Ruby Laser for Pigmentation

What is a laser?

‘LASER’ stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.  Lasers are sources of high intensity light of a single wavelength that can be used to treat a variety of conditions.  How they are used depends on the wavelength, pulse, and fluence (energy output) of the laser being used.  Various types of lasers exist.  They differ based on what medium produces the laser beam.  This determines the wavelength of the laser, its depth of penetration, and thus which conditions can be treated.

What is the Ruby Laser and how does it work?

A ruby laser uses ruby crystal as its laser medium.  Ruby lasers produce pulses of visible light at a wavelength of 694 nm.   This wavelength is absorbed specifically by the target structure in the skin called a chromophore without affecting the surrounding tissue.  The chromophores commonly targeted by the ruby laser are melanin and tattoo ink.

How does the Ruby Laser help pigmentation? 

Sun exposure, genetics, and hormones can affect the color or melanin in our skin leading to freckles, sun spots and age spots.  The 694 nm light pulses of the ruby laser target melanin (brown pigment) in the skin.  Clearing can be usually achieved after 1-6 ruby laser treatments. 

What should I expect during my Ruby Laser treatment?

Your skin will be cleansed and you will wear eye protection in the form of small, opaque goggles during the entire procedure. Sometimes, a topical anesthetic will be applied prior to the procedure but usually this is unnecessary.  Your physician will place the laser handpiece lightly against the surface of your skin and activate the laser.  These laser pulses feel like snapping a small rubber band against the skin and are generally well tolerated. 

What should I do after the procedure?

Following the treatment an ice pack will be applied and you will be given instructions to wash gently and apply Aquaphor or Vaseline daily to speed healing and minimize chances of pigment alteration in the treated areas. Pain is usually minimal.  There may be crusting or mild itching over the treated areas.  This usually resolves in 1-2 weeks.  It is important to follow STRICT sun protection guidelines after treatment as this can increase risk of darkening pigmentation.

What are the potential side effects from Ruby Laser treatment?

Side effects from ruby laser are usually minor and may include redness, crusting, or itching after the procedure that usually lasts less than a week.  Rarely, changes in pigmentation including darker (hyperpigmentation) or lighter (hypopigmentation) patches of skin may occur. 

How many treatments are required?

The number of treatments depends on your skin type and the nature and size of the lesions being treated, but many patients are very satisfied after 1-6 treatments.

Are the results permanent?

The results are permanent.  However, without strict sun protection, additional lesions may appear.

back to Medical Dermatology