lighting the way
Future treatments may be measured in wavelengths, not milligrams. Laser and light therapies have become popular weapons against treatment-resistant acne. While only small, short-term clinical trials have been conducted, results seem promising. Three to eight monthly sessions are usually administered, each lasting five to 20 minutes. (A complete series can keep skin clear for more than six months.) The cost ranges up to $250 per session, but can go as high as $800 if a multipart treatment, such as photodynamic therapy, is used; in most cases, it's not covered by insurance. Seek treatment from an experienced, board-certified dermatologist, not a neighborhood spa.
FDA-approved blue light therapy is the best-known laser option; it kills acne-causing bacteria with a narrow-band, high-intensity light free of damaging ultraviolet wavelengths. In a 2003 study in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, 80 percent of patients responded favorably, with a 59 percent to 67 percent reduction in inflammatory acne lesions.
Diode lasers shrink sebaceous glands and reduce sebum output by creating a mild thermal injury around the glands. In a 2004 report published in Dermatologic Surgery, acne lesions decreased by 83 percent after three treatments.
Photodynamic therapy is the latest in combination techniques that work to kill bacteria and shrink sebaceous glands. An hour session begins with mild microdermabrasion to remove dead skin cells.