The Pros And Cons Of Laser Treatment For Acne

Are you skeptical about getting laser treatment for your acne scars? Here are the pros and cons you should read before going in for laser treatment.

By Amanda Palmer
The Pros And Cons Of Laser Treatment For Acne

The Ugly Acne Scars

Acne can be the biggest nightmare for a person not only because they make one look unsightly but also because they are extremely painful. Acne occurs because of some factors like hormonal imbalance, hereditary factors, stress and lifestyle-related problems. While following a healthy diet may lessen the occurrence of acne, it might not necessarily eradicate it. There are many myths related to acne, and some of them are that wrong food habits like chocolates, pickles and spices cause acne. But that is not true. Acne erupts on anyone who is genetically prone to it. Sometimes, acne hits a person as soon as they hit puberty but these settle down on their own eventually. Teenage acne should not be a major concern and should not be treated aggressively. What becomes a matter of concern is when the acne continues much after you become an adult, and the severity and occurrence increases. Many times, acne leaves ugly scars on the skin which take forever to heal. Sometimes, these scars become permanent, making one's skin look spotty and bad. There are some natural treatments to reduce the severity of acne and some over the counter medications available to reduce the appearance of acne. Over-the-counter prescriptions are best followed under a physician's advice. The natural treatments include: * yoga and meditation to relieve stress * 8 glasses of water every day * healthy and balanced diet * moderate exercise for about 30 minutes every day * weekly exfoliating your skin with a mild facewash * eating a healthy diet inclusive of greens, whole grains, and fruits. * Avoid processed food and sugar * use of astringents on your skin pores to close them after exfoliating Even after making the above changes if your acne does not budge, then probably, your dermatologist would advise you the following remedies: * retinol creams for topical application * salicylic acid/ benzoyl peroxide for topical application * birth control pills if you have an active sex life and if your acne is hormonal * serums and lotions containing powerful skin anti-oxidants and vitamins * certain other anti-inflammatory medicines If your acne has somewhat reduced with these medications and you are now worried about those ugly acne scars, then remember you do not have to live with it. Modern technology and science have made great progress, and today we have different types of laser treatments to remove acne scars from the skin and render them smooth and flawless. The cost factor of the laser treatments depends on the type of laser treatment chosen and the severity of the scars. Further in this article, we shall read about the types of laser treatments available in the market, the cost of each type of treatment and also the pros and cons of laser treatment for acne scars.

Different treatments available for acne scars

Acne scars are usually formed as a result of inflamed skin blemishes which are caused by clogged skin pores. These pores are clogged with excess oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells. The bacteria thriving inside causes the pores to swell thereby breaking the follicle wall. Some of these lesions are shallow and heal quickly, but some are deep resulting in deep scars. Apart from the natural treatments and doctor prescribed topical application creams, there are some other treatments available in the market today which are effective in removing the acne scars: * Dermal Injections - This is an excellent treatment for those suffering from shallow acne scars. Dermal injections are administered by certified cosmetologists or dermatologists. The filler substances used in the injections vary from quantity to quality depending upon the cost factor and the requirement. Some dermal fillers stimulate the skin cells to produce more collagen which helps to smoothen the skin surface. Dermal injections show quick results, but these results are temporary and last up to 3 to 12 months only.   * Subcision - When a scar is formed, the nearby ares form fibrous bands around the scar tissue. Subcision is a kind of minimally invasive surgery in which a dermatologist undermines the scar with the help of a sharp instrument like a scalpel to cut the tension formed between the outer and lower layers of the skin responsible for causing the indentation. This process of subcutaneous incisional surgery is particularly done for the treatment of some very rigid and deep scars. * Chemical Peels - Chemical peels can be easily done at home under the guidance of an experienced esthetician. It is one of the most common treatments used for acne scars. A gentle acid is applied on the surface of the skin. The higher the level of acidity, the further the acid would penetrate into the skin. Chemical peels cause the underlying layer of healthy skin cells to rise thereby reducing the indentation. * Punch Grafts - Some acne scars are really small and appear as irregular, jagged borders. Dermatologists can treat these scars with a sutured closure. This closure joins the separated portions of the skin, effectively reducing closing the gaping hole into a fine line. Later, to further remove the appearance of the incision scar, a resurfacing procedure is done to make the skin appear flawless. * Laser Treatments - Laser treatments are gaining a lot of popularity these days because of their non-invasive technique. Laser sessions are quick and can be divided into a series of sessions ranging from 3 to 8 depending on the severity of the scars. These cause less discomfort and minimal healing time. In this treatment, a pulse of intense light is shot by a laser pen, which penetrates deep into the skin's layers. This light stimulates the collagen production by the skin, increases the cell renewal process and also firms up the skin. There are four types of laser acne treatments available today: fractional laser treatment, carbon dioxide laser treatment, pixilation and erbium laser treatment. These have to be administered by a licensed cosmetologist or a dermatologist. * Dermabrasion - Dermabrasion was quite popular for the treatment of acne scars before the advent of laser treatment. In this procedure, the skin is frozen, numbed and then exposed to a rotating and sharp blade when slowly sands off the top layer of the scarred skin.

Laser Treatment for acne scars

Laser treatments are very cost-effective ways to deal with acne scars and hyperpigmentation. There are least side effects of this procedure, it is minimally invasive and gives quick results. Laser treatment is also quite beneficial for inflammatory acne. Laser treatment is not effective on non-inflammatory comedonal acne. Other treatments, like microdermabrasion, result in some blood loss and are painful. Laser treatments are painless and there is no oozing of blood in this technique. The main idea behind penetration of light inside the skin is that the laser light heats the hemoglobin in the blood in the capillaries under the skin. When these blood vessels get heated up, they deprive upper layers of the skin of necessary oxygen and nutrients and so they eventually die thereby giving space for new and healthy skin cells to replace them. Laser treatment is more successful on lighter skin and on skin that is not very sensitive. Although one may not get rid of their scars 100%, their appearance will greatly reduce in a number of sittings. It is the best treatment for removal of stubborn scars. It is a revolutionary and non-invasive technique which is slowly gaining momentum owing to its fast results and non-painful procedure. The light that is penetrated is a micro-fine laser light shot in short pulses which gets in deep into the skin's top surface. The damaged tissue is swept off quickly by the body's natural healing process, and the new skin with a boost of collagen appears. The simple procedure takes less than 40 minutes and gives quick results. One may have to go in for the laser treatment sessions over a period of two months to effectively diminish the scars. The skin appears rejuvenated and flawless without any side effects. Laser scar treatment also works on sun-damaged skin.

How do the laser treatments work on the skin?

Lasers produce strong monochromatic light. Monochromatic light is limited to a narrow band of wavelengths. This light has zero effect on few substances and major effects on others. On administering this laser light in one setting, it might heat the hemoglobin but will not affect neighboring skin cells. Another setting of the laser light might effectively “melt” the melanin that causes pigmentation on the skin. A third setting of the laser light might vaporize the tattoo ink. Dermatologists use laser light to destroy specific substances at specific depths in the skin, and hence it is effective in removal of acne scars too.

Different types of laser techniques

Laser treatment for acne scars and hyperpigmentation was first introduced in dermatologist's clinics in 1980. Initially, early continuous wave neodymium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd: YAG) laser was used to heat the basal layer underneath the skin to diminish the collagen production. This caused the tissues above the treated layer of the skin to get charred and slough off. The new skin then grew back without scars or pigmentation. These scars always returned after a year of the treatment with this early kind of laser. Later, in the 1990's, a new type of laser called the vascular-specific 585-nm pulsed dye laser (PDL) was introduced. This laser when administered on the skin, targeted on hemoglobin. PDL also did not disturb the topmost layer of the skin. The hemoglobin in the blood underneath the skin where the PDL was shot, was only heated. This also prevented the skin above the blood vessels from charring. This technique proved to be very effective on the acne scars. Another laser treatment called carbon dioxide laser ablation also proved to be very effective and was used to remove the overgrowth of the skin tissue on the top of the scars. Doctors had to make sure that while using laser therapy, the immune system of the body did not send white blood cells to destroy the dead skin tissues as this would result in the formation of the scars all over again. To avoid that, steroid creams were applied after the treatment to prevent swelling and malformation of new skin. There are different types of laser treatments for acne scars. A therapist will decide upon the type of treatment required. One also does not require to apply local anesthesia or gels. * Frazel Laser: This is a non-ablative treatment which does not vaporize any skin tissue. It heats the tissue columns with laser energy. This heat stimulates new collagen production in the skin. * Carbon Dioxide Lasers: This is a newer treatment which provides better results as compared to Fraxel laser treatment. In this process, carbon dioxide laser emits bursts of high-energy laser light in short pulses to vaporize the scarred tissue. The healing period in this treatment ranges from 3 to 10 days. * Fractional laser treatment: This is by far the best treatment for acne scars. In this treatment, only the affected area is treated, and the rest of the skin is spared. In this process, one can notice faster healing of the skin and collagen production. * Pixilation: Pixel is the latest laser treatment. In this procedure, tiny pin-sized laser points are applied on the affected areas while the rest of the skin is left untouched. * Active Fx and Deep Fx: The active Fx laser light targets the superficial skin while the Deep Fx laser targets the deeper skin.

Pros of Laser Treatment for acne scars

There are plenty advantages of laser treatment for acne scars: * Bloodless: Earlier practices of dermabrasion involved mechanically stripping off the top layer of the skin down to where blood vessels were found. This resulted in a lot of blood which could be easily infected too. Laser treatment gave results without bleeding and with much lower side effects. * The advantage of laser treatment for acne scar is also that it works in harmony with the structure of the skin tissue. * Laser acne scar treatment is a safer alternative to harsh chemical peels, glycolic acid, punch excision and strong surgical lasers. The frequency of laser treatment is every one to two weeks. * It gives quick results * Requires minimum healing time and the person can resume routine life within two or three days of the treatment.

Cons of laser treatment for acne scars

No treatment is perfect, and laser treatment has its own side effects also. The cons of laser treatment are: * Requires a number of sessions to effectively remove a scar. * Certain skin types do not respond to the laser treatment. * It is not very effective on dark skin as the darker the skin, the more melanin it has to absorb the laser light which was only intended for the hemoglobin. The skin can char sometimes leaving an open wound. The new skin which later grows back is lighter colored leaving mismatched skin tone. * Laser treatment when done on dark skin leads to the formation of tough scars known as keloids. Keloids are very tough to treat and cannot be treated with laser. * Very high-intensity laser treatment results in severe side effects at times such as burning eventually resulting in oozing, swelling, cyst and dilated blood vessels. * The treated acne scars may sometimes have blood spotting which may take about a week to heal. * Inconsistent laser treatment may also cause other side effects like eczema, acne, cyst and saggy skin. * It is not as cost effective as some other treatments as a person requires at least three sessions for effective treatment.

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Avoid scarring due to acne in the first place

One needs to go in for such acne scar removal procedures only if the scars are very prominent and deep. But there are certain steps in which one can reduce the formation of scars in the first place: * Always wash your face twice every day. One can effectively prevent acne breakout from spreading by keeping your face clean. * Never pick or squeeze at pimples. Squeezing acne forcibly will lead to scar formation. Do not touch the skin if there is an acne breakout as you might unknowingly spread the bacteria to other areas of your face. * Avoid exposing your skin to the sun and always wear sunblock while going out as the sun's harmful UV rays damage the skin and increases the appearance of the scars.


Laser treatment for acne is expensive, and one might need up to 10 sessions to have the scars diminish completely. Before going for any costly laser treatments, try healing your scars with topical application creams and other natural treatments.