Why Causes Discolored Pigment from Laser Facelift?

If a Laser Facelift is a non-invasive procedure, what causes the discoloration of pigment? Why is this a rare side effect?

Doctor Answers 13

Hyperpigmentation After Laser Facelift

After laserbrasion this is not uncommon, especially in patients of color or if you have had excess sun exposure. This can be treated with Hydroquinone or other pigment controlling agents.

Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 64 reviews

Post Laser Hyperpigmentation

After any injury, even a controlled purposeful one such as lasers, peels, or surgery - can often result in what is called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. To prevent this pre-treatment with a skin lightener(s) such as Retin-A, or Hydroquinone which is also resumed once you have healed is often required.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 157 reviews

Discolored Pigment from Laser Facelift

You may be referring to a type of 'face lift' that uses a liposuction-like laser cannula under the skin to give energy to the skin to stimulate collagen production (i.e. Smart lipo, Cool lipo).  These lasers can cause bruising as they may cause some bleeding and spilling of blood pigment under the skin

Sam Naficy, MD, FACS
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 221 reviews

Laser Facelift

The “laser facelift” is actually one of several different procedures, some of which are certainly oversold.  The bottom line is, any laser applied to the skin can have as a risk factor skin discoloration.  While the incidence of these complications has dropped with newer more advanced techniques for laser.

Jeffrey Epstein, MD, FACS
Miami Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 132 reviews

Pigmentation changes after laser resurfacing

This is not really rare at all.  If you are too aggressive you will get hypopigmentation or loss of pigment.  Inflammation, in general in the skin, will lead to hyperpigmentation and this is a natural reaction.  This is more common in people with dark hair and lighter skin, ie a difference in the pigmentation of the skin and hair. This can be treated though.

Philip Young, MD
Bellevue Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

Laser Skin Resurfacing is not a Facelift

The discoloration of the skin is due to the release of melanin caused by the thermal injury of the skin cells during laser skin resurfacing.  However, the more important point here is not to confuse laser skin resurfacing with a facelift.  Laser skin resurfacing can cause some tightening of the skin, which means it affects solely the skin of the face in 2 dimensions.  When I perform facelift surgery, I am not merely tightening the skin. I am also repositioning the soft tissues of the face, and restoring the volume of the face in 3 dimensions, and this yields a profoundly different result from laser skin resurfacing.

Peter Lee, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Laser Facelift is not a Facelift

Your question illuminates several misconceptions about facelifts and laser procedures. They are completely different, and accomplish different things. Facelifts essentially reposition the sagging or descending soft tissues of the face and/or neck. In the process, the skin is tightened and wrinkles are reduced. There are many variations on how this is accomplished and the very best results are an artistic balancing of both of these changes that produce a natural and pleasing rejuvination.

The benefits of a Laser procedure are confined to the skin surface. They can be quite effective at reducing wrinkles, but do little if anything to lift or repostion the descended soft tissues. The discolored pigment that can result from laser procedures can occur in several ways. First, the laser treatment initiates an inflammatory process that can stimulate the pigment producing cells in your skin to produce more, or excessive pigment. This can be particularly true for people with darker skin types and more pigment producing cells. Alternatively, when the laser treatment goes deep into the skin, potentially increasing wrinkle reduction, it can also permanently damage pigment producing cells resulting in depigmentation of the skin. This is why some laser treatments result in a "porcelain" appearance. 

Laser treatments are not non-invasive, they are simply non-surgical. And side effects are not rare. If you look carefully at the results of laser treatments there is usually some degree of pigment change, Sometimes that is the goal, sometimes it is an unintended side effect. Sometimes the pigment changes are very obvious and not harmonious. 

Braden C. Stridde, MD
Kirkland Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 53 reviews

Laser is not a Facelift

Laser skin resurfacing is done by multiple techniques. Most common are the fractional CO2 lasers these do resurface the skin and tighten certain areas but not like a facelift. Laser facelift is a misnomer and I would find out exactly what the surgeon has in mind? When discussing the discoloration of pigment it seems that you must be referring to a laser resurfacing technique as they effect the melanin in the skin and may cause pigmentation. This is typically taken care of by pre treating and post treating laser patients with a good skin care regimen and some bleaching agents. Best regards!

Michael Elam, MD
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 210 reviews

What is a Laser Facelift

When it comes to different facelift techniques, one has to be very clear about what is meant. For instance, the combination of laser, facelift - and non-invasive would be incorrect or at least misleading. Some doctors use a laser during the facelift with unproven benefit. Others resurface the skin during a facelift. And then there are doctors that call a laser resurfacing (conventional or fractionated) a facelift.

My recommendation for my patients is to determine your goals and choose the appropriate procedure (non-surgical or surgical) in order to achieve them. Simply having a futuristic sounding "laser facelift" done may lead to disappointment.

Frank P. Fechner, MD
Worcester Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

Laser resurfacing not quite a facelift.

Thank you for your question.  A surgical Facelift is an invasive procedure and involves incisions, healing and recovery. This is different from Laser treatment.  See below.

Laser resurfacing, fractional and otherwise, with a CO2 Laser is an ablative procedure that removes layers of your skin. Fractional Laser only remove a percentage of the skin surface by basically drilling holes in the skin. This does tighten the skin some but does not accomplish the tightening that can be accomplished with a Facelift.

Melanin is the chemical in the skin that gives it pigment.  It is made by melanocytes, special cells in your skin.  When the skin is injured by the Laser, the body responds with a healing process.  Sometimes this healing response causes the melanocytes to make more Melanin.  If many of the melanocytes are destroyed at the time of resurfacing, then sometime there is a decrease in the amount of Melanin in the skin. If you follow this line of thinking, then it would make sense to you that sometimes patients get hyperpigmentation and sometimes hypopigmentation can occur. Bleaching agents can help clear up blotchy pigmentation changes.

The skin care regimen you follow after Laser resurfacing is just as important as the Laser procedure itself. Make sure you see a board certified plastic surgeon and follow the after Laser instructions very closely.

J. Jason Wendel, MD, FACS
Nashville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 183 reviews

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.