This article looks at the process, the cost, and highlights the good and bad points surrounding laser skin lightening and whitening.
Interested In Laser Skin Lightening? Discover All You Need To Know Here
Ever since time began, men and women have wanted to have perfect skin and complexion with no unsightly dark marks or blemishes.
One of the most famous women of all time, Cleopatra was known for her dedicated use of natural masks and lotions to help keep her skin looking fair, smooth and clear.
Today we have many other treatment options open to us, and laser skin lightening is one of them.
Laser Skin Lightening / Resurfacing – What Is It?
Laser skin lightening ( or whitening as its sometimes called) is a medical procedure that sees focussed beams of short, pulsed light targeted at areas of skin.
It is used on skin that have irregular pigmentation and other unwanted marks or damage.
The process helps to stimulate the growth of new fresh skin cells that generally have a lighter tone and colour.
These procedures can vary in length of time from 30 minutes to up to two hours depending on the severity of the problem being treated.
Laser Skin Lightening is a common treatment for many unwanted and unsightly skin conditions including:
- Age or liver spots
- Wrinkles and fine lines
- Acne scars
- General pigmentation issues
The History Of Laser Skin Lightening
The process began in the 1980’s with the development of CO2 ( Carbon Dioxide lasers). These where the very first to project light beams into the skin.
The first devices were fraught with complications and side effects.
Luckily the various types of lasers used in the treatment process and methodology surrounding the treatment was quickly amended.
Eventually the development of the newer style Erbium lasers improved the process dramatically.
These new lasers safely delivering very short, intense and controllable bursts of short, quick pulses of light energy into the skin.
The Various Types Of Lasers Used In The Treatment
(1) Ablative laser Resurfacing
The latest laser devices deliver short, controllable burst of light into the skin, this is known as Ablative laser resurfacing.
Experts consider this to be the most effective lightening treatment overall.
During treatment, the upper layers of the skin and some sub layers are removed, the laser light effectively vaporising the tissue.
Although its the most effective method, it also has side effects, and a relatively lengthy recovery period of around 2-3 weeks.
It is for this reason that you must use an experienced laser surgeon who can advise and guide you through the procedure.
There are two main types of Ablative lasers:
CO2 ( carbon Dioxide) Laser
Uses a mix of gasses to vaporise and remove the unwanted skin blemish.
It helps to promote Elastin and collagen production. This encourages the formation of new tissue which is generally lighter in colour, more hydrated and youthful looking.
Erbium:YAG ( Er:YAG) Laser
These devises use an erbium doped solid state laser to encourage controlled scarring of the treated skin.
As the skin heals, replacement skin cells are formed that are generally lighter in tone and colour
(2) Non Ablative Laser Resurfacing
Another form of laser skin lightening is the non-ablative method.
These penetrate through the skins layers, they do not damage the skas surface, but curdle and remove affected skin tissues underneath the surface.
This makes for faster recovery times as the protective top layer of skin is left unharmed and unbroken.
A faster recovery is always the best bet, but bear in mind that the procedure may need repeating two or even three times to fully remove the unwanted blemishes.
A popular non-ablative laser treatment is Fraxel (2)
(3) Fractional Skin Resurfacing
This skin lightening option is a blend of both ablative and non-ablative laser techniques.
It provides shorter recovery times than you get with full Ablative treatments, and minimises any risk.
In this method, micro beams of intense light are directed at areas of affected skin tissues, and works on all layers of the skin from the surface though to the epidermis ( under layers).
Although not as effective as Ablative treatments, they can still still stimulate the production of new, lighter skin cells that can boost radiance and the overall appearance of the skin.
(4) IPL Laser Skin Resurfacing
The fourth option is IPL or Intense Pulsed Light laser lightening treatment.
- It varies from the other methods.
- Uses multiple, variable wavelength of light beams to treat the skin, this gives the surgeon more control over the treatment.
- It provides them with the ability to treat different skin types and to separately target the various skin layers individually as required.
Laser Skin Lightening – The Good Points
Faster Results – while there are many non invasive skin lightening products out there on the market, they can take number of weeks to provide the required results.
This is because they work slowly alongside the skins natural renewal process.
Laser skin lightening can provide results much faster, with some improvements instantly visible.
Straight after treatment, its not uncommon for your skin to be noticeably improved, and the results just get better as the skin heals over the following 3-6 months.
This is particular true with ablative treatments where only one or two treatments are required.
Non ablative treatments can take more time to be effective with anything from one to five treatments being required depending on the severity of the problem
Considered To be The Most Effective Treatment – Laser resurfacing is considered to be the most effective and targeted method of lightening those unsightly dark areas of skin.
They are also effective in treating other problems including scarring, fine lines and wrinkles, removing age and liver spots and other skin damage.
Professional Treatment – Laser lightening treatments are subject to a lot of rules and regulations.
They have to be carried out by licensed professionals and/or doctors who understand the procedures and who constantly monitor the skin during treatment to avoid any complications or other issues.
Laser Skin Lightening – The Bad Points
The development of these modern laser treatments has worked miracles for those who are upset with dark patches, spots and blemishes on their skin.
There are however some side effects that you need to be aware of before embarking on a course of treatment.
The most common side effects of laser lightening treatment include:
- Skin scarring.
- Prolonged redness and irritation.
- Changes in skin pigmentation.
- Acne breakouts.
- Twisting or turning of the eyelids after intense treatments around the eye area.
- Laser lightening treatments generally work by affecting and disrupting the cell structure under the skins surface.
It can in some cases damage the cells responsible for producing melanin, the compound responsible for our skins colour.
In rare cases it can make the skin darker (hyperpigmentation), or reduce the pigment dramatically making the skin much whiter than it should be (hypopigmentation).
The Cost Of Laser Skin Lightening
The cost of treatment depends on a number of things – Location, the type of laser that you are going to be having, and also the severity of the problem and just how widespread on your body it is.
Despite it being the most effective skin whitening treatment, its also one of the most expensive.
In many instances more than one treatment is required to achieve desired results.
Most clinics price according to the areas that are being treated, eg the face, neck, under arms, legs or full body.
Cost of Laser Skin Lightening in the US
In the US for instance prices can vary from state to state.
To give an idea of expected costs we asked the Society Of Plastic Surgeons Of America and they told us the following (1) :
An ablative lightening laser procedure will on average cost around $2124. Non ablative treatments are generally cheaper at around $1114.
An average treatment program can range from $600 up to $3500
A small, single procedure would be cheaper at around $200 but costs can escalate because of the need sometimes for 3 or even 5 visits.
It also depends on who is actually carrying out the treatment, with a surgeon more likely to demand higher fees that a dermatologist.
Cost of Laser Skin Lightening in the UK
In the UK prices are similarly based. you will pay between £200 and £300 for an initial consultation.
Small area treatments will cost around the £400 mark.
Full body laser treatments can cost in excess of £3500.
Different methods have varying costs too, for example Fraxel laser treatments start at £600, CO2 Laser slightly more expensive at £800 upwards.
More involved treatments such as Erbium laser resurfacing start at £1800.
Complete laser treatment plans cost on average between £2175 and £2750 depending on location.
Cost of Laser Skin Lightening in India and Other Regions
In other countries things are much cheaper, taking India as an example, you will pay the equivalent of between $15 and $30 for a consultation.
On average most treatments cost between $15 and $575 depending on the type used and the extent of the treatment.
Like other countries the costs tend to rise in large cities with charges in Mumbai as an example costing between $170 and $1000.
Getting Ready For Your Laser Treatment
Your dermatologist will usually advise you on getting your skin ready for your treatment.
They will usually set out a pre-treatment plan that can start up to 6 weeks in advance of the start of the course.
They will usually ask you to use a range of skin care products to prepare and nourish the skin.
The products and procedure is customised to suit your skin type.
This is to reduce the risk of any complications and help you active the best results from the laser whitening treatment.
Topically applied creams will often be used to help clean and unblock the pores and help increase collagen production.
They kickstart the cellular renewal process which helps to promote the health of epidermis and dermal layers of the skin. This process takes around 4 weeks.
Things to Avoid
If you are a smoker, you should stop at least 2 weeks before the procedure.
This is because smoking can cause the skin to dry out.
It also increases the possibility of both a post operative infection, and it can also slow down the healing process.
If medically permissible you should stop taking any blood thinning medication.
These drugs reduce the clotting ability of the blood which lengthens the healing time post treatment.
NOTE – only stop taking any essential drugs on express permission and guidance from your prescribing doctor.
Drugs such as apixaban, heparin, rivaroxaban are the main culprits, others including aspirin and tirofiban can also interact adversely with post laser treatment medication.
If you drink alcohol, you will be advised to stop treatment at least 6 weeks before treatment.
Sun exposure should also be avoided as much as possible to help reduce the skins sensitivity to the laser lights.
If you have a history of herpes or cold sores, the doctor may recommend a pre-treatment course of antivirals or antibiotics.
Please Note – These preoperative measures are every bit as important as the laser whitening procedures themselves.
Ensure that you go to an established, fully qualified clinic or surgeon, and strictly follow their guidelines.
Most laser treatments fail because of unprepared skin or ‘rushed into’ procedures.
Your Recovery After Laser Skin Lightening
Your skin may react in a number of ways after having laser treatments.
The majority of patients experience symptoms rather like those experienced with sunburn, redness, minor tingling sensations, itching and even mild stinging.
Those with blonde or red hair are most likely to experience these for longer periods of time.
Be prepared for the recovery period, the length can depend on the type and intensity of the treatment.
Simple, small treatments can take just a few days to recover from.
More intensive treatments such as a full fascia treatment needs surgical dressings to be kept on the targeted areas for longer.
These usually need to remain on for periods ranging from 7 right up to 21 days.
Some aggressive, intense laser lightening treatments can cause the appearance of raw, blistered skin.
If these appear, never pick or squeeze as this can result in unsightly scarring.
Leave well alone and usually within 5-7 days a crust will form and new skin will start to appear in the treated areas.
Its not uncommon to also experience some sensitivity to the sun after treatment.
To reduce this its advisable to wear a good sunscreen every day and also minimise any exposure to the sun.
Alternatives To Laser Skin Lightening
There is no doubt that laser skin whitening can be very effective, but it can be a scary process, not forgetting the high costs involved.
There are however some other options that are equally as effective, they just take a little longer to work.
Other procedures available can include:
Dermabrasion – A mechanical rotating device that aggressively exfoliates the skin.
Microdermabrasion – Microscopic abrasive materials are applied to the skin, often using a diamond tipped device that exfoliates the skin, removing any dead and discoloured skin cells.
Chemical Peels – An acid substance is applied to the skin which peels or removes the top layers of the skin to provide a lighter skin tone.
Lightening Creams and Serums – Working alongside the skins natural 28 day renewal cycle.
There are also some natural skin lightening techniques you can do at home. These include making sure you are hydrated and getting enough sleep.
These products slowly reduce the amount of melanin being produced and encourage the darker skin cells to be forced to the surface.
Here they are sloughed away to leave visibly lighter skin.
These products do take the longest time to get to work, but the effects are completely natural and are free from any side effects or adverse reactions.
Our Conclusion On Laser Lightening
There is no doubt that laser skin lightening is a quick and very effective way to lighten your skins darker patches.
But with the high cost and potential risks attached its important that you fully understand the process in full before you undergo any form of laser lightening treatments.
Talk to a reputable surgeon or fully qualified dermatologist and only after that, if you are completely aware of all aspects and are happy, should you proceed with any treatments.
Top Skin Lightening FAQ’s
Treatments and procedures are either done permanently or temporarily depending on your choice of clinic. Make sure you discuss your expectation with your consultant.
Pricing varies from country to country. As a rough guide prices range from from $600 up to $3500 in the United States.
Laser skin lightening is a lot safer than it used to be but the risk of side effects still exist.