Sun exposure is one of the biggest contraindications (a reason why we would not be able to perform a treatment) to any laser treatment. We need to make sure the area is protected from the sun for 4-6 weeks prior to the treatment. The length of time will depend on the level of UV exposure, Ie. If you get burnt, it will be a 6 week wait.
If there is any sort of tan in the area, it means that there is more melanin in the skin, than normal. Why does this matter? With majority of laser treatments, the laser is seeking a target, usually dark colours. We all know what happens when we have sun exposure, we get a tan. This is because UV exposure triggers a response in the melanocyte, the skin cell which produces melanin (the colour or tan) in the skin. If we have more colour in the skin, the laser energy is likely to target the skin, rather than the hair or anything else we are treating. So, if the laser is putting all it’s energy into the skin, the risk of side effects such as blistering, burns, hyperpigmentation (skin darkening) and hypopigmentation (skin lightening) is increased significantly.
So, that all explains why we need to avoid the sun before a laser treatment, but what about after? After any laser session, the skin is compromised for 6 weeks. This means that your skin is extra sensitive to UV exposure. Any nasty possible side effects of sun exposure are amplified, such as, sun burn, blistering and permanent colour changes such as hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation, the same as above. As well as the previously mentioned side effects, the risks of developing skin cancers, especially in Australia, are increased dramatically.
What do you need to do to protect yourself?
If you are going to be out in the sun, make sure the area is covered. If you can’t cover the area, a minimum of SPF 50+ should be applied every couple hour’s, and after exposure to water. If you are treating the face, it is much more susceptible to nasty effects, we think it’s better to be overly cautious. On the face, wear a hat as well as SPF 50+.
What happens if you have sun exposure?
Please give us a call prior to any treatment if you think you have any sort of tan. We can assess the area and let you know how many weeks we would like you to wait until your next treatment. It is important to note that if you are having laser hair removal, falling out of sync with your treatment schedule can mean having extra treatments at the end, and with laser pigmentation removal, any sun exposure is going to mean darkening of the pigment and thus, more sessions.
It is best to prevent, rather than try to rectify!
Now you understand why we, as laser specialists, are so pedantic and strict about sun exposure, we want you to get the best results with no side effects!