots’, ‘age spots’, ‘liver spots’, and various birthmarks are just a few of the commonly known marks, generally referred to as pigmented lesions. Although most brown spots are easily ignored, many are quite conspicuous and can detract form your skins natural beauty.
What causes brown spots?
Melanin is what gives our skin colour. Whether dark or light complexioned, we all have varying amounts of melanin. Pigmented lesions are dark in colour simply because melanin is abnormally concentrated in one area of the skin. High concentrations of melanin can be due to various factors. Some types are present at birth, but most occur with age or as a result of overexposure to the sun’s damaging rays.
Laser treatment of brown spots
Pigmented lesions can be successfully lightened or removed with modern laser technology when the laser passes through the skin and is absorbed by abnormal concentrations of melanin causing shattering of the melanin pigment. Scavenger cells in the immune system pick up the shattered pigment and eliminate it. The rapid absorption of light energy causes the melanin to destruct to a point where the melanin concentration is reduced, leaving the treated skin looking uniform in colour and texture. In general superficial pigmented lesions are treated with shorter wavelength laser systems and deeper pigmented lesions are treated with longer wavelength systems.
How many treatments are necessary?
Superficial pigment often fades after only one treatment but conditions that have deeper pigment may require several treatments. Treatments with pigment lasers are generally spaced 6 or more weeks apart to allow the immune system time to eliminate the shattered pigment.
Can all brown spots be treated?
Importantly the laser cannot be used for the removal of pigmented lesions that are cancerous or suspicious of being cancerous. If you have a past history of a melanoma (or a first degree relative has had a melanoma) we recommend you avoid laser treatment of brown spots. If there is any doubt, your doctor will discuss the appropriate treatment options with you.