Last Updated on February 18, 2021 by Dr Sanusi Umar MD

When you suffer from severe teenage acne, it’s easy to feel hopeless. Teenagers are already self-conscious, having hormonal cystic acne can only make it worse. Nodular acne is often referred to as cystic acne, A breakout leads to inflamed cysts that turn varying shades of red and purple, making it highly visible. These cysts can be filled with yellow pus and can grow to be several centimeters. Often times this acne leaves behind noticeable depressions on the face that makes teenagers desperate for a way to get rid of acne scars. Though a lot of dermatologists prescribe accutane to get rid of acne, this medication comes with serious side effects, which include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Hepatitis
  • Depression
  • Birth defects
  • Inflammation of the pancreas

Fortunately, Dr. Umar offers a safe accutane alternative — laser treatment. Before the treatment, Dr. Umar gives his patients monthly photodynamic treatments in order to get the existing acne under control and prevent the formation of new scars.

Dr. Umar treated this Los Angeles teen with the Vbeam laser to address the skin’s redness. And for the acne scars Dr. Umar decided to use the Fraxel Dual laser.

Teen’s Life Changing Laser Treatment For Nodulocystic Acne

This patient suffered from nodulocystic acne. Although his condition seemed quite severe, he was able to achieve significant improvements through a combinat…

PDT Acne Treatment: Before Photos

The patient’s acne breakouts were leading to bright red cysts that were mountaining on top of each other. Additionally, he had scarring from his acne. He had tried conventional treatments like oral antibiotics and creams that had failed to treat his acne.  His parents were looking for a safe acne treatment, fearing the .

 Los Angeles teen seeking treatment for his acne as well as a way to get rid of acne scars.

Los Angeles teen seeking treatment for his acne as well as a way to get rid of acne scars.

 

Patient's parents wanted to find a safe accutane alternative for their son's severe acne, so they looked for a photodynamic acne treatment in Los Angeles.

Patient’s parents wanted to find a safe accutane alternative for their son’s severe acne, so they looked for a photodynamic acne treatment in Los Angeles.

Get Rid of Acne Scars with Photodynamic Therapy: Procedure Photos

Before addressing the acne scars, Dr. Umar treated the existing acne to prevent new scars from forming. He recommended photodynamic therapy for both the acne and acne scars aspects of this patient’s case.

The acne would be addressed with the V-beam laser in conjunction with a photosensitizing agent. One the acne is under control and stops proliferating to create new acne scars, Dr. Umar is then able to address the scar tissue itself using the Fraxel Dual laser.

How Does Photodynamic Therapy Work For Acne?

Photodynamic therapy uses light energy combined with a photosensitizing agent such as 5-aminolevulinic acid, (ALA) which is also available as the topical drug, Levulan ™ to target the specific physiological, structural and microbial factors that contribute to stubborn acne. This light energy can be in the form of lasers (which consist of a single, highly focused wavelength). Additionally, photodynamic therapy can also ultilize light of multiple wavelengths, as in red or blue light therapy systems.

The light used in the treatment reacts with the photosensitizing agent and the skin tissue to produce oxygen free radical molecules. These free radicals are capable of destroying  bacteria, blockages and unwanted tissue.

When it comes to acne treatment, this property is useful for clearing deep blockages caused by sloughed skin cells from the inner pore lining, destroying the outer layer of the sebaceous oil glands (in order to shrink them and cause them to secrete less oil) and obliterating bacteria which causes skin inflammation.

Here is a diagram showing the progress of inflammation and how it can result in the redness and bumpiness seen in severe acne.

A good treatment for severe acne will address the physiological causes contributing to the condition, such as bacteria and the inflammation that follows.

A good treatment for severe acne will address the physiological causes contributing to the condition, such as bacteria and the inflammation that follows.

 

To prepare the patient for his VBeam laser therapy, Dr. Umar  applied Levulan — This topical drug interacts with laser energy to create destructive free radical oxygen molecules in order to destroy pore blockages, microbes and facilitate skin peeling.  

The VBeam laser was also chosen because of the noticeable redness on this teen’s face. Dr. Umar decided to treat the patient with the Vbeam since it’s laser energy is meant to be absorbed by the  red coloration in the blood. The the heat from this laser destroys the inner lining of blood cells. This causes a patient’s immune system to carry away the remaining fragments of blood vessels, clearing the redness from the surface of the skin.

Using Photodynamic Therapy to Treat Acne Scars

The diagram below illustrates how thick collagen is formed by the skin to repair tears, which can be caused by inflammation ( in the case of acne scars)

To get rid of acne scars, an effective treatment will address the formation of thick collagen that the skin produces to heal from tears.

To get rid of acne scars, an effective treatment will address the formation of thick collagen that the skin produces to heal from tears.

 

Acne scar tissue cannot be cleared. However it is possible to override their appearance by creating normal textured collagen. For this reason, Dr. Umar used the Fraxel Dual laser which deliberately inflicts heat in deeper layers of the skin. This triggers fibroblast cells to produce desired forms of collagen which helps smooth out the appearance of the acne scars.

Photodynamic Therapy for Acne Scars: Before and After Results Photos

Over the course of  a six week treatment period, the patient’s acne was significantly reduced. Additionally, the Fraxel Dual laser was used to treat the patient’s acne scars. This approach is particularly ideal for ethnic patients who have higher levels of melanin in their skin. Fraxel Dual lasers use two wavelengths that will not cause the brown pigment in the skin to over absorb the heat from the laser. Here are before and after photos showing the patient’s drastic improvement. 

Photodynamic light therapy and laser treatments provided a safe and effective cystic acne cure for this Los Angeles teen

Photodynamic therapy for acne scars provided a safe and effective treatment for this Los Angeles teen*

 

Photodynamic acne treatment was an important first step to take before addressing this teen's acne scars

PDT acne treatment was an important first step to take before addressing this teen’s acne scars*

 

This Los Angeles patient's quest to get rid of acne scars was a success thanks to the two step process that started with photodynamic therapy for acne

This Los Angeles patient’s quest to get rid of acne scars was a success thanks to the two step process that started with photodynamic therapy for acne

Video: Photodynamic Therapy For Acne in Los Angeles Teen

Watch this patient’s video to learn more about his amazing journey in the treatment of his severe acne. Hear Dr. Umar discuss further details about this case. And listen to the patient describe how his life changed as a result.

Frequently Asked Questions: Get Rid of Acne Scars

How long does photodynamic therapy last?

Generally, photodynamic therapy for acne includes 3-4 treatments. Each treatment is spaced 3-4 weeks apart in order to give the skin time to heal before the next session.

What are the benefits of choosing photodynamic therapy versus Accutane?

Unlike Accutane, a course of photodynamic therapy for acne does not come with the serious and risky side effects of depression, hepatitis, anemia, and bone overgrowth, among other things. Drug chemicals travel throughout the body through the circulatory system and can therefore adversely affect various systems, tissues and organs

While there is mild to moderate pain and skin peeling after photodynamic therapy, these minor side effects usually go away 1-2 weeks after treatment.

Is there such thing as photodynamic therapy for acne at home? 

While there are several at-home photodynamic light therapy devices available, these devices are not likely to produce the results of an in-office treatment. There are several reasons for this. The main one is that the devices sold over the counter use weaker light, which is not likely to reach deeper targets like the sebaceous glands. The strength of the light, as well as the use of a photosynthesizer typically determines the effectiveness of a PDT acne treatment.

Tabletop photodynamic therapy lights usually require 10-15 minutes of daily use seated very close to the device. Handheld devices can require between 30 minutes to an hour of daily use. Both of these are time consuming and cumbersome.

 

Severe acne can impact the quality of one’s life greatly. If you’re interested in long-term relief, click the button below to ask Dr. U any additional questions you may have about skin treatment for your own particular set of circumstances.

 

 

Further Reading:

Hope for severe acne, nodulocystic acne and scars- learn more about the available treatment options

Get an in-depth look at effective treatment approaches for improving the appearance of acne scars

Read about advanced methods for controlling active acne on the skin