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From skin thinning to temporary results: Common facial laser treatment myths debunked

While conventional lasers may have been harsher, Pico Laser is a new high-speed laser that offers clearer, brighter skin with less pain and downtime

Plagued with pigmentation, acne or post-acne scarring? Pico Laser can help you achieve better skin. PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

Hands up if this is you: You've tried countless topical treatments, yet you still find yourself plagued with acne, post-acne scarring or pigmentation problems. Living in Singapore where the heat and humidity are environmental stressors means that acne and hyperpigmentation are often major concerns when it comes to skin issues.

Recently, doctors have noticed a rise in the number of patients seeking laser treatments - an uptick that seems to be linked to the Covid-19 situation.

"With the recent pandemic, more people are going out to exercise, especially in the mornings. This has unfortunately led to greater sun exposure and an increase in pigmentary problems. The wearing of masks has also resulted in skin issues such as 'maskne' and skin sensitivities such as rosacea and eczema," says Dr Kelvin Chua, founder and medical director of SL Aesthetic Clinic.

The team at SL Aesthetic Clinic. From left to right: Dr Ashley Yuen, Dr Charlene Goh, Dr Kelvin Chua, Dr Gabriel Wong, Dr Ho Sue Wei and Dr Ko Wei Xiang. PHOTO: SL AESTHETIC CLINIC

Lasers can help you achieve better skin, as they are able to target various skin concerns at the same time, says Dr Chua, who uses the Pico Laser to help his patients get a better complexion. He explains that this laser treatment is able to "break melanin and stimulate collagen remodelling to reduce pigmentation, thus creating a more even skin tone and brighter skin".

The Pico Laser works by blasting short bursts of laser energy (the "pico" refers to picosecond, which is 1/1000 of a nanosecond or one trillionth of a second) into the affected areas. "And because of its speed, the energy it produces has a photoacoustic effect that shatters the unwanted pigmentation, breaking it up into smaller pieces," Dr Chua elaborates.

It is this speed that makes the Pico Laser more efficient when dealing with pigmentation, as compared to conventional Nd:YAG nanosecond lasers.

In addition, the Pico Laser also uses two basic wavelengths - 1064nm and 532nm, which means it is able to focus on both epidermal (on the skin's surface) and dermal pigmentation concerns. Dr Chau says: "The 1064nm wavelength is able to penetrate further to target deeper pigmentary problems like Hori's Nevus (a type of patchy and spotty pigmentation) and dermal melasma, while the shorter 532nm wavelength targets epidermal pigments like sun spots and freckles."

But more importantly, the Pico Laser requires less downtime, so you can zip in and out, and continue with your day, with no one being the wiser.

So why do laser treatments still get such a bad rep? Dr Chua helps bust three common misconceptions.

Lasers can help you achieve better skin as they are able to target various skin concerns at the same time, such as acne, post-acne scarring or pigmentation. PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

Myth 1: Lasers thin the skin

Dr Chua explains that the term "lasers" covers a very broad category, one that includes stronger, more aggressive lasers like fractional CO2 (carbon dioxide) lasers that work to resurface the skin. "These lasers, technically, do not thin the skin, but can cause greater skin sensitivity, and photosensitivity, which may create the misconception that lasers thin the skin." In this instance, while there is a difference between skin being thin and skin being more sensitive, it may not be as differentiated in people's minds, he adds.

And when it comes to a Pico Laser treatment, Dr Chua says that the laser's speed and non-ablative nature causes "very little irritation, so it leaves skin less prone to sensitivity post treatment".

Myth 2: Lasers are painful

Dr Chua explains that the Pico Laser's speed is crucial in reducing the pain factor. "Its speed means that there is less thermal energy that's being introduced into the treatment area, which lessens damage to the skin. In short, with less heat energy converted from the photon energy of the laser, your skin feels more comfortable, which translates to less pain."

Myth 3: Laser results are not permanent

You may have heard horror stories from friends who have done laser facial treatments in the past, only to see their pigmentation recur after stopping their sessions. But what they probably didn't share was how they might have skipped out on the proper aftercare needed to keep those pesky sun spots at bay.

"As with any pigmentation, there is still a chance of recurrence as the causes of pigmentation are multi-faceted," explains Dr Chua. "The Pico Laser can treat existing pigmentation, but it cannot prevent new patches from forming, whether due to sun damage, ageing, skin damage or genetics."

Pico Laser works by blasting short bursts of laser energy to break melanin and stimulate collagen remodelling to reduce pigmentation, and create a more even skin tone and brighter skin. PHOTO: SL AESTHETIC CLINIC

Post-laser care

So what should you do to prolong and enhance the effects of your laser treatment? Here are three simple ways to care for your post laser-treated skin:

Apply sunscreen daily: Hyperpigmentation is part of UV damage so it's important to use sunscreen daily - even when you're working from home and staying indoors. SL Aesthetic Clinic's Dr Kelvin Chua adds that minimising prolonged sun exposure will also help slow down the formation of new pigmentation.

Minimise your stress: Besides sun exposure, "stress can also worsen certain pigmentary issues like melasma", explains Dr Chua. While it is difficult to avoid stress completely, consider taking time out for some self-care and relaxation to help ease stress levels. You'll feel and look better.

Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise: Laser treatments, in general, can be drying, so it's important to keep skin well-hydrated. Swap lightweight lotions for slightly thicker creams and incorporate hydrating serums into your skincare regimen for the next few days after a laser treatment. You can also add a hydrating mask to your routine to help soothe your skin.

But ultimately, Dr Chua adds that it is important to have the right expectations when doing any laser treatment.

"In conditions where the pigmentation is going to be more stubborn or easily brought on by the sun, the patient needs to be willing to modify his or her lifestyle. Otherwise, the treatment might not be successful or the pigmentation can actually become worse."

For more information on Pico Laser, visit slclinic.com.sg.

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