Lasers can be an excellent treatment option for acne. There are several lasers that can be used, but the most effective is called photodynamic therapy (PDT).
PDT works by applying a chemical called aminolevulinic acid (ALA) to the skin which we then activate using a laser or special light source. Aminolevulinic acid gets absorbed by the oil glands that cause acne. Once activated, it temporarily disables oil glands and kills the bacteria associated with acne.
Treatment consists of first exfoliating the skin with an Acetone scrub or light chemical peel. ALA is then applied and allowed to sit for one hour. It is then activated using a special light source called a Blu-U. The Blu-U emits a wavelength of light that maximally activates the aminolevulinic acid. It is activated for close to 20 minutes.
After treatment, some patients get mild scaling and crusting in the treated areas lasting for 1 – 3 days. It is extremely important to avoid direct sun exposure for the first 24 – 48 hours after treatment because exposure during this time frame can further activate ALA and produce a serious reaction.
Most patients require 1 – 4 treatments for maximal improvement each spaced about 3 – 4 weeks apart. The initial series of laser treatments suppresses acne for 6 months to 2 years depending on the person. Touch-ups are needed after the acne starts to recur.
The Blu-U can also be used without aminolevulinic acid once to twice per week in combination with other medications to help keep acne suppressed.
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Quick Answers: Laser Acne Treatment
Who are the best candidates?
People with inflamed acne lesions such as pimples, pustules, and cysts respond better than people who mostly have blackheads.
How long do treatments take?
It only takes a few minutes to apply the Levulan. Then you relax in the office for one hour to let the Levulan absorb. After it gets absorbed, we activate it using blue light or a laser. The entire process takes about 1.5 hours.
Do treatments hurt?
What is the recovery time?
Most patients get mild to moderate flaking and crusting that lasts 2 – 3 days.
What kind of results can I expect?
Several studies showed that patients got a 50 – 70% overall reduction in acne lesions after 4 treatments spaced one month apart.