Laser treatments for acne and acne scaring

If you’re considering treatment other than medications or topical creams and gels for your acne, then you may have read about laser treatments for acne. 

Laser treatment for acne isn’t usually used as a first line treatment. Instead, it’s usually used if other treatments haven’t proved effective. Some laser treatments help to reduce spots and outbreaks, whilst others help to reduce visible acne scarring. 

The treatment is only ever performed by a medical professional or fully trained therapist in an appropriate medical setting. 

Here’s our round up of how laser treatments for acne and acne scarring work and how well they might work for you.

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How is Laser Treatment Good for Acne?

Laser treatment for acne works in a similar way to light treatments for acne. Lasers target the skin with concentrated beams of light. When this light hits the skin, the theory is that it activates a group of substances called porphyrins. 

Porphyrins are harmless to us, but are toxic to the bacteria that cause acne, therefor reducing acne breakouts caused by bacteria. Acne laser treatments also penetrate deep into the skin where the sebaceous glands are. The laser can then help to shrink these glands, meaning that they produce less sebum which is a major contributing cause of acne. 

Finally, laser acne therapies can help to reduce inflammation and scarring.

The Best Laser Treatments for Acne Spots

Laser treatments for acne spots are generally only used in cases of mild to moderate acne. They don’t tend to be effective in severe cases of active, cystic acne. 

There are different types of lasers used to treat acne spots. Each tends to work on a different wavelength of light within the laser beam to penetrate the skin in different ways and at different levels. 

Pulsed Dye Laser (PDL) Treatment for acne

This kind of laser helps to improve skin that has been made red and inflamed by acne. It can also be used to target the bacteria that causes acne breakouts.

Laser treatment for acne scars

Laser treatments for acne scarring vary and tend to be used in cases of mild to moderate scarring. Lasers cannot fix pits or craters on the skin left behind by acne, they can only reduce the redness associated with mild or moderate acne.

Ablative laser treatment for acne

Ablative lasers target the skin that surrounds acne scars to remove, or ablate it, leaving behind smoother skin.

Non-ablative laser treatment for acne

Non-ablative lasers are used to promote the production of collagen that helps to plump out the skin. This helps to repair scar tissue damage and improve skin texture.

fraxel laser treatment for acne

Fraxel lasers also help to stimulate the production of collagen to help improve the appearance of mild to moderate acne scarring. Fraxel lasers can be ablative or non-ablative.

co2 laser treatment for acne scarring

Carbon dioxide lasers remove the top few layers of skin and produce similar results (smoother, less wrinkled skin with a more even tone) to chemical peels. They are used to help treat mild acne scarring and redness but can only be used on skin without active acne spots.

erbium yttrium-aluminium-garnet acne laser treatment

The Erbium:YAG acne treatment is a type of laser resurfacing to reduce the appearance of acne scarring. It fires crystals at the skin using lasers and creates heat as it does so. This heat targets skin cells that have become scarred through acne and helps to eliminate them. It’s a high precision technique for skin resurfacing and is less invasive than other methods such as chemical peels and dermabrasion. 

PDL technology is often also combined with Yttrium-Aluminium-Garnet technologies to target acne spots and reduce the amount of sebum the sebaceous glands produce.

alexandrite laser treatment for acne scarring

these lasers use a gemstone called Alexandrite to assist the laser. They’re usually used to help treat areas of skin that have become darkened or ‘hyper pigmented’. Their use is sometimes touted as an effective treatment for acne scarring but there is no evidence yet that they work on acne scars.

what parts of the body can laser treatment for acne be used on?

Most acne laser treatments are also suitable as a back acne treatment and for acne on other parts of the body as well as the face.

laser treatment for acne side effects

Side effects from acne laser treatments are rare. In occasional cases, the laser can cause a change in the pigment, or colouring, of the skin. Patches of skin can become lighter or darker. The risk is greater if you have darker skin, but hyperpigmentation will reduce over time. 

Having a suntan before having acne laser treatment can also cause pigmentation changes to the skin. Avoid the sun and sunbeds if you’re planning to have acne laser treatment. 

Other than that, lasers can cause the treated areas of skin to feel a little bruised or look slightly red for a few days. 

Laser treatment can be uncomfortable during a session but the levels of pain should be very minimal.

the cost of acne laser treatment

As with any skin procedure, the cost of acne laser treatment varies. Estimates range from £500 to in excess of £10,000. So it’s important that you do your research and only use a clinic that is registered and licensed to treat acne using lasers. 

If you’re in doubt, speak to your GP about having laser treatment for acne, as they may be able to recommend a local clinic. Laser treatment for acne is only offered on the NHS in extreme cases.

being realistic about acne laser treatments

We understand that if you have acne prone skin and acne scarring, then you’re probably looking for the Holy Grail of treatment. 

In our opinion, laser treatments may work but they’re not a permanent solution. Not for acne spots or for acne scarring. To date, studies show that laser treatments for acne “produce mixed results and have unclear benefits”. Studies are usually carried out on very small cohorts, or groups of people, too. 

Whilst medications, topical ointments and the right skincare can help keep your acne breakouts at bay, acne scarring requires a completely different approach. The NHS says that many people who try laser treatments for acne scarring notice a 50-75% improvement in the appearance of their skin. But this is subjective and isn’t generally permanent. 

You will normally require a course of laser treatments, depending on the severity of your acne. Not all laser treatments for acne or acne scarring will be permanent. How effective laser treatment is for your acne and acne scars will depend on your skin and the extent of your scarring. 

Having realistic expectations about what extent laser treatment can help your skin will help you mentally prepare for the outcome. It’s likely that your skin will improve, but it may not be the ‘perfect’ complexion you’re looking for. 

To support your skin before, during and after sessions of laser treatment, make sure you’re using a skincare regime that’s been developed specifically for acne prone skin.

The Sönd products are formulated for sensitive skin so are suitable to be used with acne prone skin. Find out more about our products here.