Take a few minutes to research laser acne treatments and you’ll to bump into terms like fraxel, smoothbeam, v-beam, CO2, erbium, pixilation and photodynamic therapy. What do all these terms mean? Here, we break it down in a handy guide.
A laser is simply a device that emits a focused beam of light. The light that surrounds us every day is made up of a rainbow of colors, but a laser light contains only one of the colors (wavelengths) in the rainbow, like red or blue. Depending on the strength of the beam, and the wavelength, a laser can be used as a flashlight or as a tool to cut through steel. Laser treatments for acne are much closer to flashlight strength. However, they are plenty strong enough to have side effects.
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How Lasers Work on Acne
There are a few different ways that laser treatments can be used on acne.
First, they can be used to help attack P. acnes, the bacteria that causes skin breakouts. Whereas medications use ingredients like benzoyl peroxide to kill the bacteria, lasers deliver controlled bursts of heat to do the job.
Laser acne treatment can also be used to heat the millions of sebaceous glands in your skin. This causes the glands to shrink in size and produce less oil. In theory, less oil means fewer clogged pores and breakouts.
Then there’s resurfacing, a laser treatment for acne scars. This process uses a type of laser that stimulates collagen growth under the skin, firming up the skin from beneath the scar.
Another type of laser treatment for acne scars removes the outermost layers of the skin and exposes a newer, younger layer that is visibly more even and shows less discoloration.
All of these therapies must be performed by a dermatologist and can cost $200-$500 per treatment.
Home Laser Devices
If you are comfortable with the idea of lasering your own face, there are several at-home laser devices. Their cost ranges from $40 to $500.
The do-it-yourself acne laser treatment devices use low-intensity blue light or a combination of blue and red light. The blue light can be effective on P. acnes bacteria. The red light is known to penetrate deeper and may help reduce inflammation.
Most experts feel these devices are not powerful enough to make a major difference and that results will be moderate at best.
Laser Side Effects
Whether you opt for a home device or for more powerful laser treatments for acne from a dermatologist, you can expect varying degrees of side effects that include redness, dryness and flaking, bruising and itchiness. There’s also the possibility that treated area will lighten or darken.
The Bottom Line
There is no need to be fearful of laser acne treatments, but there is every reason to be cautious when picking one. Because there are so many choices, and the best choice for you depends on your specific skin type and the severity of your acne, it is smart to consult a dermatologist who has knowledge and experience with laser treatment for acne.