If your acne does not respond to conventional medical treatments or alternative therapies, dermatologists may recommend you to try acne laser treatment. Light and laser therapies are cosmetic treatments that remove scar tissues, kill bacteria, and promote healthy tissue healing. Invented in the 1970′s, lasers use heat and light to target cells and bacteria. Because laser treatments are considered cosmetic, not medical, they are not covered by insurance policies, and can cost between several hundred to several thousand dollars. Consult with your dermatologist about which form of laser treatment would be most appropriate for you.
Ablative Laser Resurfacing
Ablative laser resurfacing is the oldest, most effective, and the most invasive of acne laser treatments currently available. The machines used can precisely target tissues for removal, and kill bacteria in the process. Damaged or scarred skin tissues on the superficial layer are removed, and healing of the healthy middle layer of skin is stimulated. While laser resurfacing does the job well, acne laser treatments damage the skin significantly, causing discomfort and pain, with as much as two weeks of downtime required afterwards for full recovery. Side effects include inflammation and crusting, and post-treatment patients must take antibiotics. Due to these complications, less invasive acne laser treatments have been invented to circumvent the need for downtime and recovery. However, according to a 2008 review of research, ablative laser resurfacing remains the most effective option for acne patients.
Non-Ablative lasers use similar technology to the ablative laser resurfacing — however, the superficial layers of skin are heated using light, but are not damaged or removed as is the case in laser resurfacing. The dermal layers of skin are stimulated by this application of light and heat to produce healthy skin cells in the form of collagen and elastin, and acne-causing bacteria are eradicated. Non-ablative laser treatments have become increasingly popular as they are not invasive, have fewer complications and require only a few days of downtime to recover. Acne scarring is treated with infrared lights, which is the most painful of the non-ablative laser treatments and can require painkillers to make the treatment more comfortable.
Fractional lasers target only specific tissues in the skin, while leaving healthier skin tissues unharmed and free to support rapid healing following treatment. Fractional laser treatment is the least-invasive form of laser treatment currently available to acne patients, and requires significantly less downtime for recovery compared to ablative or non-ablative. In one study published in 2006, fractional lasers were found to be both safe and significantly effective in reducing acne scarring. Post-treatment recovery time depends on the severity of your acne and the area of skin that is treated with laser — some people require over a week of downtime following laser treatment, while other patients require no downtime whatsoever. It is unlikely you will be required to take antibiotics or treat the area with creams, but you may be recommended to stay out of the sun following treatment.
Laser treatments and out-patient visits can become expensive when they have to be performed regularly. Because of this, at-home laser devices that you can use by yourself have become more popular and more widely available in recent years. Despite many devices receiving FDA clearance, one study published in 2011 suggests that home-use light and laser machines are not as powerful or as effective as those operated by dermatologists or cosmetic specialists. On the flip side, at-home devices have fewer side effects compared to machines used by specialists. Home-use laser machines are much more affordable, and save you the cost of travel as well as downtime following acne treatment. This is especially important if your acne or acne scarring is severe, and requires regular weekly treatments.
Recovery and Side Effects
Most acne laser treatments cause a range of possible side effects, the least of which is skin inflammation which closely resemble sunburn. During the post-treatment recovery period you should avoid direct sunlight as your skill will be very photosensitivity before it is fully healed. Ice packs can be applied directly to the treated area immediately after treatment, to relieve swelling and provide comfort. Several days worth of antibiotics are often prescribed for patients after ablative acne laser treatments. Some exudation and swelling is expected in cases of ablated lasers, but if pus or infection does begin, contact your specialist or doctor for medical advice immediately. Dressing should be applied to the area constantly following treatment, and creams can be prescribed to relieve discomfort and prevent infection.