Vascular lasers are the gold standard treatment for red or purple birthmarks such as port wine stains. Non-invasive beams of light erase the blood vessels that give birthmarks their colour, without damaging surrounding skin.
How do these treatments work?
Vascular lasers emit a particular wavelength of yellow light that is specifically absorbed by the haemoglobin in blood vessels. It is blood in vessels that gives the birthmark its colour. The laser beam is not absorbed by the normal coloured surrounding skin. Once absorbed, laser light is converted to heat that injures the inside walls of the vessels, causing the vessels to collapse and fade. Treatment both improves the colour of the birthmark and reduces any bumpiness or lumps.
Lasers work best on birthmarks that are close to the surface of the skin and are on the face, neck and chest. Treatment is usually less effective for marks on the legs and arms.
Brown birthmarks can sometimes also be treated using laser, though with a different coloured beam that targets the melanin, or brown pigment, in the mark.
Are all birthmarks suitable for treatment?
No. Red or purple marks on the head or neck respond best to treatment. Some brown birthmarks are also suitable for laser treatment, though others aren’t.
Your suitability for treatment will be determined at your initial consultation.
What’s the difference between IPL and vascular lasers?
Vascular lasers produce light energy of one wavelength that is only absorbed by blood. These lasers therefore treat only red blemishes in the skin, but do so very precisely and efficiently. IPL on the other hand produces light that contains a band of different wavelengths which collectively target a variety of red as well as brown skin blemishes.
At Heber Davis, we use both IPL and laser, often in conjunction, to achieve the best outcomes. In our experience, lasers more effectively target larger, visible blood vessels, whilst IPL is often best for finer veins and diffuse redness. We match the most appropriate technology to each patient’s particular concerns to ensure we achieve the best results.
The “next generation” IPL installed at Heber Davis is called Broadband light (BBL.) BBL spans a broader spectrum of light than traditional IPLs which allows for more precise treatment and greater flexibility in the range of conditions treated.
How many treatments will I need?
Birthmarks almost always do best with a course of treatments spaced over several months.
Are there any alternatives to laser treatment?
There are many make-up products that effectively cover up birthmarks. These are sometimes referred to as corrective cosmetics and include concealers, neutralisers, and camouflage products. Small birthmarks that are not suitable for laser treatment can sometimes be removed surgically.
What happens during treatment?
- Your doctor will review your medial history, discuss your concerns, photograph your birthmark and decide on the best treatment plan for you.
- You may view before and after photos of other patients’ outcomes to give you a realistic expectation of your own result. As well you can view photos of how you might look during your recovery.
- Protective eye shields are worn throughout your treatment.
- Treatment is non-invasive and feels like a series of quick stings, similar to a rubber band flicking on your skin.
- A sensation of heat that may persist for a few minutes after treatment. You will be provided with an ice pack that will calm the area almost immediately.
What should I expect after IPL / laser treatment?
After laser therapy, the treated skin often becomes dark purple for 7 to 10 days. You may experience short term swelling under the eyes if the upper cheeks have been treated
Makeup may be worn immediately.
How do I care for my skin?
Is treatment painful?
Birthmarks may require intensive treatment and this can sting. Laughing gas is available if required.
What results might I expect?
You can expect your port wine stain to be lighter, smoother, and more easily covered by makeup after a course of treatments. 100% removal can rarely be achieved and is never promised.
What are the side effects of IPL/ laser treatment?
Your may experience redness, swelling or bruising for a few minutes, hours or days, depending on the intensity of your treatment.
Contraindications to treatment:
- Pregnancy. Though no specific complications are anticipated, we prefer not to treat pregnancy women.
- Active cold sores or other infections in the areas to be treated
- Moles or suspicious lesions should be referred to a dermatologist.
- Use of Roaccutane (oral acne medication) in the last 12 months.
- Recent tanning, either natural or artificial, interferes with the absorption of light into pigment. Treatment should be delayed until your tan has faded.
Keloid scarring, connective tissue disease, immunosuppression or autoimmune disorders, vitiligo or uncontrolled diabetes may be contraindications for this treatment. Your suitability for treatment will be assessed at your initial consultation.