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Laser and Health Academy Fotonika 21 Competency Center for Biomedical Engineering

Age spots and sun discolouration treatment

Traditional treatments

Age/sun spots can be treated in a number of conventional ways including: acid skin peels and acid gels, Retin-A cream and liquid nitrogen therapy.

Peels, such as alpha hydroxyacid peels, involve a mild acid being applied to the skin to remove the surface layer of skin and with it the age spot. Once this has been done the healing process produces a new layer of skin that is younger looking and more elastic. Such peels work best on fair-skinned people with light hair and blue eyes.

One of the newest conventional treatments for age spots is alpha hydroxy acid gel and beta hydroxy acid gel. These gels are applied directly to the spots each night to lighten the discoloration of the skin.

Retin-A cream works in a similar way to acid gels. The cream is applied to the spots once a day for six months. Persistent treatment during this period of time will cause large age spots to lighten and may make small ones disappear altogether.

With liquid nitrogen therapy the aesthetician sprays the liquid nitrogen onto the age spot and this causes the mark to turn white a month or so after treatment. However when liquid nitrogen is sprayed onto the skin, it can cause discomfort and may also cause a permanent scar.

Laser treatment

Laser treatment of age spots offers effective means for the removal of such discolourations. The treatment is quick and painless. There is no need for any needles or anesthesia. These spots rarely return and the risk of scarring is very minimal.

The laser works by targeting the brown pigment, or "melanin," present in the skin of these spots. This pigment absorbs the laser's energy and becomes scattered within the skin's tissues. The rest is done by the body's own immune system as the skin's cleansing cells, called "macro-phages," digest the excess pigment and clear it from the area.

Usually age spots require only one or two treatments for removal, although larger, darker spots may require more. Once treated the age spots will not return. However laser treatment cannot stop the ageing of the skin and other age spots will appear in time. In order to minimise this patients should use sunscreen and avoid direct exposure to the sun.

Nd:YAG (1064 nm) lasers are used for the removal of age spots since the laser's wavelength is absorbed by the melanin in the spots. In addition the Nd:YAG laser ensures the non-ablative treatment of such discolourations.

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