Can Skin Pigmentation Be Removed by Laser?

Pigmentation is amongst the top skin concerns reported across the globe, and for good reason.

18 Minute ReadEducation by Jess Lacey

18.05.22

Firstly, because all skin suffers from pigmentation, no matter your ethnicity or skin type and secondly because unwanted pigmentation is arguably the most complex-to-treat of all dermal concerns.

Laser skin treatment is widely considered the best treatment for unwanted pigmentation and recommended by all top dermatologists. The best lasers fade out pigmentation patches by shattering the melanocyte cells carrying the unwanted pigment without having any effect on the surrounding skin. The intense beam of light energy enters the skin and the brown pigment then absorbs the full force of this light energy and the pigment is broken up. Extensive medical studies support that laser treatment for pigmentation is the most successful route to removing pigmentation.

What Is Skin Pigmentation?

Pigmentation is perfectly natural and what gives skin its colour. Dedicated skin cells create melanin to protect the skin’s surface from the sun’s harmful rays and therefore, all skin contains pigment to varying degrees. However, when the skin’s production of melanin is erratic and forms concentrated dark spots, this condition is termed as hyperpigmentation. When we talk about pigmentation as a cosmetic issue, we are most likely referring to hyperpigmentation.

What Causes Hyperpigmentation?

Reasons for hyperpigmentation are far-reaching but frequently it’s caused by prolonged sun exposure, acne scarring, freckles that merge into brown posts or post-inflammatory scarring. Most often, hyperpigmentation appears in the form of brown patches of melanin but it can also show up on the skin's surface as:

  • Tiny brown specks called freckles, (though these don’t commonly call for treatment)
  • Sunspots (solar lentigines)
  • Irregular melanin clusters commonly referred to as age spots or liver spots
  • Red spots or ‘cherry angiomas’ made up of red blood vessels
  • White spots or ‘idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis’ called hypopigmentation

Can All Lasers Treat Every Skin Type?

The biggest limitation to using lasers to remove pigmentation is that many lasers cannot detect pigmentation variants in darker skin tones due to there being more pigment in the background of darker skin. Furthermore, darker skin types are more susceptible to post-treatment scarring following intense laser application.

This means that for many ethnicities, many laser treatments are not a viable option. This is where the LYMA Laser comes into its own because the technology is so advanced that it can treat pigmentation on any skin tone. There are no side effects and no risk of post-inflammatory scarring as with many in-clinic ablative and non-ablative lasers.

Lady face with brown age spots 1

Can Hyperpigmentation Be Removed by Laser?

Hyperpigmentation is an umbrella term for discolouration and darker patches of skin and depending on what type you have, and to what degree will decide the level of laser treatment needed. It is possible for lasers to significantly fade or remove hyperpigmentation altogether, depending on both the size and intensity of the hyperpigmentation in question. In-clinic lasers overall achieve the most impressive pigmentation fading and removal results, though results depend greatly on the power and precision level of the laser used. For darker skin tones however, the low level light therapy used by LYMA Laser is your best option.

How To Treat Melasma With Laser?

Melasma may appear very similar to other types of hyperpigmentation but whereas the majority are sun-induced, melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal changes within the body. This makes melasma particularly difficult to treat as it can reoccur within the body at any time. Melasma is very common amongst pregnant women as they experience significant hormonal changes and most often presents on the face in a butterfly or mask shape. Melasma can fade on its own as hormones rebalance again, or it can be treated with topical creams and brightening agents but as with other strands of hyperpigmentation, skin lasers tend to achieve the most thorough results.

Can Laser Treatment Help Rosacea?

Laser treatment can help the appearance of rosacea by targeting the visible blood vessel. Light from the laser beam is pulsed at an optimal wavelength to penetrate vascular lesions or visible blood vessels, causing them to collapse. The Erbium Yag and CO2 ablative lasers are powerful enough to both penetrate visible blood vessels and also reshape the inflamed tissue to greatly improve the texture and tone of skin. Pulsed dye lasers can also be used to make the laser beam different colours, reducing the look of redness and inflammation.

Using the benefits of low level light therapy, The LYMA Laser stimulates bio-transformational cellular renewal unlike anything else seen before outside of a clinic.

Risks of laser treatment for rosacea

In-clinic lasers are amongst the most powerful and intense lasers currently on the market and therefore come with a huge disruption to both skin and lifestyle. Pain, downtime and cost are at a premium. In direct contrast to this, the LYMA Laser has been proven to be highly effective at treating even the most advanced cases of rosacea and first-hand accounts of real-life cases report the LYMA Laser as an excellent non-invasive rosacea treatment.

Before after rosacea pictures

Target: Lady with rosacea on face.

Treatment: 15 minutes daily for 4 weeks, can take 3 to 6 months for results

Results: reduced appearance of the symptoms of rosacea.

Can all types of hyperpigmentation be treated by laser?

Lasers are prolific in their application but not every laser treatment works for every skin pigmentation condition. Hyperpigmentation is such a broad term, referring to any skin darkening or discolouration, that it’s essential to diagnose the exact type and cause of the pigmentation when selecting an effective laser therapy technique. The LYMA Laser is ideally suited to fading sun-induced pigmentation marks and the only medical-grade strength Laser approved for safe use yourself, at home.

Can laser be used to remove brown spots and freckles?

Age spots, liver spots, and solar lentigines, are all common sun-induced pigmentation conditions. Lasers can effectively fade and remove brown spots but to what degree depends on the density and size of the pigmentation area. The likelihood of developing these hyperpigmentations also increases with age as skin becomes less resilient to the impact of UV rays. In addition, lasers can be used to remove brown spots and freckles but these pigmentation variants can reoccur with sustained sun exposure.

The appearance of age spots on chest is reduced
The appearance of age spots on chest is reduced

Target: Image showing pigmentation and wrinkles on chest wrinkles from accumulated sun damage.

Results: Skin texture is improved by use of LYMA Laser for chest wrinkles and pigmentation now appears smoother, with a brighter skin tone.

Treatment: From 30 minutes daily use, over three months.

Cherry Angiomas

Not commonly perceived to be sun pigmentation due to their vibrant red colour, cherry angiomas or red spots are a small collection of dilated blood vessels. Cherry angiomas range from tiny dots to larger, more prominent clusters which are sometimes raised. They can appear anywhere on the body and some people are more genetically predisposed to them than others. Cherry angiomas can be either cryogenically frozen off or treated with a pulsed dye laser.

Broken Capillaries

Red spots or pimples on the skin are often broken capillaries that run just underneath the skin’s surface. The sun's rays thin out the dermis of the skin and blood vessels become more visible. Those with fair skin or rosacea are far more prone to broken capillaries. There are an array of treatments for broken capillaries ranging from cold compresses and topical creams to IPL, advanced in-clinic lasers and sclerotherapy whereby the veins are injected with sodium solution.

White Sunspots

White sunspots, (formal name idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis) occur after years of compound sun exposure. Often referred to as hypopigmentation, these white spots are another pigmentation condition but unlike dark patches, this discoloration signals an absence of pigment in the skin. IPL can be used to fade the darker skin surrounding the white spots, allowing the spots to blend in better with the rest of your skin. Alternatively, active skincare is a good option. Vitamin C will brighten skin and Retinol will exfoliate discoloration. Retexturising and exfoliating skincare products such as glycolic acid will even skin tone and create a more unified appearance, lessening the visibility of white spots.

When To See a Doctor

Although pigmentation naturally increases with age, you should always consult a doctor if you’re concerned by noticeable changes in your skin. The LYMA concierge team are highly trained individuals able to offer support on any laser treatment decisions and direct you to the top experts for sound advice. Email concierge@lyma.life to arrange a call.

Are Lasers Safe & Effective Technologies To Treat Age Spots and Pigmentation?

The risks and rewards to treating unwanted pigmentation - here’s what you need to know.

As with any skin treatment, the more extreme the approach, the more extensive the associated risks and complications. Doctors and dermatologists offer a wealth of information and advice on which treatment could be right for you but should also warn you of the complications. Laser treatment for pigmentation achieves great results but clinical lasers, whether ablative or non-ablative, can cause considerable discomfort and disruption to skin. In the bid to remove pigmentation patches, in-clinic lasers that cause heat damage in order to generate new collagen production inadvertently cause scarring, bruising and additional discolouration.

In-clinic Lasers Are Effective but Not Without Their Downsides.

Lasers for pigmentation removal vary greatly both in their impact to the skin and resulting efficacy, but also in their associated downsides. Some lasers are more fine-tuned for targeting tiny areas of hyperpigmentation, whilst others achieve full removal results in a much faster time frame. With all clinical laser treatment for pigmentation, there needs to be a balanced view of the benefits and drawbacks.

Non-ablative lasers

Q-Switched lasers such as the Nd: Yag are often considered the most effective professional lasers for pigmentation removal due to their longer wavelength that's more easily absorbed by the skin. Classed as non-ablative lasers, so cause less destruction to the skin than ablative lasers but are also less effective. Non-ablative lasers do create thermal damage to the skin to trigger regeneration which causes trauma to the skin and can be extremely painful. These lasers are generally deemed very safe to use on most skin tones but they also come with a high associated level of potential post-treatment risk of swelling and potential infection.

Fractional lasers

It’s very common to amass hyperpigmentation across the chest area and a common in-clinic laser for pigmentation on the chest is the PicoSure. This laser although non-ablative is still invasive, highly painful and results following laser treatment will appear worse before they look better. In addition, due to the chest being such a large and delicate area, the cost of fractional laser treatment is often much higher and multiple sessions may be needed.

CO2 lasers

Ablative lasers are at the most extreme of the laser resurfacing treatment spectrum and are often advocated only for cases of extensive hyperpigmentation. Ablative lasers achieve impressive results for pigmentation removal but because they resurface the skin by removing the top epidermal layer, they also create acute wounding. CO2 lasers and the Erbium are the most widely administered for significant dark spot removal but the pain, downtime and cost are often the reason people seek more natural ways to remove pigmentation.

Preparation and aftercare

Need painkillers and to prep before treatment which is quite painful.

Experts advise avoiding sun exposure for two weeks prior to undergoing ablative laser skin treatment. In the weeks leading up to in-clinic laser for pigmentation treatment, active skincare should not be applied and medications need to be checked with the practitioner.

After undergoing ablative laser skin treatment, skin is left raw, bleeding and entirely unprotected, so the patient is usually house-bound for up to two weeks. Recovery from non-ablative in-clinic laser treatment is shorter and less extreme but still involves a prolonged period indoors and out of direct sunlight. Aftercare with all clinical laser rejuvenation treatment is mandatory and complex, involving a rotation of cold compresses, prescribed pain relief and topical medical skincare which all come at an additional cost.

Risks & complications.

The downtime following in-clinic laser treatment for pigmentation is a complication that should not be underestimated. Regardless of laser type, skin undergoes notable trauma and needs time to repair. Life is disrupted in the immediate ensuing weeks and full recovery often takes months before skin returns to normal. There are also considerable risks of ablative laser resurfacing treatment including swelling, itching, hypersensitivity, infection, scarring and post-inflammatory darkening of the skin.

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is an associated risk of in-clinic laser skin resurfacing to remove hyperpigmentation. Skin’s inflammatory response following the intense thermal damage of the laser, can cause cells to produce more pigmentation, therefore worsening the condition that’s been treated. Darker skin tones are far more likely to experience PIH and this is the reason why many lasers aren’t suitable for black skin.

Because the LYMA Laser is completely cold and doesn’t create thermal damage to the skin, there is no such risk. This is a strong case for the LYMA Laser as the best laser for pigmentation on dark skin.

LED Devices Are Not Lasers and Less Effective

LED light therapy can be an effective treatment for mild pigmentation issues as many LED devices work on the wavelength and power density required to disperse pigmentation and diminish dark spots. Green LED is increasingly being incorporated to combat red spots and unwanted pigmentation marks. LED light is not a singular, continuous beam as laser but is widely dispersed and therefore unable to travel as far into the skin’s layers. This means that though LED light can give skin an overall more even tone, it is only able to fade light brown spots and very small areas of pigmentation.

Risks & complications.

All clinical lasers and LED treatments emit heat so therefore carry a risk of burns if performed incorrectly. Choosing a provider who has had specific training and experience in the treatment application you’re considering is essential. It’s also important to be aware that pigmentation can reappear at any time from further sun exposure, hormonal changes, medication or shifts in skin behaviour, so the need for future treatment is likely.

Radio-Frequency Resurfacing

How it works.

Fractional radio-frequency resurfacing is a popular alternative treatment for hyperpigmentation, commonly used to fade out age spots and sun damage. Tiny pins deliver waves of energy into the skin’s epidermal layer and much like an in-clinic laser approach, these pins create miniscule wounds in the skin, triggering the skin’s repair response to increase collagen production. Sessions usually last between 25-40 minutes depending on the area size being treated.

Risks & complications.

Although more inclusive than laser resurfacing due to it being safe to use on all skin tones and ethnicities, radio-frequency resurfacing still causes controlled damage to the skin and comes with the associated pain. Topical anaesthetic creams can be applied to mitigate the discomfort. Recovery time is moderate and skin will be red for the first 24 hours, often with some mild swelling lasting 3-7 days. With more extensive RF treatments, skin can continue flaking for up to 5 days. Sun exposure is to be avoided during the healing period.

Do At-home Skin Lasers Work on Reducing Pigmentation?

The evidence for most at-home skin devices that effectively remove unwanted pigmentation is minimal. This is because for traditional light therapy gadgets to be approved as safe to use by a non-professional in the home, they have to be much weaker. As you will read below, with the exception of the ground-breaking LYMA Laser, all at-home devices are far too weak to remove or even fade dark patches.

At-home LED masks and coloured diodes are capable of brightening the skin and evening skin tone but do not possess the power to remove pigmentation. DIY skin devices typically send out pulsed light between 5 and 20 mw, in comparison to medical-grade lasers that operate around 500mw.

Cheap diode, LED and coloured lasers

At-home skin devices are generally deemed very safe, due to their low power outputs but they are not without danger. There is still a risk of thermal damage, burns and injury to the eye area if not used correctly and for the directed amount of time.

The LYMA Laser. One of a Kind.

For those seeking a natural alternative to in-clinic laser treatment for pigmentation there is now a viable new offering in the LYMA Laser. LYMA Laser has revolutionised laser pigmentation removal by offering a non-invasive, zero damage, entirely natural way to remove hyperpigmentation across the face, neck and chest. Operating at the exact power level to create photobiomodulation; a process whereby ageing cells are reignited to operate with the vigour of young ones, the LYMA Laser does not disrupt the skin in any way.

A World’s First “The Peloton of the Beauty Industry”

Developed by a team of global scientists, the LYMA Laser is unlike any other skin laser device. This laser technology was discovered by chance in a physiotherapy clinic, when LYMA’s chief scientist witnessed it healing cartilage in a patient’s knee. Never before had scientists been able to convert a medical grade, clinical laser into a format safe enough for consumers to use in their homes. Until now…

Is the LYMA Laser proven?

The LYMA Laser is an industry shifting innovation with proven results. A clinical study into the efficacy of the LYMA System concluded that, when used at home for 15 minutes daily, the LYMA Laser was responsible for a reduction in pigmentation by 62% and rosacea by 42%.

Pain-free, no downtime, are there any risks?

What sets the LYMA Laser apart is that it’s the only medical grade laser that’s entirely risk free. Devoid of heat, totally pain-free and no injury caused to the skin means no associated downtime. It’s an at-home beauty device that can be used daily in any location, anywhere on the body and for as long as you like.

Which Laser Is Best for Hyperpigmentation on Dark Skin?

Through working to reawaken skin cells rather than cause controlled damage, the LYMA Laser poses no risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, therefore it’s considered by experts as the best laser for hyperpigmentation in dark skin. What’s more, because the LYMA Laser is a form of low-level light therapy, delivering energy deep into the lower skin layers, it can work to remove pigmentation just as effectively on any skin tone.

How Much Does Pigmentation Removal Cost?

Laser pigmentation removal can be carried out in clinics using either an ablative or non-ablative resurfacing laser. With either approach, initial consultations are often free of charge but a course of treatments is most commonly required, each one costing hundreds of pounds. It’s also usual for a practitioner not to know the rate of effectiveness, so courses may have to be re-evaluated and possibly extended to achieve the desired results.

Due to pigmentation naturally presenting in multiple areas across the face, neck and chest, treatments are usually grouped into sections such as:

  • half face
  • full face
  • face, neck and decolletage
  • neck and decolletage
  • backs of hands
  • half body
  • full body

Here’s a quick-look guide to what you can expect to pay for laser pigmentation removal in the UK.

Laser TypeAverage Cost per SessionAverage Sessions Needed p.a.

Est. Cost

Over 5 Years
Fully Ablative CO2/Erbium Laser£2723*One-off treatment£6,808**
Non Ablative / Fractional Laser£338*3-6 Sessions£5,070***
IPL Rejuvenation£153*4-9 Sessions£3,825****
LYMA Laser (LLLT)£1999 (one time fee)Daily use£1,999

* Average prices calculated from the prices published on 6 skin clinics websites across the UK on 20/10/2021.

** Total cost estimation based on the assumption that on average patients would need 2.5 sessions over 5 years.

*** Total cost estimation based on the assumption that on average patients would need 15 sessions over 5 years.

**** Total cost estimation based on the assumption that on average patients would need 25 sessions over 5 years.

What Are the Alternatives to Lasers To Reduce Pigmentation

Although laser treatment for pigmentation is the most popular choice and recommended by most dermatological experts, there are plenty of different treatment choices for pigmentation removal.

Microneedling

Microneedling to remove pigmentation is a popular treatment option for those with skin of colour because it doesn’t carry the same risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation as with in-clinic laser treatment. However, microneedling is still highly invasive and creates hundreds of miniscule punctures in the skin so as to trigger collagen and elastin production. A modern approach is to immediately treat the compromised skin with PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) that’s rich with growth factors to support the skin’s rejuvenation process. Further approaches combine microneedling with deep dermal heating or radiofrequency waves to enhance the controlled skin injury effects. Particularly for hyperpigmentation marks following acne, microneedling has shown to improve acne scarring and its associated hyperpigmentation. An important consideration of microneedling is the depth to which the needles travel into the skin, which varies with each condition and skin type being treated so as not to cause too much damage and also mitigates the risk of infection.

Ultherapy (ultrasound treatment)

Ultherapy is a non-invasive approach to skin rejuvenation, which is why it’s often preferred as a more natural option. However, patients still report a tingling sensation and some experience varying levels of pain and discomfort, sometimes requiring local anaesthesia to be administered.

Creams and serums

There is a world of topical creams and skincare for fading pigmentation and unsurprisingly, there are vast inconsistencies in efficacy. Unilateral brightening ingredients including Vitamin C, Niacinamide, Retinol, Azelaic acid and Kojic acid are formulated into serums, creams and masks to lessen the appearance of discolouration and create a more unified skin tone. A step on from these beauty counter actives is prescription skincare which is far more concentrated and targeted. Hydroquinone being the most commonly prescribed, prescription skincare for dark spots and hyperpigmentation is often astringent and not suitable for sensitive skin types and often prohibits sun exposure entirely.

The quest
for better.

Sign up to our mailing list to discover the future of beauty and wellness.

Which areas of your life are you ready to improve?