Laser treatment for age spots: The pros and cons of a skin refresh

Living in Australia or the sunnier parts of the US has some huge perks, and top are the warm climate and beautiful beaches on our doorstep.

But spending years in the sun can takes its toll on skin, especially if you grew up without wearing the right amount of sun cream. The result can be unsightly sun spots, sometimes called age spots, caused by excess melanin (skin pigment) that has been stimulated by sun exposure.

They’re described as pigments or blemishes which largely appear on your face, hands and arms. Also called liver spots, they are normally flat against the skin, and look like brown or black circular markings. They are incredibly common in anyone aged over 50 who’s spent time in the sun in earlier years.

Some people take to wearing gloves to prevent further damage to their skin (as well as hide hands that may well appear much older than the rest of them!) but there are effective methods to remove them, the most common involving laser treatments.  There are, however, potential side effects and health risks t this kind of treatment.

Here we look at the pros and cons of laser treatment:

The pros

Quite simply, laser treatments have been developed to improve the appearance of skin, and in this case, reduce the visibility of sun spots.

According to Skin Care Guide, laser treatments are more effective than other methods of refreshing the skin’s surface, such as chemical peels, as they are likely to have permanent results. While experts can’t guarantee you won’t develop more, the spots you have removed should be gone for good.

It’s also a very fast procedure, with a short recovery time. The site claims most people shouldn’t need more than two 20-minute sessions to reduce the visibility of their spots and scars. However, that can alter depending on each person, and some patients may need closer to six, more intense treatments.

The laser not only focuses on age spots, but it can also reduce fine lines and wrinkles, slowly eliminating the early signs of ageing. It works by stimulating the collagen and unclogging pores, which can even out old scars and acne marks too.

While the level of discomfort alters depending on each person, generally, it’s considered to be less painful than other procedures such as chemical peels.

The cons

As with any treatment, it can come with its side effects – and these can alter from person to person.

According to New York oculoplastic surgeon James Gordon, who shared his advice on, while laser treatments work to remove spots and scarring, if they’re too intense for a patient’s skin, they can also result in mild scarring following the treatments – although this is fairly rare.

Some people may feel an element of discomfort during the procedure, and it can result in slight swelling afterwards. This may last a couple of hours, or a few days, depending on your skin type and reaction.

And while laser treatments have a huge success rate, they aren’t guaranteed to make sun spots completely disappear on every person, so you may not have as much success as you’d hoped. It’s always worth seeking advice from a professional before considering the treatment. Asking to see before-and-after pictures of other patients can give you a guide to how effective the treatment may be.

As mentioned earlier, too, new spots can always appear and lines emerge again so it’s not a good idea to consider laser treatment as a permanent fix. Additionally, according to Everyday Health, “there have been cases of temporary skin discolouration reported with skin laser use”.

Meanwhile, laser treatments can sometimes activate the herpes virus in some recipients, Skin Care Guide reportsThis usually only occurs in patients that have an active or dormant case of the virus already. Most doctors or skin technicians will ask you whether you’ve suffered cold sores or similar in the past, to get a feel for whether this is a risk for you.

It’s important to remember the treatments can be costly, ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000 dependent on how many sessions you require. Always seek advice and shop around, as it’s undoubtedly a big decision on whether it’s worth the expense.