Last updated July 2022
What are freckles?
Freckles are multiple, flat, spots on the skin due to uneven distribution of melanin (skin pigment) in those areas. They are usually about the size of a matchstick head and are reasonably uniform in colour. They are usually situated on sun-exposed areas of the skin, including the face, neck, arms, and shoulders and usually darken after sun exposure. Freckles often start to occur at a very young age. Freckles most commonly occur in people with lighter or fairer skin types, and in those who have a genetic predisposition to developing freckles.
Freckles are usually harmless and are not a sign of skin cancer or sun damage.
What are freckles caused by?
Freckles are determined by a combination of genetics and sunlight. People with fair skin are usually more prone to freckles because they’ve got less melanocytes in their skin (skin cells that produce melanin) and so when their skin is exposed to the sun it creates clusters of pigmentation rather than an even tan. Melanocytes are typically unevenly distributed in those with lighter skin.
People with red hair are more likely to have freckles because they already have the MRCI gene (this is the gene that determines red hair and also controls whether some people have freckles). However, anyone can get freckles and they may vary in colour from light to dark brown.
How to get rid of freckles
There are a number of treatments available for freckle removal, including lasers, serums and chemical peels. Laser removal is an effective , permanent treatment for removing freckles and pigmentation.
Freckle removal with the Fraxel (1927nm) laser, Gemini (532nm) laser, Ruby (694nm) laser, and PiQo4 laser (532nm) is effective in the hands of experienced practitioners. Selection of laser and laser settings may depend on the patient’s skin type and needs. IPL or intense pulsed light is another machine that can help remove freckles. However, as it is a broadband light source, IPL treatments are less specific and effective for treating freckles in comparison to a specific laser such as those listed above.
There are 4 lasers available (Fraxel, PiQo4, Ruby, and Gemini lasers) for the treatment of freckles at the Victorian Cosmetic Institute. The laser used will depend on the type of freckles, the skin type, and the presence of other skin concerns. Lightening creams (such as Kligman’s formula) can be used in the treatment of freckles, but usually only work to fade the freckles rather than remove them completely. Lasers are able to remove the freckles completely after one to two sessions.
Laser Freckle Removal: Quick facts
- Freckles are multiple, flat spots on the skin that start at a young age and darken with sun exposure.
- The Ruby (694nm) laser, Gemini (532nm) laser, and PiQo4 laser (532nm) are highly attracted to the melanin in freckles.
- The Gemini (532nm) laser can be used to remove freckles on Asian, olive or darker skin types
- The Fraxel (1927nm) laser is attracted to the water in the skin and removes freckles by exfoliating the top surface layer of skin containing the freckles.
- Lightening creams can be used to lighten freckles, but do not generally remove them.
- Usually, one to two sessions are required, and the recovery period is usually one week
- Sunscreen pre and post-treatment are important to help reduce the recurrence of freckles.
Who is a suitable candidate for laser freckle removal?
Anyone with visible freckles who is over the age of 18 and in generally good health would be a good candidate for this treatment.
A consultation with a professional can also help to determine whether this is an option for you.
Fraxel laser (1927nm wavelength) is an effective treatment for freckle removal. Unlike other lasers mentioned previously, it is attracted to water in the skin, and not melanin. The mode of action is to simply exfoliate the surface layers of the skin off, including the freckles. As the name of the laser suggests, it is a fractional laser. This means that the laser fires very fine columns of laser energy into the skin, sparing the skin in between the columns. Counterintuitively, it does treat freckles very effectively, despite not covering the whole skin. The laser uses a scanning handpiece to deliver columns of laser energy, and this provides a very uniform treatment of the skin. The Fraxel 1927nm laser is one of our preferred methods of full-face freckle removal on fair skin types.
The Gemini laser is also useful in the treatment of freckles/sunspots on Asian, olive or darker skin types. This laser is fired through a glass window that is chilled, and this cooling helps to prevent heat from damaging the skin. As Asian, olive, and darker skins tend to have more complications from lasers, this cooling does significantly help offset the risks associated with laser treatment in this population. The laser uses longer pulses in the millisecond range (thousandths of a second), and in clinical trials, it has been shown that this laser has less risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation than q-switched lasers with the same wavelength on Asian skins. This is the eruption of pigmentation post-laser treatment or trauma to the skin.
One of the lasers that are used for the treatment of freckles is the Q-switched Ruby laser. The Ruby laser has a wavelength, 694nm, that is highly attracted to melanin. Freckles, which are higher in melanin than normal skin, tend to attract the energy from this laser wavelength. The laser energy that is absorbed by the freckles leads to the destruction of the melanin in the freckle and its removal. Furthermore, the q-switched Ruby laser has extremely short pulses of laser energy, each pulse lasting only a few nanoseconds (billionths of a second). The production of high energy levels in this short period of time also has a photo-acoustic effect on the melanin in the freckles, literally shattering the pigment particles.
More recently, picosecond lasers have been introduced, and these lasers reduce the length of the pulses to picoseconds or trillionths of a second. These lasers have the potential to further enhance the removal of pigmentation by reducing the amount of heat energy applied to the skin, whilst also causing a photo-acoustic or mechanical destruction of the pigmentation. The PiQO4 laser is an example of a picosecond laser. The advantage of shorter pulses is less bulk heating of the skin during the treatment, and therefore a gentler treatment with potentially less downtime.
Laser freckle removal treatment procedure
Post-laser freckle removal diary
Laser Freckle Removal Before and After
Here is a patient who underwent Ruby laser treatment to remove her freckles and pigmentation. After one treatment her freckles and pigmentation have significantly reduced. Note, this patient is wearing fake tan in her before photograph.
This is a before and after picture of a person who has had a single ruby laser treatment for freckles. One week of recovery was required for this treatment. No make-up/foundation is worn in either photo.
This female presented to the Victorian Cosmetic Institute with freckles around her cheeks, forehead, and eyes. She has had several treatments with IPL at another clinic with some results (as seen in the before photo). The after photo shows her face after 2 treatments with the Medlite laser. The recovery for each treatment took approximately one week (for most of the scabs and swelling to subside). The Medlite laser has since been replaced with the more advanced PiQo4 laser.
This 37 year Asian female presented with concerns about her sunspots/freckles. She had one treatment with the Gemini’s 532nm wavelength. Recovery time was 7 days where the pigmentation became darker, scabbed and fell off. Note that the moles were not treated and cannot be treated by the Gemini laser.
This female presented to the Victorian Cosmetic Institute for freckle removal treatment. She had her full face treated with the Ruby laser. The patient is very happy with her results and maintains her skin using a 50+ sunscreen daily.
This patient presented to the Victorian Cosmetic Institute with pigmentation concerns, in particular the larger spot above her eyebrow. This is her before and after from 1 session with the Fraxel laser with the 1927nm wavelength. Recovery time was approximately 7 days.
How to prepare for laser freckle treatment
In the lead up to your laser freckles treatment, you should stop the use of harsh topical ingredients like retinol or steroidal creams, limit your sun exposure and avoid fake tanning, waxing, threading or tweezing. You should cleanse your skin before the appointment and make sure that your skin is as clean and dry as possible.
During your initial consultation, you will be provided with any specific instructions about preparing for the appointment. If you are taking any medications or you have other procedures booked (such as anti-wrinkles injections) you should inform the practitioner.
What is involved in having laser treatment for freckles?
Usually, treatment involves firstly anaesthetising the area to be treated with numbing cream. This helps to reduce the discomfort from the treatment. The appropriate laser is selected, and then systematically applied to the area to be treated. A snapping sensation is felt, as well as some heat. Immediately after the treatment, the freckles appear darker than normal, and the surrounding skin appears red and swollen. Ice packs or an air cooler are usually applied to the skin post-treatment to help reduce the amount of heat, swelling and redness.
After freckle treatment, freckles darken until after approximately one week where they will scab and peel off. One week of recovery or downtime due to swelling, redness, and darkening of freckles is usually required.
Treatments are usually spaced at least one month apart, and normally one to two sessions are required, although more are required in some cases.
It is possible for freckles to return with sun exposure, so it is extremely important to wear sunscreen daily, both before and after treatment.
Are there any side effects to laser freckle removal?
After the treatment, the area will feel warm and you may experience some redness. The freckled area will form a scab in the days following the procedure, which will then fall off.
The freckles may also appear darker immediately after the treatment, but will fade as your body processes the effects of the laser.
How to care for your skin after laser freckle treatment
If you experience redness or swelling after your treatment, you can use cold ice packs or over the counter pain medication to relieve any discomfort.
You should avoid the sun while the area is healing and avoid using harsh topical products containing AHA, BHA or Vitamin A. Regardless of how much time you spend in the sun, you should apply sunscreen every day as part of your skincare routine.
Your practitioner may recommend a post treatment balm to soothe the area during your recovery period, which will usually last approximately 7 days.
What is the cost of laser freckle removal?
The cost of laser treatment for freckles is listed on our pricing page.
Can freckles be permanently removed?
Laser treatments are designed to permanently remove your freckles. Most people only require one treatment to achieve this, but others may require multiple treatments.
However, this procedure does not prevent you from developing more freckles in the future due to sun damaged skin. In order to avoid getting more freckles, you’ll need to use SPF50+ sunscreen and wear adequate sun protection such as a hat and sunglasses.
Can freckles come back after laser?
The freckles that have been treated should not reappear, but new freckles can form after sun exposure. In order to avoid developing more freckles after treatment, you should apply generous quantities of sunscreen and avoid excessive sun exposure.
Is laser freckle treatment painful?
Laser freckle treatment should not be painful. The patient’s skin may feel warm during and after the procedure. Any discomfort following the procedure can be calmed using ice packs and over the counter pain medication.
How many laser treatments will I need to remove my freckles?
The number of treatments you’ll need may vary depending on the extent of pigmentation and the amount of freckles you have. During your initial consultation, your practitioner will conduct a thorough skin analysis to identify the depth of discolouration.
The Victorian Cosmetic Institute recommends 1-2 sessions for most people.
Why choose Victorian Cosmetic Institute as your provider of laser freckle removal?
With years of training and experience, our doctors and nurses specialise in laser treatments and we have a number of lasers available to treat skin conditions and freckles. We are therefore able to provide you with optimal treatment for your skin, with fewer risks and complications.
The first step is simply contacting us for your initial freckle laser consultation, where we will discuss with you what is a realistic and achievable outcome, and what to expect from your treatment.
Making that first phone call about any cosmetic procedure can be a confronting task – many of our patients have preferred filling out our online enquiry form. We can then contact you with an understanding of the results you are hopeful of achieving and ensure the treatment is appropriate.
It’s as easy as clicking the ‘book online’ button or you can phone us directly on 1300 863 824.