If you’ve struggled with melasma during hormonal changes like pregnancy – or have dealt with the condition for years – you know that it can greatly impact your self esteem. Melasma can be frustrating, especially if it’s recurring and doesn’t respond to topical or oral treatments. Fortunately, there are several laser treatments for pigmented spots and conditions, including melasma. Here’s the lowdown on which melasma laser treatments work.
Just as the FDA-cleared PicoWay laser treatment can go to work on fading stubborn tattoo ink and removing pigmented lesions, it can do wonders for melasma. This laser utilizes picosecond (one trillionth of a second) pulse durations in order to generate ultra-short pulses with very high peak powers of laser energy on the skin. The result? A strong photo-mechanical impact that can fracture pigment particles under the skin’s surface and fade the appearance of the pigmented area.
PicoWay can safely treat a variety of skin types, and the procedure is typically completed in less than 30 minutes with a board-certified physician. A topical anesthetic cream is commonly used, and the recovery period is mild – a few days to a week of keeping the skin covered with a bandage. While this melasma laser treatment may take a few sessions, it usually ends up being far fewer than other laser treatment options.
The Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment can diminish discolorations of the skin like melasma. This particular melasma treatment uses multi-spectrum lights across different wavelengths, targeting specific skin pigment. For this reason, it can’t necessarily be used successfully on every skin type or tone, so consulting with a board-certified dermatologist is the best way to determine whether IPL is right for you.
IPL usually takes about three to five treatments to see optimal results. It uses selective photothermolysis, a pulsed light energy that is absorbed by specific clusters of pigment in the skin such as freckles, sun spots, and yes, melasma. Usually, the treatment duration is roughly 15-30 minutes, with most people not experiencing any discomfort – though a topical anesthetic is available if requested. Most important to note, IPL is FDA-cleared.
Finally, there is the Q-Switch melasma laser treatment option. This laser is also sometimes known as The Spectra, and it breaks clusters of melanin into tiny bits, which are then disposed of through your body’s natural healing process. This FDA-cleared device has been shown to successfully treat some cases of melasma. The Q-Switch laser seems to be one of the most effective laser treatments for melasma specifically in people with darker skin tones. Multiple treatments are typically needed, spaced roughly 30 days apart. Results are usually seen within six months.
Which laser for melasma is right for you? If you’re located in the greater Washington, D.C. area, contact The Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery for an appointment with one of our board-certified specialists. We will conduct an examination of your melasma, talk through your laser treatment options, and perform any procedures in our offices.