Although acne itself doesn’t always lead to scarring, the picking, scratching and squeezing of acne can cause permanent damage. The good news is that laser for acne scars is one treatment that can minimize their appearance.
The two primary categories of laser used on depressed acne are ablative (also referred to as resurfacing) and non-ablative.
Ablative lasers are the most traditionally used but also the most potentially harmful. These types of lasers literally destroy the outer layers of the skin. They burn away scar tissue which triggers the dermal collagen to tighten. This in turn reduces the amount of scar visibility. This treatment causes the affected area to be very red, sensitive, and painful until the skin fully heals. And full healing can take anywhere from several months up to a year so it is important to take care of the wounded area and take measures to prevent infection. This is done with soaks, antibiotic ointment, and dressings. The skin that does grow back lacks acne scars or wrinkles. The ultrapulsed carbon dioxide laser and erbium YAG laser are most often used in laser resurfacing.
Nonablative lasers, in contrast, do no damage to the the outer layer of skin. Instead, they diminish acne scars by stimulating collegen growth. While ablative laser treatment only needs to be done one time, the nonablative laser for acne scars must be repeated. Smoothbeam is the one of the newest FDA approved laser for this treatment. This targets and heats the sebaceous gland to reduce sebum which can lead to acne formation. When the collagen is heated, the dermis tightens and scarring is less visible.
Raised acne scars (called keloids & hypertrophic scars) require a different type of laser: the pulsed dye laser (PDL). Treatment with a PDL can help reduce the itch and pain, diminish the color, and flatten a raised scar. The PDL involves the use of a concentrated beam of light that targets blood vessels in the skin. The light converts to heat and destroys the blood vessel while leaving the surrounding skin undamaged. The laser is considered especially safe because it uses yellow light which results in no long-term skin damage. PDL treatments usually take only a few minutes and no anesthesia is required. Improving the appearance hypertrophic scars or keloids may take take multiple appointments. Although minimal, the most common side effect of this type of treatment is bruising. However, this usually clears within 3-10 days. Temporary pigmentary changes may also occur but they generally last only a few weeks. At least one month before getting treated with a PDL laser, you should apply Sunblock to the affected area. Tanned skin actually blocks the light of the laser and increases the chances of side effects. Scarring is extremely rare with this laser.
The above information about laser for acne scars does not substitute medical advice given by a health professional.