Dr. Celine Leong: Is it worth investing in lasers to cure acne?
If you’ve been trying to find a solution for your acne but are actively avoiding the use of lasers for certain reasons like cost or misconceptions about lasers, I urge you to read on!
There’s a good reason why dermatologists and aesthetic doctors include lasers when formulating an acne treatment plan – simply because they work. With that said, not every case will require lasers – skincare, topical and/or oral medication still takes precedence.
What role do lasers play in acne treatment, at what point should you consider levelling up from conservative acne treatment like topicals, and what are the most effective lasers for acne treatment in Singapore?
Let’s find out.
What role do lasers play in acne treatment?
When it comes to acne, lasers do not just reduce inflammation. They work by targeting points in the skin and superheating them to create controlled ‘injuries’ that stimulate the body’s natural healing and renewal processes.
Lasers can also help specific patients with:
- Rosacea, eczema, or sensitive skin: Acne can coexist with these other skin conditions. Certain topical acne treatments may dry out such sensitive skin, dry out the skin, and deplete the healthy skin barrier that protects the skin from further inflammation and infection.
- Darker skin: Those with higher levels of melanin in their skin are prone to developing PIH. Lasers can be a choice treatment for such individuals, as long as the appropriate laser setting is applied.
- Hormonal acne: Due to the surge in progesterone during the second half of the menstrual cycle before the next period, the skin tends to produce more oil and hence one becomes more prone to acne outbreak. I have sometimes timed laser treatments to coincide with patients’ premenstrual periods to prevent or reduce the severity of their hormonal outbreak as the lasers can reduce oil production too.
It is crucial for skin doctors to closely monitor patients’ conditions before commencing treatment. Patients with sensitive skin, for example, might need their dosages or laser frequencies tweaked depending on the state of their skin on the day of treatment.
What are the best lasers for acne treatment in Singapore?
No one laser can treat the whole gamut of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, and everything else in between. This is why different types of laser therapies are used to treat varying forms of acne.
After many successful cases, my colleagues and I have found the following lasers to be the most effective and safest for treating acne:
- Dual Yellow Laser: A non-invasive vascular laser that combines yellow light to effectively reduce inflammation and kill P. acnes bacteria on the skin which causes acne. It is gentle enough to be used on sensitive skin types. Helps with Rosacea and flushing too!
- PicoPlus: A picosecond laser that can be used on different areas of the body. Treats acne marks and scars, pores, freckles, and more.
- Clarity II: A non-ablative, FDA-approved laser that tackles pigmentation, acne marks, signs of ageing, and more.
- Spectra XT: A laser that’s capable of strong fragmentation of melanin, and thus enhances clearance of pigments, acne marks, tattoos, and more.
Are lasers always necessary to treat acne?
Whilst a suitable skincare regime remains the mainstay of acne treatment, lasers can be fundamental in controlling the acne of patients who are unable to take oral medications due to allergies and/or side effects, or who wish to see faster and wider improvements in their skin.
Prompt laser therapy can be crucial in acne treatment, and for various reasons:
- It can help prevent the development of new acne lesions.
- It can help speed up the healing process for patients who have old acne marks from previous breakouts — PIH could take months to clear.
- Lasers can help skin improve more holistically, and is complementary to other forms of treatment such as oral medicines and topical creams.
- Laser treatment can be especially efficacious for acne marks on the body (e.g. bacne, chest acne), which take longer to fade than facial marks.
Should I wait it out before opting for laser treatment?
Often, patients who desire acne treatment do so in preparation for a big day or life change, such as an important job interview, or a wedding.
Take a patient of mine who was a bride-to-be. She was concerned about her intermittent acne that was worsened by the stress from her wedding preparations. With just a few months to get her acne in control, we incorporated topical treatment, oral medication, and lasers so that her skin would look flawless and acne-free for her big day.
However, she was lucky she came to me early enough.
Considering that the skin’s renewal cycle on the body takes two to three months on average, and the facial skin renewal cycle takes roughly a month, you shouldn’t delay acne treatment, especially with milestone events on the horizon.
And even if you’re not racing against time to clear your acne, do not forget that moderate to severe acne can leave you with prolonged or permanent acne scarring.
Scars can be difficult to treat and thus, prevention is always better. Let’s also not forget that with age, our skin renewal cycle slows down further.
So no – do not wait!
What are some of the potential side effects of lasers?
One concern many patients have about lasers is that they involve burning or thinning the skin. This is a huge misconception — Laser technology has advanced tremendously since the early days of ablative* CO2 lasers.
Now, non-ablative lasers that do not burn the skin surface are able to stimulate skin renewal in the long run without thinning out the skin. The key is to prescribe gentle lasers for sensitive skin types.
That said, there are possible risks and side effects of laser treatments. At low settings used for acne treatment, complications are very rare. Even if they do occur, most of them are mild and self-abating. They include:
- Pain at the site of treatment
*Ablative vs. Non-Ablative: The main difference lies in the different levels of invasiveness. The former removes the top layer of skin, while the latter works by heating up the underlying skin tissue without harming the surface.
What results can I expect with laser treatment for acne?
Realistically, you can expect to see results about six to eight weeks after treatment, though this largely depends on the severity of your acne. Patients will also find that their new acne lesions are less inflamed, and fewer in number.
Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to drop me a message and I’ll be happy to help.
- Lasers and lights: How well do they treat acne? (n.d.). Www.aad.org. Retrieved August 29, 2022, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/derm-treat/lasers-lights#:~:text=Most%20people%20see%20clearing%2C%20but
- ALAM, M., & WARYCHA, M. (2011). Complications of lasers and light treatments. Dermatologic Therapy, 24(6), 571–580. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1529-8019.2012.01476.x