Acne Laser Treatment
Laser treatments are the fastest way to deal with scars and hyperpigmentation left behind when acne heals, but can also be beneficial for inflammatory acne. However, it’s not known to be particularly helpful for noninflammatory comedonal acne. The primary benefit of laser therapy, as well as the primary drawback of laser therapy, is that is has very precise effects.
- If you are squeamish about blood, chances are you will prefer laser treatments for acne to microdermabrasion.
- Laser treatments remove scars and pigmentation by heating hemoglobin in the blood in capillaries beneath the skin.
- Heating blood vessels deprives upper layers of skin of oxygen and nutrients so they slough off, giving new healthy skin a chance to replace them.
- The darker your skin, the less likely laser treatment is to be successful.
- The more sensitive your skin, the less likely laser treatment is to be successful.
- Laser therapy always requires multiple visits and never gets rid of 100% of scars or pigmentation. A program of regular skin treatments such as Exposed Skin Care may complete the job started by laser therapy, at much lower cost.
Understanding Acne Scars and How they Form
Acne happens when pores in the skin fill up with dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria. They then eventually become inflamed and burst. When this happens deep within the skin, all that infected gunk spreads among the deeper tissues, resulting in even bigger lesions.
Your body will create collagen to try to repair the damage, which ends up changing the smoothness and the texture of your skin. This could mean depressions and indentations on the skin or excess skin forming. Basically there are two types of scars: hypertropic and atrophic.
Hyptertropic – This type of acne scar happens when too much collagen is produced and results in skin bumps, flaps of skin or ridge-like areas on the skin.
Atrophic – This type is the opposite, tissue is lost during the healing process, resulting in depressions in the skin. Ice pick and boxcar scars are in this category.
Acne occurs when skin pores become filled with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria. The pores becomes inflamed and eventually burst. If the pore wall bursts deeper in the skin, the infected debris leaks into the deep tissues, which creates larger lesions.
How Laser Skin Treatments Work
Lasers produce intense monochromatic light, light that is limited to a very a narrow band of wavelengths. This light has no effect on some substances, and high-intensity effects on others. One setting might heat hemoglobin but have no effect on neighboring skin cells. Another setting might “melt” the melanin that causes deep pigmentation on the skin. A third might vaporize tattoo ink. Dermatologists use lasers to destroy specific substances at specific depths in the skin.
The primary effects of laser light in skin resurfacing are photothermal, heating a particular substance in the skin. The process of using laser to remove blemishes in the skin is known as photothermolysis, the breakdown of selected tissues in the skin. Continuous laser light would destroy tissues surrounding the target as the target tissue heated, so laser skin treatment is usually done with pulsed lasers.
The Pluses and Minuses of Acne Laser Treatments
The tremendous advantage of acne laser treatments over earlier techniques of scar removal was that it was bloodless. Dermabrasion involved mechanically stripping off just the top 25 layers of skin cells down to the “quick,” where blood vessels were found. Regenerative skin cells underneath this layer could then rise to fill in the scar as they replaced the skin.
Dermabrasion left a bloody wound that could easily be infected. Laser treatment, however, worked from the inside out without bleeding and with much lower risk of infection.
The downside of laser treatments for acne has always been that one treatment is never enough to remove a scar. And certain skin types just do not respond very well to laser treatment.
The darker the skin, the more melanin there is to absorb some of the light energy intended for hemoglobin. Skin above the level of the capillaries serving the skin can char and leave an open wound. When the skin grows back, it may be lighter than surrounding skin. The darker the skin, the greater the problem with loss of pigmentation after treatment.
Another problem in laser treatment of black and dark brown skin is that darker skin tends to form tough scars known as keloids. These disfigurements require more treatment than ordinary acne scars, running greater risk of damage to the skin. About 1 in 6 people with black skin and acne will develop keloids that cannot be treated with laser, compared to about in in 20 people with white or Asian skin and acne.
2 Important Tips to Help Prevent Acne Scarring
The best thing to do is avoid scarring all together. If you have acne and are worried about possible scars, there are two simple things to keep in mind that will help.
Don’t Pick – This is probably the hardest thing to do when you have troubling bumps and pimples, but it’s extremely important not to pick at and squeeze them if you don’t want to end up with scars. When you ‘pop’ a whitehead, you’re doing more damage. Inflammation increases and more collagen is lost, which means your skin can’t heal as well it should. It can also lead to bacteria spreading even deeper.
Sun Exposure – It was once widely believed that sun exposure could heal acne. Small amounts of exposure may temporarily help, but not in the long run. In reality, too much direct sun exposure can make acne worse and make it last even longer. Always use sunscreen and protect yourself from sunlight, especially in the middle of the day when sunlight is at its strongest.