Laser acne: Your answers to the treatments and procedure

Everything you need to know about laser treatments for acne skin

By Hana O.
Laser acne: Your answers to the treatments and procedure

About acne laser treatment

No, it doesn’t just occur during our teenage years when we were angsty alongside our skin. Acne is a problem no matter the age because it is usually based on genetics, hormones and our environment. What’s worse is that while it is tempting to push and pick and pop, we must not take matters into our own hands (literally) at all costs. 

Acne happens when dead skin cells, oil and bacteria fill up our pores leading to inflammation and irritation. This infection spreads under and across our skin and through deeper tissues. 


When this happens, our bodies will create collagen to try to repair the damage by altering the texture and smoothness of our skin. The results can usually lead to other things besides our skin going back to normal. Depressions and craters or excess skin may form as an effect of acne.


The term LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, meaning it is an intense pulse of light radiation that can be manipulated and focused on specific targets. The heat energy from laser gets absorbed by the skin and has the ability to stimulate growth or cause destruction.

Laser treatments are considered to be the fastest way to deal with the scars and hyperpigmentation left behind by acne when they have healed. This method can also be used for inflammatory acne. Laser treatments have very precise effects which can be seen as a benefit or drawback depending on preference. 


So how exactly do laser treatments work? The process basically uses highly concentrated light to target bacteria that cause acne breakouts. Common to laser hair removals, laser acne treatments also use Intense Pulse Light Therapy or IPL to shock and disperse the bacteria.


Acne treatments have the ability to shrink sebaceous glands resulting in less oil production and eventually acne breakouts. This treatment being used in conjunction with laser skin resurfacing can also remove scars caused by acne by stimulating the skin’s collagen to start recovery.

Pros and cons of acne laser treatments


  • For those who are squeamish to pimple-popping, blood-squirting derma sessions, laser treatments is a better option. There will be no blood involved in this procedure.
  • It is a quick and somewhat painless procedure. One session usually lasts a couple of hours but the actual time exposed to the laser is only a few minutes.
  • Acne laser treatments will give results rapidly. After two or three sessions, you can already see visible improvements on the skin.
  • The procedure destroys acne-causing bacteria, something that is very difficult for topical solutions to do.
  • Laser treatments can destroy the sebaceous glands that produce oil which leads to the clogging of pores and eventually acne. 
  • These treatments do not use chemicals nor synthetic additives that may cause allergic reactions to sensitive skin.


  • Acne laser treatments cannot be completed with one session alone. The bigger the area to fix, the more sessions will be needed.
  • People with a darker skin tone will not really benefit from this option in acne removal. This is because darker skin means more melanin to absorb the light energy coming from the laser. Once the IPL has taken effect and the damaged skin removed, the replacement skin might be lighter than the original due to the loss of pigmentation.
  • Laser treatments are expensive and normally not covered by insurance. Each session may cost between $200 to $1500 depending on the severity of the case and this may be repeated up to 10 times.
  • These treatments aren’t as readily available and accessible compared to topical treatments. Not all dermatologist clinics contain state of the art laser equipment to address people’s needs.

The procedure, before and after of acne laser treatments

Before the actual session, patients are usually advised to start a skin care routine that will help even out dark spots and prevent new ones in order to prep the skin for the procedure. This is done by properly cleansing, using an antioxidant serum and diligently using sunscreen.


At each appointment, a machine that looks like a barcode reader in supermarkets will be used on the face. A strong concentrated light will pulse on the area and this will be absorbed by the skin. From there, the darkened pigments are broken down and they become ready to be properly disposed by the body.


Immediately after a session, it is normal to experience pain. Some patients with severe cases of acne will feel pain even after 2-3 days from the appointment. There will be redness and swelling as well and the skin will feel dry and sensitive. It is common that the more acne present, the more pain will be felt.

Over the course of 9-10 months, it is advised to have at least 5-6 sessions for better results. After that, an occasional touch-up every few months to continue rebalancing acne-prone skin. These touch-up sessions will ensure a glowing complexion, continuous collagen production and keep acne away.


While there might be some repeated pain involved in the path of acne laser treatments, not to mention its expensive cost, the results are truly visible. These treatments have been proven to be highly effective in treating acne breakouts.

Acne scar laser treatments

Other may not be facing an acne breakout, but they might have some scars that serve as a remembrance of the past when acne was present. Fortunately, there are also laser treatments that specialize in reducing acne scars.


It is a fact that acne scars cannot be completely removed and a laser treatment is no exception; however, these treatments can effectively minimize a scar’s appearance and thickness.


There are many types of acne scar laser treatments such as:

1. Laser resurfacing or ablative laser

This involves the removal or vaporization of the outer layer of skin and the elimination of the damaged skin in that area. Both epidermis and dermis layers are targeted during this procedure.

Laser resurfacing is highly effective for those with severe atrophic scars.

2. Non-ablative laser resurfacing

Non-ablative lasers target only the dermis and do not vaporize the skin but rather remodels connective tissue. While these are not as effective compared to ablative lasers they are safer which makes this treatment more popular.


Through the use of infrared heat lasers, the inner layer of the skin is injured and collagen is destroyed. This causes the skin to stimulate the healing and remodeling process to replace the damaged skin cells. Pulsed dye laser (PDL) and Intense Pulse Light (IPL) fall in this category.


This procedure is best for treating red or pigmented and mild scars.

3. Fractionated laser resurfacing

In the middle of ablative and non-ablative laser treatments lie fractional laser resurfacing. This method includes the precise administration of thousands of tiny laser beams into a specific target. The treatment areas are called microthermal treatment zones (MTZs).


The laser energy is then absorbed by the skin cells which cause a transformation in the MTZs while leaving the surrounding areas untouched.  During this treatment, the body is forced to create collagen and new skin cells in order to heal the damaged area.

Safety during treatment procedure

Laser treatment for acne scars is an outpatient medical procedure and can only be performed by a board-certified dermatologist.


There will be side effects depending on the severity of the acne breakout or scars. These include pain, redness, and swelling. The effects are usually gone in a couple of days.


People who are light sensitive are not advised to take this procedure.


Those with darker skin complexion are usually asked to refrain from acne laser treatments because it is less likely to be successful as well as the risk of adverse skin reactions occurring.


No sun exposure before and after for four to six weeks because UV rays will cancel out the laser’s effects.


It is a fact that stress and hormones can cause an acne breakout and when it happens it is a huge confidence downer. To regain that confidence, there are many options to choose from such as topical and laser treatments.


For those who do not have the luxury of waiting for effects but with the budget to spend on a quick fix with faster results, then the second option is for you. Otherwise, serums, moisturizers, and cleansers, which may be homemade or store-bought is the way to go.

Do take note that laser treatments are not the final answer for acne nor its scars. It is a procedure that can never make the skin perfect, but it is effective in improving the skin’s condition.



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