Acne can be a difficult skin condition; often it’s a source of discomfort, embarrassment and irritation. Even once acne is under control, larger blemishes often leave skin scarred and pitted. You probably hear the term laser and think of hair removal, but the use of laser treatment for acne has slowly become prevalent, but is this a safe and effective way to treat chronic pimples and breakouts?
Lasers can be used to help heal pigmentation and scars that are left on the skin after acne has healed, but they can also be used to eliminate active breakouts. Let’s explore the latter and look at who is a good candidate for acne laser treatments, the cost, treatment details, and effectiveness of the procedure.
The Phenomenon of Porphyrin
Acne results when bacteria accumulates on the skin. This contains a substance known as porphyrin. Interestingly, when porphyrin is activated by the light of a laser, it destroys the bacteria it inhabits. This can reduce or eliminate papules and pustules (the most common form of pimples and breakouts), but laser treatments also target noninflammatory acne and more severe lesions, nodules, and cysts.
Because most patients don’t suffer from just one type of breakout — many acne sufferers have a slew of whiteheads and blackheads among our pustules and lesions — a targeted, bacteria-destroying treatment may prove extremely beneficial.
A Laser Breakdown
A laser is an intensely concentrated beam of monochromatic light; most laser treatments for acne use an Intense Pulse Light, or IPL, or what’s sometimes called a photofacial or fotofacial. This type of treatment is frequently used to even out skin pigmentation in addition to treating acne.
When used specifically for breakouts, IPL works to destroy the bacteria that causes continuous breakouts and inflammation. But because these lasers are also able to lighten scarring, many acne sufferers get to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. When IPS is used in combination with a fractional laser resurfacing treatment, the treatment may even instigate skin repair and collagen production.
IPL isn’t the only type of laser used to treat acne — others include frazel lasers, carbon dioxide lasers, fractional lasers, pixilation, and active or deep Fx. Generally, light therapy is also used for acne treatment, including blue, red and blue + red light devices, which can be used at home or by a professional. Infrared light can be used to treat cystic acne, but not comodones (blackheads and whiteheads). Another unique light therapy option is photodynamic therapy (PDT), which requires a professional to apply a solution that makes the skin more sensitive to light before using a laser to treat the affected areas.
What to expect from an acne-focused laser treatment
A laser may seem technical or scary, but most dermatology lasers are simple, hand-held units that a dermatologist can hold near the face.
To determine whether laser therapy is a fit for your acne, you must book a consultation to talk to your skincare professional.
Once you’ve been approved and booked, you’ll need to prepare for your appointment by ensuring that you check with your doctor about any regular prescriptions or medications, stay out of the sun, stop using any retinol products, ensure no chemical peels are used in the weeks prior, and skin your regular waxing appointment.
During your treatment, you’ll feel some warmth on the face, but the actual laser should cause very little pain or discomfort.
After the treatment, however, there can be inflammation and skin peeling. Some experience some crusting around their most severe inflammation. Avoiding sunlight for 48 hours is crucial, and applying any topical treatments advised by your doctor is critical to ensuring the best possible outcome.
The effectiveness of laser treatments for acne range from as low as 35% to as high as 80% — in other words, it can vary significantly on a case by case basis.
How much does laser treatment for acne cost?
As with everything, pricing varies based on your location and your doctor’s office, and will depend on the number of treatments required. Industry standard is typically somewhere between $200 and $500 per treatment; most require three treatments, spaced roughly one month apart.
Lasers are an extremely effective way to destroy bacteria on the face — if you suffer from chronic acne, you may want to ask your skincare professional about whether you should consider an acne laser therapy.