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Laser Surgery for Acne Scars

Discussion in 'Dermatology' started by Hala, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. Hala

    Hala Golden Member Verified Doctor

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    Got acne? If you've ever suffered from acne, you know how painful it can be to live with this condition. Laser acne removal can help treat acne and remove acne scarring when other treatments do not work. Most people will respond to creams and medications, but an unlucky few will require a more invasive treatment.

    Laser acne removal will kill the P. acnes bacteria that gets trapped in the pore. Once the bacteria dies, the oil-producing glands are shrunk in a second phase of treatment. This causes the glands to produce less oil, thus preventing future breakouts. According to the Mayo Clinic, laser treatment should only be used when creams and antibiotics do not work.

    Laser acne removal can also include acne scars. When using a laser on the skin, it stimulates collagen production. This fills the scars from the inside of the skin to the outside. Any discoloration of the skin is removed using a treatment similar to that of removing excess pigment elsewhere on the body.

    Before a Laser Treatment

    If you've decided to pursue laser therapy to manage your acne and improve the look of your skin, make sure you aren't using products before your sessions that could harm or damage your skin. If you have moderate to severe acne, your skin is probably also very sensitive, and you need to be very careful about the types of products you use and things you do before you undergo treatment.

    Protect Your Skin Outdoors

    Avoid direct sunlight. Wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen to protect your skin when you're outdoors. Stick with a sunscreen designed for sensitive skin so that you don't aggravate acne sores or pimples.

    Avoid Exfoliating Products

    Anything that contains glycolic acid or other exfoliating ingredients will make your skin too sensitive to the laser and you might have to wait a few weeks for your skin to turnover before you can get the treatment. You definitely don't want to get a chemical peel before a laser treatment. Make sure you're only using products designed for sensitive skin types for at least a week prior to your first laser acne treatment. Your skin may not respond well if it's been overexfoliated or irritated in any way.

    Skip Salicylic Acid and Medicated Products

    Acne products that contain salicylic acid are very irritating to the skin and you will need to discontinue use of any products with this ingredient before laser therapy. Even basic acne cleansers like Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser, $10, amazon.com, can be too harsh on skin that is about to undergo a laser acne treatment. Stick with very mild cleansers and facial washes so you don't aggravate your skin.

    Laser Treatment Recovery

    To make recovery easier and faster, you'll need to listen to your doctor's advice. If you don't take care of your skin after the procedure, chances are recovery time could be longer or less successful. Here are some tips for making recovery easier for you and your skin.

    Clean Daily

    After routine laser surgery, the affected area is usually covered with dressing for about a day. The dressing is then removed. Traditionally, the affected areas are cleaned two to five times a day with a special solution, which helps improve healing. To ensure speedy recovery, doctors recommend these solutions:

    Saline solution.

    A diluted vinegar solution.

    After cleaning the affected area, doctors recommend following up with an ointment designed to prevent scab formation, such as Vaseline Jelly, $4.39, CVS Pharmacy. An alternative to this is Aquaphor Healing Ointment, $5.99, drugstore.com.

    Protect with Sunscreen

    Your skin will be very sensitive after laser surgery, making protection important. It can take up to a year for the affected skin area to lighten up, so taking care of your skin will be a long-time effort.


    To start, use a sunscreen that blocks ultraviolet A and B rays. Use it daily, even if the sun is obscured by cloudy weather. Apply it several times a day to the affected skin area and allow it to air dry. To optimize healing, look for a sunsceen with at least an SPF of 15 to protect laser-treated skin.

    Reduce Swelling

    To lessen swelling after laser resurfacing, consider elevating your head while sleeping. Propping an extra pillow under your head is all you need to help reduce swelling. If it isn't subsiding, add an ice-pack regimen into your daily routine. Wrap a cold towel around an ice pack and apply it to the affected areas when possible to reduce swelling.


    Remember to always follow your doctor's advice while healing from laser surgery. Your recovery options may differ, depending on your medical history, the severity of your acne scars, and other specifications related to laser resurfacing.

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