Lasers come in many different varieties and are employed in a number of different skin toning and clearing treatments. Intense pulsed light (IPL) for instance, is just one variety that is commonly used to treat sun spots, broken blood vessels, hair removal, and other dermatological ailments. Laser toning is also used to treat some of these troubles and can also address matters like melasma and other, more deeply rooted pigmentation conditions. Understanding which of these options is best for you requires a small bit of understanding of how your skin behaves as well as how it interacts with light.
How Light Works
Light has a wavelength that affects how it travels, is seen, and most importantly (for dermatology) how it is absorbed and what absorbs it. Generally speaking, the more focused the light, the fewer wavelengths it has. When light hits the skin, it is converted into heat and this heat usually causes some sort of reaction. These two pieces form the basis of most light and laser treatments: the wavelength delivers the light to the target, which the heat then destroys or stimulates into action.
IPL treatments make use of multiple wavelengths of light cast over a larger area, like a flashlight. This results in the light being administered over a broader area but the lack of concentration means the wavelengths don’t penetrate as deep. In other words, it is a gentler, slower treatment. The broad-wavelength approach also means that IPL treatments tend to mimic sunlight.
Lasers are more direct. They employ a single wavelength in a focused beam, like a laser pointer. This not only allows the light to penetrate deeper into the skin but to also act faster and stronger over a smaller area.
Now, since both treatments employ light, there are a number of skin ailments—like broken blood vessels—that can be treated by both, but some skin types favour one approach over another. The main differences between the two technologies appear when trying to address pigmentation concerns. To explain this, you need to know a bit about melanocytes.
What The Heck Is a Melanocyte?
A melanocyte is a type of cell that produces the pigment melanin, the thing that makes your skin dark. Melanocytes exist at all layers of the skin but we can only see their effects on the uppermost level. This is important because it affects how treatments for sunspots, melasma, and other pigmentation disorders can work.
Sunspots, as the name suggests, are spots of discolouration that appear on the skin in response to sun exposure. These are patches of melanocytes that are more active than they ought to be and can be distressing to anyone used to an unblemished face. During skin resurfacing treatments, whether IPL or laser toning is employed, the uppermost layer of skin is removed, eliminating the pigmentation patch. The problem is that, with IPL, nothing else happens and the newly exposed skin still has active melanocytes. Your skin may be newly cleared, but go outside and the problem will just start all over again.
Laser Toning for Melasma
Melasma treatment is not as simple as that of sunspots, partly due to the differences in melanocyte behaviour. Melasma—the perennially dark patches of skin caused by excessive melanin—is usually hormone-induced, meaning that it is either something you are born with or something that is triggered by a treatment or health condition. If IPL is used on a case of melasma, the pigmentation will darken and worsen, not go away. A proper melasma treatment, therefore, requires an approach that is less superficial than IPL.
This is where laser toning, which is based on focused penetration, comes in. The enhanced wavelength of a laser toning treatment will pass through the layers of skin and eliminate the unwanted melanocytes. Your melasma will be removed, your sun spots won’t return, and your body will eliminate the dead cells through urination. No muss, no fuss, just a treatment session.
The Anti Aging Toronto Clinic prides itself on being pioneers in the latest clinical methods and technology for treating many forms of skin ailments. Our toning laser is just one tool in our arsenal dedicated to helping you get the clear, beautiful skin you deserve. Feel free to contact us to learn more about melasma removal and other treatments for pigmentation problems. Our skin care specialists are more than happy to answer any queries or offer you a tour of our Toronto facilities.