Acne Treatment, Laser

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A variety of methods involving light can be used to improve acne. A popular approach is to combine an infrared laser with skin cooling to target oil gland production, a key element in acne formation. A second approach involves a chemical that makes the oil gland and follicle sensitive to light plus the application of a bright light such as a laser, Intense Pulsed Light, or lamp. A recently described method uses a suction apparatus mated to an Intense Pulsed Light source to remove plugged up follicles before applying laser energy.

Who's at risk?

Success is determined by multiple variables. Acne is a complex problem that sometimes requires multiple combined approaches (eg, laser treatment plus topical medications). Laser is fairly successful; however, even the best candidates may not respond.

Signs and Symptoms

Prior to the procedure, as with almost any laser procedure, sun-avoidance is important.

  • Use a high SPF sunblock daily and re-apply periodically if in the sun.
  • Avoid outdoor activity during peak sun hours (10 AM to 3 PM).
  • Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeves and a hat.
  • Sit in shady areas when outdoors.
Numbing cream applied to the affected area 45–90 minutes prior to the procedure can be useful in having a comfortable session. Eye protection will be worn by both the patient and laser surgeon. Once the skin is cleaned, a handpiece is placed over the skin and pulses of light are emitted. Laser treatment is usually fairly quick for a small- to medium-size area but may take longer for large areas. Depending on the method used, some people note pain during the laser treatment, which some compare to a superheated needle briefly entering the skin.

Self-Care Guidelines

After treatment, the skin is temporarily red with relatively quick healing. Gentle skin care and sun protection are important to promote proper healing. If a light-sensitizing medication is used, protecting the skin from all light sources for 48 hours is extremely important to prevent a severe reaction.

When to Seek Medical Care

  • Lack of results
  • Blistering
  • Temporary darkening of the skin
  • Temporary or permanent lightening of the skin
  • Scarring (rare)

Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe

  • Topical medication
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Oral isotretinoin
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Diet modification (less dairy and/or simple carbohydrates)