Informaton from the American Academy of Dermatology, AAD.org
Lasers and other light therapies may seem like the perfect acne treatment. Just beam a light to make the acne disappear.
Using them is actually a bit more involved and the results less
predictable, even in the skilled hands of a dermatologist. Still, these
treatments can be an effective part of an acne treatment plan.
The following explains what you can expect from an in-office acne treatment that uses a laser or other light treatment.
• Most people see clearing, but it’s not 100 percent. Studies show that
lasers and other light treatments can reduce acne. Rarely can these
treatments alone clear acne. To give you the best results, your
dermatologist may recommend using another acne treatment, such as
medicine that you apply to your skin.
• Results vary from person to person. Right now, there’s no way to know
who will see clearer skin and how much the skin will clear when treated
with a laser or other light treatment.
• To get results, most people need a series of treatments. Several
studies have shown that multiple treatments deliver significantly better
results than a single treatment.
• It takes time to see results. In studies, researchers continually
find that patients see the best results weeks after the last treatment.
In one study, patients treated with a type of light therapy called
photodynamic therapy had 50 percent fewer spots at the end of the
four-week treatment period. Twelve weeks after the last treatment, they
had a 72 percent reduction.
• Follow-up treatments may be necessary. Results from lasers and light
therapies are generally long lasting. To maintain results, however,
patients often need follow-up treatments once or twice a year.
• Side effects are possible with lasers and other light
treatments. Redness and swelling are common after treatment with many
lasers and light treatments. Some patients say their skin stings or
burns. These are usually mild and disappear within a few hours or by the
Other side effects are rare; however, they can occur.
These include lingering pain, burns, or blisters. Changes in your skin
color and scarring are also possible. Getting treatment from a
board-certified dermatologist who frequently uses lasers can help
prevent these side effects.
• Patients need to follow their dermatologist’s instructions
carefully. To help their patients get the best results and avoid side
effects, dermatologists give instructions both before and after
treatment. It’s essential to do everything as instructed. For example,
after having photodynamic therapy, patients must avoid sunlight for 48
• Good acne skincare helps deliver the best results. Acne-prone skin
requires gentle skin care to prevent new breakouts. You’ll find what
The future looks bright for treating acne with lasers and lights
These treatments show great promise in treating acne. Some patients
with severe acne cysts have seen clearing for years when laser therapy
was added to their treatment plan.
More studies are needed to know what will work best for most people.
In the meantime, if you think a laser or light treatment can improve
your acne, you should talk with a dermatologist. This doctor can tell
you if you’d be a good candidate for this treatment.
Types of lasers and lights used to treat acne
No one laser or light treatment can treat pimples, blackheads,
whiteheads, acne cysts, and acne nodules. That’s why different types of
lasers and light therapies are used to treat acne. The following
explains what the different types of lasers and lights can — and cannot —
• Blue, red, and blue + red light devices: Called visible light because
you can see the colors, these devices can treat pimples. Visible light
is not effective against blackheads, whiteheads, acne cysts, or nodules.
• At-home devices: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
approved some visible light LED devices (blue, red, and blue + red light
devices) for at-home use. These devices are less powerful than the ones
a dermatologist uses. As stated above, visible light can only treat
There is no way to know who will see results. If you want to
give it a try, you’ll need to use an at-home device twice a day. Some
devices you need to use for 30 to 60 minutes, twice a day for four to
• Infrared light: The FDA has approved this type of light to treat
pimples, including those that develop on the back. Infrared light cannot
treat blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, or nodules.
• Photodynamic therapy (PDT): During PDT, a solution that makes the
skin more sensitive to light is applied to acne-prone skin. The solution
must sit on the skin for a while — between 15 minutes and three hours.
Next, a dermatologist uses a laser or light device to treat the skin.
PDT therapy shows great promise in helping to treat severe
acne. Some patients who had acne cysts have been clear for years after
receiving PDT from a dermatologist.
• Photopneumatic therapy: This treatment combines an intense pulsed
light (IPL) laser with a gentle vacuum. It works by removing excess oil
and dead skin cells from clogged pores. It is FDA-approved to treat
blackheads, whiteheads, and some pimples. It cannot treat acne nodules