Non-laser Pigmentation Treatments You Can Try in Singapore

Asian woman cleaning face front of mirror

You do not always need lasers to treat skin pigmentations

As an experienced dermatologist, this is what I always advise to my patients who come rushing in my clinic ready to sign up for laser treatments. Oftentimes, patients have read about lasers from internet blogs that claim it to the one best solution for pigmentation problems.

What these online beauty bloggers don’t tell you, however, is that not everyone needs laser treatments. While lasers are effective in lightening the discolouration in the skin, there are more practical and less invasive ways to treat the different forms of pigmentation. In addition, laser treatments can make your skin drier and more prone to irritations when not done by a trained doctor.

The following is a list of effective pigmentation treatments you can try:

Topical creams

Asian women applying face lotion

Topical creams are available over-the-counter and can come in many different brands. These creams are formulated to significantly lighten skin pigmentation over a period of time. They’re effective for patches of discolouration on most skin types.

Common topical medications can come in the form of a gel, lotion or emulsion that contain one or more of the following ingredients:

  • hydroquinone
  • niacinamide (vitamin B3)
  • retinoids (tretinoin)
  • corticosteroids
  • enzymes from plant extracts

Things to consider, according to Dr David at One Face Clinic:

  • Stronger doses can be prescribed by a licensed dermatologist depending on the severity of the discolouration.
  • Generally, takes a few weeks to produce visible results so a little bit of patience is needed.
  • Beware of getting creams from sketchy online shops without a prescription as there are many reports that these products contain high levels of mercury and can cause serious skin problems.
  • Also, some creams have a very high concentration of steroids which can thin the skin and cause all sorts of problems on the skin and if absorbed systemically, can even have systemic effects.
  • Lightening creams can be tempting given the affordable with prices but bear in mind, that it can be harmful without a doctor’s prescription. So, always give it some second thought.

Skin Exfoliants or Skin Acids

woman looking at mirror skin exfoliate

Skin exfoliants or skin acids are effective in dissolving and exfoliating dead, pigmented cells on the outer layer of the skin to give space for newer and healthier cells to develop. This process results to brighter and clearer skin. Skin exfoliants can be easily accessed from pharmacies and beauty stores.  Popular ingredients of this type of pigmentation treatment are:

  • alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic and lactic acids)
  • beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid)
  • antioxidants (vitamin C serum)
  • azelaic acid
  • kojic acid

Things to consider:

  • Only works for light or mild pigmentation problems.
  • As the dead skin cells are shed off, the skin becomes more capable of absorbing lightning creams and serums to achieve a more improved brightening effect.
  • These products are more suitable for people with fairer skin tones.

Chemical peels

Facial Chemical Peel

Like skin exfoliants, chemical peels reduce the appearance of pigmentation by removing the dead layers of the skin, only this times, higher concentrations of acids are used to treat the discoloration to produce a more dramatic result and significant improvement.

Things to consider:

  • Chemical peel procedures are usually done in-office by a trained dermatologist and can have notable side effects due to strong concentrations of ingredients. So, better consult your doctor first before employing chemical peels.
  • There are available over-the-counter DIY chemical peels you can use at home but as word of caution, these products can cause severe irritation, blisters and even scarring if not used correctly and ultimate worsen your pigmentation problems.
  • Not suitable for people who are always exposed to the sun as the harmful UV rays can trigger complications and worsen the pigmentation.


Microdermabrasion is an in-office procedure where the dermatologist uses a special hand-held device with an abrasive surface to gently remove the outer layer of the skin. This process sheds off the dead and discoloured skin cells and promotes new collagen growth, which helps reduce pigmentation and superficial scarring.

Things to consider:

  • Multiple sessions may be required to achieve the desired result.
  • At-home microdermabrasion kits are also available in drugstores and cosmetic stores and proper caution must be taken into consideration as these unsupervised at-home procedures can do more harm than good when used incorrectly.


microdermabrasion procedure

Like microdermabrasion, this treatment also involves the removal of the skin surface (aka skin-resurfacing), but its effects continue down to the deeper layers of the skin. The procedure also includes the use of a hand-held device with an abrasive attachment that gently brushes off pigmented cells of the skin.

Things to consider:

  • Dermabrasion usually produces results at a faster rate compared to microdermabrasion.
  • This type of in-office procedure works best for individuals with fairer skin types but can cause worsening of pigmentation for medium to darker skin types.

Talk to your dermatologist

Before jumping into the laser treatment craze, talk to your dermatologist first. Your dermatologist can identify the type and causes of pigmentation that you have and help you develop an appropriate treatment plan that may not ultimately include lasers. More often than not, non-laser treatments are probably all you need to brighten, pigmentation-free skin.