Pulsed dye laser


What is pulsed dye laser?

The Pulsed Dye Laser is used for the treatment of prominent blood vessels in the skin, and is used for conditions such as port wine stains (birth marks), thread veins on the face and spider naevi.

The Pulsed Dye Laser emits laser light in very short pulses. The light is absorbed by red blood cells and the blood vessels are destroyed.

What happens when I come for treatment?

The treatment is carried out in the Dermatology Department. At your first consultation, the treatment and any possible side effects will be explained in detail. At this consultation please bring full details of any medications you are taking with you.

On the day of your treatment please do not use any of the following:

  • hairspray
  • hair gel
  • other hair products
  • perfume
  • aftershave

If you are wearing make-up on the area to be treated please bring some unperfumed soap with you so that you can wash it off.

A test patch, where a small area of skin is treated, is normally carried out at this stage, to see how the skin reacts to the laser light.

A follow-up appointment is then made 8 to 12 weeks later when, if there have been no problems with the test patch, a larger area of skin will be treated.

A number of treatment sessions will normally be required and these are at about 8 to 12 weekly intervals.

When the laser light hits the skin it feels like a rubber band twanging against it. If needed, some local anaesthetic cream can be applied to the area to be treated, but this must be done at least one hour before the treatment.

Goggles must be worn during the treatment to protect the eyes from the laser light. As soon as the laser light hits the skin the bruising appears and this is entirely normal with this treatment.

Laser treatment cannot be carried out on sun tanned skin so a tan must be allowed to fade before treatment. 

Side effects

  • Immediately after each treatment the skin is bruised. This bruising will last for about 14 days and can take longer in some cases. The bruising often darkens for up to 3 days after treatment. This bruising is obvious and cannot be covered adequately with makeup. When the area treated is on the face, some patients find it difficult to carry on with their normal job, because of their appearance until the bruising fades.
  • The treated area may look inflamed or swollen, but this will settle down over a few days.
  • Scabbing or blistering may occur in the treated areas. Any scabs should not be removed but allowed to fall off naturally.
  • If the area becomes infected, antibiotics may be needed. You will need to contact the Dermatology Department.
  • Hypo or hyperpigmentation of the skin may occur in the area treated. This means that the skin may become lighter (hypopigmented) or darker (hyperpigmented) than the surrounding skin. Hypopigmentation can be permanent.
  • Scarring with the Pulsed Dye Laser is rare, but can occur.


Immediately after treatment you can use either Aloe Vera gel or ice packs to ease any discomfort in the skin. Take Paracetamol for any discomfort within the next few days (not Aspirin). Unless the area being treated is around the eyes and there is swelling you can carry on as normal.

The skin may be washed gently. Make up can be used over the treated area 2 or 3 days after treatment if the skin is not broken.

During the treatment period and for 6 months after a sun block must be used on the treated area. Avoid swimming and contact sports while bruising is present.

If you have any concerns or worries at any time, please contact the Dermatology Department on 01709 424514.

How to contact us

Dermatology Secretary 

01709 424161 

Dermatology Clinic 

01709 424514

Pulsed dye laser - patient information leaflet
Produced by the Dermatology Department, May 2003. 
Revised November 2011, June 2014, May 2016, June 2018, June 2021. Revision due June 2022. Version:6.0 
©The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust 2021. All rights reserved.

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  • Page last reviewed: 15 February 2023
  • Next review due: 15 February 2024