Asians are genetically more prone to getting dark spots (or pigmentation), just like how Caucasians are more likely to develop wrinkles as they age. This is because Asians have a higher amount of melanin, a pigment naturally present in their skin. And when inflammation happens, triggered by something as minor as a small zit to as major as hormonal changes due to age or pregnancy, melanin gets overproduced as part of skin’s coping mechanism. Hyperpigmentation occurs as the pigment clusters together, appearing as dark spots on the skin.
Getting rid of dark spots requires a rigorous skincare routine, with specifically targeted products. But even then, completely eliminating the dark spots can be tough to achieve, especially since topical skincare products only work on the epidermal layers (the topmost layers of skin), and melanin can be clustered throughout the different skin layers, from the epidermal to dermal layers.
So how do you tell if the dark spot is on the surface or under the skin layers? Dr YZ Tan from Mizu Aesthetics has this foolproof tip. “Look at how ‘defined’ the dark spot is. If the border or edge of the spot is clearly defined, it is likely at the epidermal layers of skin. Dark spots that occur in deeper skin layers (also called dermal pigmentation) look slightly blurry and appear as hazy patches on the skin, and may be lighter in colour.”
There are several types of aesthetic treatments that can lighten or fade pigmentation, including chemical peels, microdermabrasion, intense pulsed light (IPL) and lasers. The first two work on the skin surface to remove the topmost layer of skin and accelerate cell renewal, so if your pigmentation is at the surface of the skin, you are likely to see your dark spots lightening after going for these treatments.
The third option IPL utilises multiple wavelengths of light energy at the same time to lighten pigmentation. The light energy penetrates deeper into skin layers compared to chemical peels and microdermabrasion, and are gentler on skin compared to the last option, lasers, because of the lower light energy. But this also means that you’ll see slower fading of your pigmentation if you treat it with IPL compared to a stronger and very targeted treatment like laser. So the general consensus is that laser treatments are one of the best aesthetic treatments to use to fade or lighten different types of dark spots and pigmentation – from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation such as acne scars to skin discolouration such as melasma (where you get brown to gray-brown patches). And regardless whether the pigmentation cluster is sitting at the surface of skin or in the skin’s deeper layers, the wavelength of the laser can be adjusted to penetrate into the correct and specific depth to break up melanin and fade dark spots.
But Dr Tan advises that “it would be best to seek an expert’s opinion through consultation with a doctor as both epidermal and dermal pigments require different types of wavelength/lasers to remove; even if the spots look lighter, it doesn’t mean that it is easier to remove. The efficacy of the laser treatment is also dependent on the skill and expertise of the doctor administering the laser treatment”.
And doctors are, increasingly, using a combination of lasers customised to an individual’s skin concern to get the best results possible. Some of the lasers used include the Q-switch lasers (a laser that delivers light energy at nanosecond intervals) which are good for removing surface freckles and deeper-seated pigmentation such as age spots, and pico lasers which deliver higher light energy pulses at picosecond intervals (1,000 times faster than Q-switch lasers) that are said to lower the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation as it heats up skin less (the longer the light energy stays on the skin, the hotter skin heats up to, which is why pico lasers are said to more effectively treat more “complicated” forms of pigmentation such as melasma, among others. Most aesthetic clinics offer some form of laser treatment and here are three clinics you can consider consulting with if you’re keen on laser treatments.
1. Mizu Aesthetic Clinic
Mizu Aesthetic Clinic uses a computerised software to identify spots and the depth of pigmentation to better target the dark spots using lasers. This also allows them to monitor progress over subsequent visits. Plus, Dr YZ Tan, founder and medical director of Mizu Aesthetic Clinic is the regional trainer (which means he trains other doctors) for Discovery Pico, a type of pico laser machine so you can be sure you’re in safe hands. Psst, popular local influencers such as Christabel Chua (@bellywellyjelly) and Xinlin Khaw (@xinlinnn) are some of those who go to Dr Tan for frequent laser treatments to keep their skin in great condition.
At #B2-12 Marina Bay Link Mall, tel: 6634 4033.
2. Prive Clinic
Medical director of Prive Clinic, Dr Karen Soh, is one of the first in Singapore to bring in the Discovery Pico laser machine. She’s also the appointed president of the Association of Women Doctors (Singapore) and has a host of credentials under her belt. She’s professional and experienced, and a good doctor to check out if you’re looking for a centralised yet quieter clinic (at Palais Renaissance) to do your aesthetic treatments. They also have an outlet at Nex.
At #03-03 Palais Renaissance, tel: 9848 2888 & #02-28 Nex, tel: 9171 3328.
3. Novu Aesthetics
Novu Aesthetics has 10 clinics located across our little island, offering different types of laser treatments for different concerns. But we hear that Dr BQ Tan, a medical doctor at the Yishun outlet, is popular with customers as he is experienced and able to patiently explain and recommend the specific procedure(s) for different skin concerns. He has also been known to follow through with the progress over subsequent sessions.
Novu Aesthetics has various outlets islandwide.