The term “frosting” as it relates to laser treatments for age spots, sun spots and other types of pigmented lesions is not a medical term. However, it is a term that is frequently used amongst practitioners to refer to a more aggressive treatment of pigmented lesions (sun spot removal, freckle removal, mole removal, birthmark removal) using Q-Switched lasers.
When using specific settings with this type of q-switched laser has the ability to cause a temporary gas reaction on the surface of the skin when the melanocytes (cells that hold color) rise to the surface in response to the thermal energy. This very temporary appearance looks like a light coating of powdered sugar which is what we refer to as “frosting” of a lesion. This is the clinical end point of the frosting treatment for laser treatments for sun spots, age spots, freckles and birthmarks. When achieving this frosting response for age spots, freckles, birthmarks and other pigmented lesions, the expectation after laser treatment generally is a crusty or flaky feeling to the skin at the site of the pigment for the next 7 to 10 days. Some refer to this as a light scab, but what is happening is that the melanocytes (pigmented cells) that were destroyed during the laser treatment are rising to the surface of the skin and flaking off as part of the the normal cell turnover process (skin regrowth). As this light scab flakes off and heals, the intention is for the age spot, birthmark, freckle or flat mole to come off completely or to provide a dramatic improvement. For those patients that choose not to have this type of treatment, non-frosting methods still offer good outcomes but generally require more laser treatments.
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Lori Haney, RN, MEP-C
Certified Medical Laser Safety Officer