Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a common occurrence seen in patients recovering from a breakout. Ranging in colours from red to brown or black, both men and women are equally susceptible to the condition.
While it can dissolve on its own over time, it can also persist and last for years before disappearing completely. In some cases, the spots never end up fading. Thankfully, there are aesthetic treatments available today to lighten any stubborn acne marks and spots that are resistant to topical treatments, such as the Q-switch laser.
Before diving deeper into the mechanics of the Q-switch laser, let’s first quickly recap what PIH is.
What is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation?
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is our skin’s natural response to inflammation and a common outcome of acne patients. Appearing as flat, distinct spots on the face, they can happen to anyone regardless of gender, skin tone and skin type.
Although PIH can affect all skin types, those with Fitzpatrick skin types IV through VI are shown to be more susceptible to it. Fortunately, there are numerous types of treatments available to help resolve PIH such as chemical peels, micro-needling and laser therapy; each of them boasting different characteristics and advantages.
One thing to note is that PIH is not considered a true acne scar – if you are currently experiencing unwanted blemishes that are resistant to topical treatments – your best bet is to seek help from a professional dermatologist who can better diagnose your skin and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.
How can the Q-switch laser resolve PIH?
The Q-switch laser emits concentrated laser beams in short pulses using a 1,064-nanometre wavelength. This wavelength makes the Q-switch laser ideal for treating PIH, as most of the laser energy is focused on breaking down excess melanin pigments without harming surrounding healthy skin.
A 2015 study conducted with 78 patients concluded that the Q-switch laser is effective in treating PIH with minimal downtime and adverse side effects.
On top of treating PIH, the Q-switch laser also works as an effective acne treatment as the heat energy works to simultaneously destroy acne-causing bacteria and reduce sebum production.
Results from this laser treatment will vary depending on the severity of your acne marks. However, you can expect an improvement of up to 90% in just a few sessions! Each session is also time-saving since it only takes roughly 12 – 15 minutes – meaning to say that you can quickly undergo the treatment during your lunch break and return to work without much discomfort.
What are the key points to note for the Q-switch laser?
The treated area will experience a mild burning sensation due to the intense heat energy shot into your skin, along with some redness that should subside within a few hours.
As much as possible, it is recommended to stay indoors as much as you can post-treatment because your skin is more vulnerable to sunlight. If you have to go out, make sure to apply sunblock. Otherwise, the UV light will damage your skin and worsen existing pigmentation.
Because of the high safety profile of the Q-switch laser, it isn’t uncommon for doctors to combine the treatment with other modalities that work better for targeting depressed acne scars. This is because patients tend to have multiple acne scars and marks on their skin, and the Q-switch laser has limited effectiveness for treating depressed acne scars.
Depending on the type of acne scar you have, your doctor may recommend a subcision and fillers treatment, or collagen-inducing treatments such as the Fractional CO2 laser and INFINI RF treatment.
What other treatments should I consider?
Aside from the Q-switch laser, there are other ways to safely treat PIH. The results they produce may vary, depending on a case-to-case basis:
The Picocare 450 delivers ultra-short bursts of energy to efficiently break down pigment-containing cells within the skin to fade and treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Due to the laser working in prodigiously short bursts, it is able to shatter pigments into smaller, more manageable fragments without damaging the outer layer of the skin, more so than any other traditional laser – thus giving faster results without increasing downtime!
In addition, the process induces collagen production to improve the overall skin surface to improve acne scars and enlarged pores at the same time. The Picocare 450 laser is also known for its versatility – depending on your condition, our doctors will be able to customise your treatment for the best results.
The Vbeam laser is the best treatment to treat another type of acne mark known as Post-inflammatory Erythema (PIE) – the red and stubborn blemishes left behind after a breakout due to the result of broken capillaries.
The Vbeam is a pulsed-dye laser that delivers gentle wavelengths to the skin in rapid bursts. Upon hitting the skin, it converts to heat energy, which is taken in and absorbed by specific blood vessels to break them down.
The heat energy from the Vbeam laser then works to destroy the abnormal skin cells and blood vessels without any damage to the surrounding skin and tissue. The pigments are then naturally removed from the body through its natural healing process.
There is no need to worry about side effects and downtime as a cooling device will spray a cool liquid onto the skin before each laser pulse, cooling the upper layers of the skin for maximum comfort!
Free your skin of acne marks and scars @ The Clifford Clinic
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating acne, acne marks or acne scars. The best treatment requires a tailored and holistic mix of treatment modalities for best results. Most importantly, it has to be customised to suit your skin type, condition and preferences as every case is unique.
With over 40 years of combined experience dealing with the complexity of acne, the aesthetic doctors at The Clifford Clinic have managed to acquire a range of state-of-the-art technologies and treatments that can cater to a myriad of conditions. From traditional laser acne scar removal treatments to more innovative, state-of-the-art hair transplant technologies, our aim is to be the one-stop clinic for all your aesthetic needs.
It’s never too late to consult a doctor to craft the best treatment plan for you – contact us to book your appointment today!