It is estimated that over 85% of people worldwide are affected by acne at some point in their lives. Acne is most prevalent in the teenage years, but breakouts still occur in many people in their 40s and 50s, leading to scarring.
The reason for acne in both age groups is often hormonal. As women enter menopause, they may find that they are once again battling breakouts and clogged pores. Typical acne treatments include salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. While these treatments are helpful for some, people over 50 often find that they can be too drying on the skin. One solution many find useful is laser treatments, which (as far back as 2002) was found by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) to improve mild to moderate acne in just a few sessions.
If you are considering laser treatments, you may wonder which laser treatment for acne scarring is right for you.
How Do Laser Treatments for Acne Scars Work?
Lasers target acne in different ways. For instance, one type of laser targets the bacteria that cause acne, which is destroyed when certain chemicals absorb specific wavelengths of light. Another type of laser actually heats the sebaceous glands, causing them to produce less oil. Some lasers can be used on active acne; others merely help with scarring. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that regardless of which laser you choose, it is important that you go to a qualified doctor or that you receive the treatment under direct supervision by a doctor. The latter can prescribe a regular skincare routine that is compatible with laser treatment. Your routine may involve twice-daily cleansing and toning and the application of mattifying serums and moisturizers.
Popular Laser Choices
Two of the most popular lasers used to treat acne and scarring are radiofrequency energy and fractional CO2 laser. Radiofrequency energy delivers heat to deeper layers of skin, stimulating the production of healthy new skin cells. The downtime for this type of laser lasts between two days and a week, with side effects including slight redness. The latter can be covered up with a gentle foundation a couple of days after the treatment.
The second laser is called a fractional CO2 laser. Unlike the more invasive CO2 ablative laser – which removes the top layer of skin to get rid of scars and other skin issues – fractional CO2 laser creates tiny holes in the skin to encourage the production of beautiful, healthy skin. This laser has a slightly longer downtime than a radiofrequency laser. Between two and seven sessions are required for laser treatments, though the effects are long-lasting. Another difference between both lasers is that radiofrequency can be used to reduce the appearance of active acne (as well as to reduce scarring). At the same time, fractional CO2 is generally recommended for acne scars rather than existing breakouts.
A third laser worthy of mention is photopneumatic therapy, which uses IPL light to reduce the clogging of pores. This light is not as effective against acne.
The FDA has approved some LED devices for home use (these emit blue, red, or blue and yellow light). They are less effective than clinical treatments, but you might want to give them a try if you have mild acne. These lasers target bacteria and inflammation on the surface of the skin. Effects can include a reduction in the size of sebaceous glands.
If you are in your 50s and acne or scarring is a concern for you, see a dermatologist about the suitability of laser treatments for you. Many lasers target other problems simultaneously, including loss of firmness, pigmentation, and wrinkles. In essence, they can be a very useful way to target various skin issues at once.
Of course, the best thing you can do is avoid acne scarring altogether, if possible. Advancements in acne treatment seem to get better every day; it’s just a matter of determining which is right for you and your skin. Keeping your skin clean and well-maintained is the first step in trying to prevent acne at any age. As mentioned earlier, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are common ingredients in many acne medications. You can learn more about both to see the pros can cons of each application, as well as determine if they might be too harsh for your skin.
An investment in a quality pillowcase can also help your acne, but make sure you wash it frequently because it’ll touch your face every night. You should also invest in a quality moisturizer that will be gentle on your skin and make sure that any other products you use aren’t full of harsh or harmful chemicals. This would include your hair care products, sunscreens, or even your laundry detergent. Putting effort into the products that come into contact with your face can be one of your best preventative methods. And of course, if you can’t resolve your acne on your own, you can seek out the help of a healthcare professional to see if there aren’t prescription medications that will help you.