Physician's Advice: Lasers and Acne
Now that we have covered the conventional treatments of acne it is time to consider alternative options for those who can not tolerate topical and oral antibiotics. There are a lot of topical acne programs out there. Many designed by dermatologists. The most popular one is Procactive. This one is mild for an over the counter strength system. Its success lies in that it is a system, founded on many of the principles that we have discussed previously. Obagi is another system that is stronger, but is still a system. These alternatives are useful because most adolescents are not patient enough to allow medications to work. They are complex enough to keep the patient entertained until they do work. But now, armed with the knowledge of how these systems work, you can create one of your own.
Lasers are very space age and by their very essence ooze the possibility for success. Lasers have been used for acne and many are FDA approved for this indication. So that means that the FDA has stamped that it works, right? Nope. FDA approves devices for safety, not efficacy. Prescription drugs, however, are approved for efficacy and safety. That’s why your dermatologist’s medication recommendations usually work. In any case, some laser lights have been shown to reduce the population of acne causing bacteria. There is probably some other heat induced change that we do not understand that helps reduce acne, but it will not take the place keeping the pores open and skin exfoliated. Lasers in general are expensive to purchase and operate and are not a very cost productive way to reduce acne as their effects last a few short weeks and the acne will return without further treatment. Although they have show success in treating acne scars after acne has resolved, but more on that later.
There are blue light based systems that have been proven to work and will treat acne in a similar manner but without the large price tag. This is achieved with a machine called a Clearlight. Rather than a laser which is a very concentrated beam of light, the light based systems are more of a light bulb that emit a special wavelength of 405-420 nanometers which has shown to be absorbed by Propionibacterium acnes bacteria responsible for eating the skin's oil and clogging the pores. As it turns out, P. acnes bacteria have the unfortunate luck to be a microscopic bluish color that will absorbs the light and destroy them. The treatment regime consists of 15 minute bi-weekly treatments for a month to achieve this result. In conjunction with an exfoliation routine, these light treatments will result in an 80% reduction of acne over an 8 month period. It offers a wonderful option to those who wish to avoid antibiotics.