New, state-of-the-art lasers and other light treatments have revolutionized the treatment of acne. Lasers and light therapies emit an intense beam of light at a specific wavelength that acts upon particular components of the skin.
Some laser and light systems are designed to damage the sebaceous glands so that they produce less sebum (oil). Other laser and light therapies are designed to damage the P. acnes bacteria that infect the sebaceous glands and cause them to become inflamed.
Most laser and light-based therapies reach the deeper layers of skin where acne lesions start without harming the skin's surface. Laser and light therapies also improve the skin's texture and lessen the appearance of acne scars.
Types of Laser and Light Treatments for Acne
- Pulsed light therapy. Pulsed light destroys the P. acnes bacteria and shrinks sebaceous glands by creating heat in the deep tissue. Side effects include temporary redness in the treated areas.
- Blue light therapy. This painless treatment exposes the skin to a low-intensity blue light that is believed to destroy the P. acnes bacteria after multiple treatments. Ongoing treatment is necessary for best results. Possible side effects of blue light therapy include temporary redness and dryness in the treated areas.
- Diode laser therapy. Diode lasers can destroy sebaceous glands. Side effects of diode laser therapy include temporary redness and swelling of the treated areas.
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT). PDT uses a light that is shone upon skin that is pre-treated with a special medication that sensitizes the skin to light. This is followed by blue, red, pulsed light or another type of light therapy. Side effects can include redness, swelling, crusting of the skin.
- Photopneumatic therapy. Photopneumatic therapy uses suction to "vacum up" the oil and dead skin cells from within the sebaceous glands. The targeted area is then treated with blue and red light therapy to destroy P. acnes and reduce inflammation.
Side Effects and Safety
There are rarely any permanent problems with laser therapy. Occasionally some lightening of the skin occurs that usually resolves.
Some laser treatments can be painful, however the pain is well controlled. Other treatments, such as blue light therapy, cause no pain.
Because lasers produce an intense bright beam of light, everyone in the treatment room is required to wear protective eyewear.