Brown spots, sun spots, age spots all refer to what we term benign lentigos.
These are aggregations of melanin, the brown pigment manufactured by the melanocytes of the dermis that give the skin its characteristic color (if one had no melanin at all one would be albino). But when melanin begins to accumulate in uneven distributions it will mar the appearance of the face and make it look old. This is also true of another very revealing location - the hands.
The EXCEL laser is especially efficient at resonating with the melanin molecule and breaking it up and the darker the lesion, the easier it is to treat – there is more melanin under the beam to react with each pulse of the laser.
As Dr. Heisler treats the brown spots they will immediately get a little darker (the melanin protein denaturing) and the surrounding skin will get a little pink. That is the desired result. The brown spots will then either fade or, more likely, flake off over the next week or two.
Removal of brown spots can be a stand alone treatment or, more commonly, a treatment step in the Facial Rejuvenation program. Treatment of brown spots of the hands is very commonly performed and is done as a separate procedure.
Seborrheic keratoses are another benign lesion of the skin that can respond to laser treatment. These growths are slightly raised, scaly (you can catch the edges of them with a fingernail), may be uniformly light tan to dark brown in color, sometimes be as large as a coin and are frequently in annoying if not unsightly locations (belt lines, bra straps). Because these too contain melanin pigment they can be targeted by the EXCEL and made to shrivel. These keratoses are frequently quite numerous. The laser can quickly treat large numbers of these in a given session and eliminate the need for individual surgical excisions or liquid nitrogen applications (cryotherapy). Actinic keratoses are a different condition characterized by flat, reddened, scaly patches, most commonly over the face and arms and are best treated by your dermatologist. Unlike seborrheic keratoses which have no malignant potential, actinic keratoses can be precursors to squamous cell skin cancer.
If any pigmented lesions anywhere are not obviously benign, Dr. Heisler will recommend biopsy of these rather than laser treatment. If you would like to remove numerous brown spots and/or seborrheic keratoses from the torso, it is most advantageous that you have had ongoing surveillance and total body inventory by your dermatologist.