Laser Therapy for Acne
Joe Baxter is retired from the field of medical research. Now that he’s retired, he spends a majority of his time traveling foreign lands, working in his wood shop and writing, particularly about internal medicine.
Acne treatment is continually evolving as new and improved techniques keep coming to market. One of the latest treatments involves using lasers to clear up acne. Light therapies have garnered a lot of attention in medical articles, but the question still remains if the hype stands up to the reality of their effectiveness.
The most common form of acne is the one most teenagers deal with. During puberty an individual’s hormone levels start to rise and this causes the skin glands to produce an overabundance of oil. In small quantities this oil is beneficial, but in puberty too much of this oil can lead to acne. The oil mixes with dead skin cells and clogs the skin’s pores. As a result, bacteria finds a perfect haven in this mix and can lead to swelling, redness, and raised bumps of pus commonly referred to as pimples.
How lasers work on acne
Various types of laser treatments target the bacteria and oil glands under the surface of the skin without affecting the skin’s surface. Bacteria contain porphorine which is sensitive to light. Once this substance is exposed to light a chemical reaction occurs which ultimately kills the bacteria.
Laser treatment can also reduce the output of the sebaceous glands which are responsible for producing an excess amount of oil. Treatment may also diminish facial scarring. Laser treatment is often best used in combination with other acne medication. It is rarely successful when used as the only treatment.
Types of laser treatment
Different types of laser therapy attack the bacteria differently and produce varying results. The more common laser therapies are each considered below.
Blue light treatment.
Prior to this light therapy a photosensitizing agent is applied to the patient’s skin which increases the skin’s sensitivity to light. A low intensity blue light source is then applied which destroys the bacteria causing acne. Since this acne rebounds rapidly, ongoing treatment is necessary to keep acne in check. New light therapy which includes a combination of blue and red light is thought to be more effective.
Side effects include temporary redness, swelling, and possible dryness to the treated areas.
This laser treatment uses a combination of light and heat to clear up acne. A thin gel is put on the skin to receive treatment and then the doctor positions the LHE wand directly over the affected areas. Pulses of light and heat penetrate deep into the skin and kill bacteria and reduce oil production.
In this short procedure, side effects are limited to redness, peeling, and mild soreness.
Diode laser treatment.
This treatment directs heat at the oil glands just under the surface of the skin and destroys them without injuring the outer layer of skin. Although this method prevents the secretion of oil which contributes to clogged pores, it can be painful.
Side effects include pain during the procedure with redness and swelling afterward.
Photopneumatic light treatment.
This therapy combines blue and red light treatment discussed above with a vacuum tool to remove oil and dead skin cells leading to acne. The treatment takes about 20 minutes but is more expensive than the other treatments.
Dry skin is typically the only side effect of this treatment option.
Clinical research has yet to show who would benefit most from using laser therapy or the long term effects of the treatment. Other concerns include the cost of treatment and whether insurance companies will cover the expenses of treatment.