Lasers

Phototherapy

Laser treatment sessions are typically done in a medical setting under the supervision of a dermatologist. Different types of lasers, including pulsed dye laser (PDL), potassium titanyl phosphate (KTP) laser, infrared laser are used. 

  • Available forms:

    • For acne treatment, a type of laser called a non-ablative laser is used. Non-ablative lasers are do not remove the top layer of the skin like ablative lasers do. Non-ablative lasers can be non-fractional (illuminate the entire treated area) and fractional (illuminate only “pinpoints” of the treated area in a grid pattern). 

Dosing information:

The frequency and duration of laser treatment vary, but series of 3 to 8 sessions performed once every 2 to 4 weeks is somewhat typical. 

  • Who is it for?

    • Gender:
      • Males and females
    • Severity of acne:
      • Mild to severe
    • Age:
      • Children of 12 years and older, adolescents, and adults
    • Other:
      • Laser treatment is one of the major alternative acne treatments for pregnant or lactating females.

Important! Any form of light treatment, including laser treatment, may reduce your levels of folic acid, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you start laser treatment.

How to use it:

Laser treatment is usually performed in a medical setting. Your doctor or nurse will cleanse your skin to prepare it for the procedure. Sometimes, a topical anesthetic can be applied. Other than that, no specific preparation is usually required. 

People who have undergone laser treatment often compare what they feel during the procedure to a rubber band snapping against the skin. It is possible that you will also feel some pain. A typical session lasts for less than an hour. 

Limit exposure to direct sunlight in-between sessions. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, especially if you tend to get sunburned easily. Cover your skin while outside and do not apply anything that can amplify the effects of light onto your skin (e.g. cosmetics containing alpha-hydroxy acids).

Be aware of: 

  • Before starting laser treatment, inform your doctor if you have done dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, chemical peeling, or any form of light treatment, including light therapy, photodynamic therapy, and laser resurfacing in the past. 
  • Before starting laser treatment, tell your doctor if your skin scars or bruises easily or if you have ever developed keloid (raised) scars.
  • Before starting laser treatment, let your doctor know if you have or had cold sores. 
  • In many people, the skin continues to clear after the treatment is discontinued. You will likely see the best results several weeks or even months after the final session. 
  • Before starting laser treatment, be sure your doctor knows about any prescription and non-prescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are using/taking or have used/taken. Mention them even if it seems irrelevant to you and even if you haven’t taken these for a while.
  • Before starting laser treatment, inform your doctor if you are sensitive to light or sunburn easily.
  • If you consider laser treatment and are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, talk to your physician about laser treatment during pregnancy.
  • If you consider laser treatment and are breastfeeding, talk to your physician about chemical peels during this period.
  • You can continue your regular diet unless your physician recommends otherwise.
  • Laser treatment is usually not covered by the insurance. 

Drug interactions: 

Inform your physician or pharmacist about all the prescription and non-prescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take before your first light therapy session. Tell your doctor if you have taken isotretinoin, oral antibiotics, oral contraceptives, steroids, or NSAIDs within the last several months because these medications may render your skin more sensitive to light. In the case of isotretinoin, if you have taken it within the past year, you may be advised against light therapy.

References
  1. Aad.org. (2018). Lasers and lights: How well do they treat acne? [online] Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/lasers-and-lights-how-well-do-they-treat-acne. [Accessed 07 July. 2019].
  2. Tsoukas, M., Adya, K., Inamadar, A. & Pei, S. Light-based therapies in acne treatment. Indian Dermatology Online Journal 6, 145 (2015).
  3. Hamilton, F. L. et al. Laser and other light therapies for the treatment of acne vulgaris: systematic review. British Journal of Dermatology 160, 1273–1285 (2009).