Suggested Laser Treatment to Remove Sun Damage?

I'm considering laser treatment for removing sun damage. I have brown spots and a lot of discoloration from repeated sun exposure. I am 52 years old and would like to know which procedure you suggest.

Doctor Answers 8

Treatment for discoloration

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If your main concern is pigmentation, IPL treatments can give great results with minimal downtime. Often sun damage can show up as both red and brown discoloration and Intense Pulsed Light can improve each of these concerns. In our office its common for our patients to do a series of IPL and follow up with a fractionated erbium to stimulate collagen growth and anti-aging. Best of luck to you! Dr. Meghan Nadeau, Seattle,Wa

Seattle Plastic Surgeon

Laser treatments for sun damage

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Sunspots form as a result of excess pigmentation due to too much ultra violet light, which obviously is of greater concern at the end of summer after long periods of sun-exposure. With that being said, it’s also important to note that sun damage can stay with you for more than ten years. I recommend 1-2 sessions of the Alexandrite laser. The Alexandrite laser uses thermal energy to destroy the brown spot. You will feel heat with each pulse. Post-treatment the unwanted sun or brown spots will become darker in color and flake off over the course of a week. To treat a full-face of freckles, we would recommend IPL (intense pulsed light) treatment to remove the superficial discoloration. The IPL focuses mainly on achieving an even tone to your skin, is gentler, and has less downtime.
Insider Tip: Before coming in for your laser treatment, avoid prescription retinols a week before and the less tan you are, the better. Don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor to make the best plan for you.

Laser Resurfacing for Sun Damage

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Sun damage is among the most common reasons that patients opt in for laser resurfacing treatment. In my practice, I have found that C02 Lasers provide dramatic improvements for sunspots and offer long-lasting results with the least amount of treatment. The intensity of the laser is adjusted on an individual basis and thus offers the surgeon a wide range of flexibility in minimizing the appearance of sun damage on the skin. Consider consulting with a board certified doctor to see if Fractionated C02 Laser Resurfacing is a feasible treatment for you and to evaluate your options more thoroughly in person.

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Laser for Sun Damage

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You could be treated with an IPL device alone, which is not a laser at all, but works very well to treat pigmentation abnormalities as well as fine broken blood vessels.  

You could also add resurfacing at the same time to remove superficial pigmentation within the epidermis.  I often treat patients with these two modalities at the same time to maximize their results.

Best Regards,

Jacque P. LeBeau, MD


Jacque P. LeBeau, MD
Pensacola Facial Plastic Surgeon

Lasers for sun damage

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You need to see a physician to evaluate what types of sun damage and pigmentation you have. There are many different types of lasers. Some work on red and brown color, others work on fine lines, some are meant to treat both coloration problems and improve the texture of the skin, and radiofrequency devices, such as Thermage, may help tighten the skin.

Ronald Shelton, MD
Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Laser for sun damage

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You ask a very good question about what type of laser is best for your sun damage. It really depends on what you are looking to improve. Every laser has its own unique properties that make it better for treating specific things.

It if is JUST brown spots such as sun freckles, I think "q-switched" lasers, vbeam (which is a pulse dye laser), or gentlemax (which is an alexandrite laser) are good options.

If it is brown spots from genetics such as spots we call seborreic keratosis, non-laser treatments may be more effective.

If it is discoloration called melasma, bleaching creams and chemical peels can be effective methods.

I think it is important to have a physician evaluate your face and see what the diagnosis is so they can make a good decision on the right treatments. Good luck!

Tomi L. Wall, MD
Oakland Dermatologic Surgeon

Brown spots from sun damage are easy to remove with IPL lasers

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Brown spots caused by sun damage are a very common problem and, fortunately, they are relatively easy to remove. There are a great number of lasers that can be used to treat these spots many of which are quite effective. Often the sun damaged areas will be treated with Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) lasers and there are many companies that make these lasers. IPL treatments take about 10 minutes to treat a persons face, a procedure often done with topical numbing cream. The spots darken over the course of a few days and then dry up and flake off. The results can be dramatic as most patients can expect an 80 to 90% improvement in the spots. Furthermore, the darker the spots, the easier they are to remove!

Hope this helps.

Jonathan Sonne, MD
Naples Facial Plastic Surgeon


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Brown pigmented spots and sun damaged skin tend to respond well to photofacial rejuvenation with IPL techology. This is designed for this particular issue. Please see a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to determine the best treatment for you.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.