Laser Acne Scar Removal

Laser Treatment for Acne Scars

Interested in laser acne scar removal? Laser resurfacing treatments are one of the best methods for getting rid of acne scars. But you have to take your type of scarring into account.

Acne scar laser treatments are especially useful for people with depressed/pitted acne scars, particularly icepick and shallow boxcar scars.

Laser acne scar removal procedures are least effective on deep boxcar scars, and are usually only somewhat effective on rolling acne scars.

Skin resurfacing lasers are also referred to as ablative lasers. The way ablative lasers work is by briefly directing an intense burst of laser energy onto the surface of the skin. This energy heats the tissue of the skin and essentially burns off the top layers of the skin to a precise depth.

The skin then heals over a period of time, as new layers of collagen are produced. New layers of skin gradually form and thus the skin literally resurfaces itself.

There are 2 main types of ablative lasers that are commonly used for laser acne scar removal:

  1. Carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers

  2. Erbium:YAG (Er:YAG) lasers

~ CO2 Lasers

The procedure involves passing the laser over the treatment area 1-3 times in order to remove the top layers of skin so that new skin can form in its place. Local anesthesia is used during the procedure.

The CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser is slightly more powerful than the Er:YAG laser and thus tends to produce somewhat better results. But by the same token, it also comes with more severe side effects, and a longer recovery time.

Such side effects include:

  • Crusting, oozing
  • Hyperpigmentation i.e. darkening of skin
  • Hypopigmentation i.e. lightening of skin (less common than hyperpigmentation)
  • Prolonged redness
  • Eczema
  • Acne
  • Cysts
  • Infection
  • Dilated blood vessels
  • Hypertrophic scarring

The correct post-operative care of the skin is an extremely important factor in determining the success of the procedure. You will need to care for the skin with soaks, antibiotic ointment, and dressings.

The skin is covered with a dressing for 3 days and total healing usually takes around 10-21 days. However, the skin will generally remain pink for 1-3 or more months.

~ Er:YAG Lasers

The Er:YAG laser is similar to the CO2 laser but it was designed to have more mild side effects. Correspondingly, the end result may be somewhat more mild as well.

The side effects are similar to those of CO2 but they are less severe. They include:

  • Oozing
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Hyperpigmentation 3-4 weeks after procedure (which will fade in a few months)
  • Hypopigmentation (skin lightening), but the chances are lower than with the CO2 laser

Redness and swelling are common after this acne scar laser treatment. An ointment is normally applied to the skin to improve healing and the doctor may bandage the skin for up to a week.

Redness from a laser treatment for acne scars can last several weeks and the skin may maintain a pinkish coloration for months afterward.

The price for these acne scar laser treatments is generally $3000-$6000 per treatment.

Non-ablative lasers also exist; however, they are mainly used for skin rejuvenation instead of total skin resurfacing. Non-ablative lasers treat the layers of skin under the surface without affecting the surface too much, thus the results are less obvious than those of the ablative laser.

But because the non-ablative lasers do not cause visible wounds, there is relatively no downtime and many people return to their daily activities immediately after treatment.

There are many non-ablative light machines used in skin care facilities today such as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), Light Heat Energy (LHE) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) systems.

If you have mild acne scarring or hyperpigmentation instead of deep-pitted scars, then non-ablative laser treatments are likely the best choice for you. But it’s important to be aware that a series of treatments is often necessary with these lasers. 

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