Laser Treatments for Acne Scars
Skin Care & Make-Up

Your Guide to Laser Treatments for Acne Scars

It is estimated that over 80% of people in the world 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, and that can lead to scarring.

The reasons 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 treatments for acne include salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. While these treatments are helpful for some people, women and men aged over 50 can find that they can be too drying on skin. One solution many find useful is laser, 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, 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 are 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 Choice

Two of the most popular lasers used to treat acne and scarring are radio frequency energy and fractional CO2 laser. Radio frequency 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.

Fractional CO2 Laser

Fractional CO2 Laser

The second laser is called 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 radio frequency laser. Between two and seven sessions are required for laser, though the effects are long-lasting. Another difference between both lasers is that radio frequency can be used to reduce the appearance of active acne (as well as to reduce scarring), while 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.

At-Home Devices

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 if you have mild acne, you might want to give them a try. These lasers target bacteria and inflammation on the surface of 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 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.

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