Laser acne treatments are therapies conducted by dermatologists to heal acne and acne scars, especially for patients whose acne has not responded well to more traditional treatments. By penetrating down to the deepest layers of the skin, lasers and lights can target both the oil glands and the bacterium that cause acne. The most common types of laser acne treatments are blue light therapy, pulsed light and heat energy (LHE) therapy, diode laser therapy, photopneumatic therapy, and laser resurfacing.
During blue light therapy, a dermatologist applies a photosensitizing agent to the patient's skin before exposing the area to a narrow-band blue light source for approximately 15 minutes. The sensitizer makes the skin more sensitive to light, and the blue light kills acne-causing bacteria. Blue light therapy also impairs the oil producing sebaceous glands. Patients generally require multiple sessions over a period of six to eight weeks to achieve clear skin. Some patients find blue light therapy uncomfortable or mildly painful, and temporary side effects may include redness, swelling, or skin dryness.
LHE therapy is appropriate for treating mild to moderate acne and acne lesions. During this relatively short and painless procedure, a dermatologist applies a thin gel to the patient's skin and then positions the LHE device, which resembles a wand, directly over acne-prone areas. Pulses of light and heat are directed deep into the targeted skin, killing bacteria and disrupting sebum production. Like blue light therapy, LHE therapy penetrates to the lower layers of skin without damaging the surface, and several sessions may be required. Minimal side effects include redness, mild soreness, peeling, and swelling.
Another type of laser acne treatment is done with a diode laser. The diode laser directs heat at sebaceous glands deep in the skin. This treatment decreases sebum production and prevents secretion of sebum into the hair follicle, which clogs pores and results in acne. Diode laser therapy does not harm the skin's surface, but treatment can be painful. Side effects include redness and swelling.
Photopneumatic therapy is gaining in popularity among laser acne treatments. A dermatologist uses a vacuum-like tool to suction oil and dead skin cells directly from the sebaceous glands to the skin's surface. The area is then exposed to blue light therapy to destroy the bacteria and to neutralize the sebum glands. This treatment takes only 20 minutes a session, and most patients see results in three to six treatments. Skin dryness is often the only noticeable side effect, but photopneumatic treatment is more expensive and must be repeated every few months to maintain clear skin.
Laser skin resurfacing may be effective in fading the appearance of acne scars for some patients. This procedure involves the precise removal of the top layers of skin over scars, wrinkles, or other imperfections with a laser. When new skin grows in, the scar is no longer visible. Patients with ongoing acne, however, are generally not candidates for laser resurfacing procedures, and should consider another of the laser acne treatments.