Lasers VS. Peels: What’s The Best Way To Zap Dark Spots?

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Those little brown spots start appearing after every summer, and at first it’s a cute smattering of freckles, but after a few years, they’re starting to take up permanent residency. We’ve heard the pros of peels when it comes to skin-resurfacing, but how should stubborn dark spots be dealt with? Are lasers better, in this case?


We connected with Charlotte’s Book Premiere Provider Dr. Robert Anolik, MD to answer this most recent reader question. Dr. Anolik specializes in a variety of cosmetic and laser procedures at the prestigious Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York in Midtown Manhattan, so we knew we could depend on his experience for an illuminating response.

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Reader Question:

I’ve heard a lot about both treatments, but which is better to treat dark spotslasers or chemical peels?

Dr. Robert Anolik Answer:

RA: “By a landslide, the answer is laser. But first, a little background: the sun stimulates melanocyte cells to produce more pigment, which then gets transferred to skin cells. That creates dark spots. These days, lasers can eradicate everything from broken blood vessels and redness to uneven tone, large pores, fine lines and, yes, brown spots. Chemical peels are nice fresheners and can help with brightening overall dull tone. But for individual dark spots, the quickest way to eliminate them is by lasering them. The best lasers for this are often ruby lasers, yag lasers, and alexandrite lasers. I use the PicoSure laser, which I combine with Fraxel Dual or Clear + Brilliant lasers. The exfoliation can help release much of the brown pigment and brighten overall tone.”

CB: Does your opinion on laser vs. chemical peel differ based on color of the spot, location, or skin color?

RA: “No. It doesn’t depend on skin color, location of the spot, whether it’s on your hand or your face, or the age of the spot.”

CB: Is there a difference in pain between peels and lasers?

RA: Chemical peels produce a diffuse stinging pain for however long the doctor leaves it on the skin. For laser treatment, there is a rubber band snap sensation.

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CB: Do they take the same amount of time to see results?

RA: “A laser treatment typically results in very fast results. There is usually a small flat scab isolated to the location of the dark spot. After about 1-2 weeks it’s resolved and most or all of the spot is gone. Clear + Brilliant is a lunchtime procedure, but Fraxel has a longer downtime, with redness and peeling lasting for up to a week.”