Laser Treatment for Acne

In order to receive this form of acne treatment, you will need to discuss it with your doctor or dermatologist. The treatment entails the use of a laser to excite porphyrins, compounds that bacteria produce, and thus cause damage to the bacterial wall. This damage effectively kills the bacteria that is a leading component in the development of acne.

It is believed that laser treatment also helps to reduce the production of sebum in the skin. Although this treatment is believed to work best on those who suffer from light-to-moderate forms of acne, there may be a chance that it could work on those who suffer from severe cases.

The light of the laser is concentrated allowing it to penetrate deep into the skin. Those who have a lighter pigment to their skin have fewer side effects compared to those with a dark pigment in their skin.

The reason researchers believe this treatment is effective on acne is that as it lowers the level of sebum production, the oil that the glands release, and therefore acne is less likely to develop. Lasers are also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, another trigger, and the result of acne development.

  • Cost and Frequency

Typically, for best results, three treatments are required, each approximately a month apart. The cost will vary, depending on the treatment and the doctor, but you can expect to spend anywhere from $200 to $500 for one session.

If the acne is severe, more sessions may be required. As the results may not clear up all the present acne and the effects are temporary this form of treatment is not a permanent solution and can become quite costly.

  • Types of Lasers

Each type of laser is categorized based on the color as well as the light that is emitted from it. Each light can penetrate the skin at different levels of depth. The three different types are as follows:

  • Pulsed-Dye Lasers (PDL)

The PDL laser produces a yellow beam, between 585-595 nm of light.

  • Potassium Titanyl Phosphate Lasers (KTP)

The KTP laser produces a green beam of light, at 532 nm.

  • Infrared Laser

Infrared lasers have more than one type, each one produces a colorless wavelength more than 1000 nm. The types can be broken down to include, 1450 nm diode, Nd: YAG, between 1064 nm and 1329 nm, and finally, erbium, glass, at either 1540 nm or 1550 nm.

One of the more common lasers, such as the Fraxel®, are known as fractional lasers. A fractional laser targets the light at small areas of the skin, the result is fewer side effects compared to those that focus on larger spots on the skin.

One particular laser known as Isolaz® is a vacuum laser that uses infrared light. The vacuum part of the laser targets the small area of the skin and sucks it up. After the area has been sucked up the laser light then shines on the spot. Infrared lasers are believed to penetrate the skin better than the PDL or the KTP.
Finally, a PDL laser combines both heat and light to the treated area. It is known as the pulsed light and heat laser.

It is important to note that the pigment of the skin will also affect the treatment. A laser can penetrate lighter skin compared to darker skin.

The Pros and Cons of Laser Therapy

  • Pro

In the past, before laser treatment, dermabrasion was the number one technique for scar removal. This meant that the top layers of the skin were mechanically stripped off to the blood vessels below. The purpose of this was to have the skin cells below regenerate and fill in the scars with fresh skin. Laser therapy does not cause the skin to bleed and therefore the skin is less likely to become infected.

  • Con

As treatment requires more than one session the cost can increase quite rapidly and the results are not permanent.

The darker the pigment of skin the harder it is for the laser to penetrate due to the melanin in the skin. Essentially, the melanin absorbs the light that is meant for the hemoglobin. Darker skin has a greater chance of having the skin grow back with a lighter pigmentation due to the skin above the capillaries being charred in the process.

Darker skin also has been known to form scars known as keloids, which will require more treatment compared to other acne scars due to the fact that they are tougher in texture. Approximately 1 in 6 with dark skin will develop these tough scars and there is no current treatment for them.

Final Thoughts on Laser Therapy

Before you decide to undergo laser treatment to treat acne or scars from acne, be sure to talk with your doctor to understand all the facts.

Recall that laser therapy is not a permanent solution and multiple sessions are required which means that therapy is a costly procedure. It is not likely to be covered by your insurance provider and the process could take years to show the results you desire, that of smooth, acne-free skin.

If you have previously used Retin-A, Renova, or a topical treatment of tretinoin, your skin may be thin and laser treatment could cause permanent scarring if you don’t allow for the previous treatments to leave your system, about six months.

If you suffer from eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis, laser therapy will do more harm than good.
Due to the fact that laser treatment can drastically smooth out areas of your skin, untreated areas may actually look worse to you than before, therefore you may never be fully satisfied with the results. Some dermatologist will not take on patients who have expectations of perfect skin knowing full well that perfection is impossible.