Beaming Complexions: Lasers Revolutionize Acne Treatment

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions, especially among teens, and there has been a plethora of treatments over the years. From old-fashioned remedies to cosmetic treatments and drug therapies, it has been an unremitting battle.

If you are a sufferer of chronic acne, you know all about the endless fight for a clear complexion. This condition is not isolated to the halls of high school, many adults deal with it throughout their lives. If you have tried other options unsuccessfully, there is promise in high tech solutions.

There have been several studies on the causes of acne, most concluding that hormones and excessive oil production are the underlying triggers to outbreaks. Acne occurs when the body produces an excessive amount of oil and dead skin. When these combine in the hair follicle, it can solidify and become clogged. Complications from acne can occur when bacteria is present, causing inflammation and infection.

Stress is often suggested as a major player in causing acne. In a Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center study, experts studied the effects of stress on acne, investigating if stress leads to increased facial oil secretion, which then causes acne.

According to Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, the study's lead author and professor of dermatology, the results showed that the oil secretions did not increase in patients during times of stress. In fact, oil production did not differ much at all between those under high stress and low stress situations.

For some, old fashioned or natural remedies might still be the answer.

Most natural treatments advise maintaining general good health by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, drinking lots of water to rid the body of impurities, and getting adequate rest.

The newest treatment options for acne sufferers involve cutting edge technology - with promising results. New techniques are treating not only the acne, but also any resulting scars. Using lasers, these procedures target overactive sebaceous (oil) glands with light and heat, altering how the gland functions.

There are different types of laser therapies including:

-- Blue light therapy - This uses a low intensity blue light source. It generally takes a series of painless, 15-minute sessions. This clears acne for a prolonged period of time, however ongoing treatment is necessary because acne bacteria multiplies rapidly in our bodies.

-- Pulsed light and heat energy therapy - A combination of pulsed light and heat is used to shrink sebaceous glands thereby decreasing oil production. The Mayo Clinic website notes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a treatment using green-yellow light and heat to treat mild-moderate acne.

-- Diode laser treatment - This treatment destroys sebaceous glands in the thick middle layer of the skin without harming the outer layer of skin. Treatments can be mildly painful, but pain medications are typically given before the procedure.

Laser treatments are also finding their way into homes. The FDA has approved medical devices for home use that uses technology similar to what a dermatologist would use. These devices, which cost around $150, 'zap' acne by sending a burst of heat to the affected area killing the underlying bacteria causing the acne.

Although the FDA has approved laser devices for acne treatment in the home, patients are still advised to seek out a qualified physician to perform the procedure.

Doctor prescribed laser and light treatments can be expensive, ranging upwards from $500 a session and requiring several sessions.

Unfortunately, insurance does not always cover the cost. Dermatologists suggest that these are not first time treatment options, and should only be considered when other treatments have failed. The known side effects are minimal but can include redness, swelling and irritation.

Although laser procedures have been used for years for acne scarring, their use for controlling acne itself is considered a major breakthrough according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Effects have been positive to date, but continuing studies involving a larger population need to be done to ensure safety and determine long-term effectiveness.

Mild or occasional acne can usually be treated with less drastic measures using over-the-counter medications, but for those afflicted with a serious condition, these new treatments are worth investigating.

You can read more about new laser and light acne treatments by clicking on the following resources:

American Journal of Medicine

American Academy of Dermatology

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center writer Karen Gifford contributed to this report.

Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.