Acne scars are not just physical blemishes, but they can also cause emotional distress and affect self-esteem.
They can leave a person feeling self-conscious and unhappy with their appearance. Laser treatment for acne scars promises a solution to this problem, but is it really worth it?
As someone who has struggled with acne and the resulting scars, I know firsthand the emotional toll it can take.
Join me as we explore the benefits and drawbacks of laser treatment for acne scars, and ultimately decide if it’s worth the investment of time, money, and emotional energy.
Table of Contents
How Long Will The Effects Of Laser Acne Treatment Last?
One of the most common questions about laser treatment for acne scars is laser treatment for acne scars permanent?
If you’re investing in private scar treatment, it’s natural to want the effects to last as long as possible.
Ablative laser acne treatments typically offer permanent results, but the success of the treatment depends on the severity of the scarring and your skin’s healing ability. While additional treatment is usually not necessary, there is a chance that the scar may reappear.
Non-ablative laser resurfacing can also produce permanent results, especially for mild scarring, but it may take some time for the full effects to be visible as collagen is produced. In some cases, additional treatment sessions may be necessary in the future.
While laser acne treatment can assist in addressing certain pigmentation changes caused by acne, the results are not always permanent, and discoloration may reoccur after several months.
Generally speaking, this type of laser treatment has the lowest level of permanence, though it can still provide long-lasting effects for many people.
Multiple sessions are typically required to complete laser treatment for acne scars, and it may take several weeks or months to see the full effects. With this in mind, it’s important to have a clear understanding of how long the effects of the treatment will last before committing to it.
How Long Does Laser Acne Scar Removal Take?
Typically, a single laser appointment lasts less than an hour, and the effects of the treatment may not be immediately noticeable. It usually takes about 7-10 days after the session for patients to see the extent to which their acne scars have been reduced.
Depending on the type and severity of the scarring, multiple laser treatments may be necessary to achieve long-term results and maximum improvement.
In particular, non-ablative lasers often require a series of sessions. Despite the potential need for multiple treatments, there is no required downtime following laser treatment.
Can Acne Scars Be Removed By Lasers?
Dr. Westbay explains that various laser treatments are used by professionals to remove and reduce acne scarring, with most lasers using heat energy to induce a wound healing response and stimulate the formation of new collagen in the skin.
This helps to smooth and resurface the skin, improving the appearance of uneven texture and atrophic acne scarring. In addition, some lasers use light energy to break up excess pigment in the skin, making them a great option for removing or fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and discoloration that can remain after a pimple has healed.
Which Laser Treatments Are Best For Acne Scars?
Lasers used in Laser treatment for acne scars fall into four categories: ablative lasers, non-ablative fractional lasers, IPL/BBL, and pico lasers.
Each type of laser works differently and is best suited for specific purposes. Below, we’ll explain how each type works and what they are most effective for.
Ablative Lasers For Acne Scars
According to dermatologist Dr. Arash Akhavan, ablative lasers, such as CO2 and er:YAG, work by emitting a high-intensity wavelength of light that removes the outer layers of skin while heating the underlying layers.
This process causes complete injury and resurfacing of the skin, leading to the growth of new, healthy tissue.
Dr. Akhavan advises that patients should expect around two weeks of downtime after the procedure, during which severe scabbing may occur. To prevent any harm to the healing process, patients should avoid sun exposure and physical activity during this period.
While ablative lasers can be highly effective, especially for those with atrophic acne scarring, they are very powerful and should only be used by experienced medical professionals.
Non-Ablative, Fractionated Lasers For Acne Scars
Non-ablative lasers work by heating skin tissue without removing the Epidermis entirely. While they still use enough energy to stimulate collagen production, they don’t cause as much damage as ablative lasers, according to Dr. Westbay.
This makes non-ablative lasers a suitable option for patients with darker skin tones, as they are less likely to cause abnormal pigmentation that can arise from ablative laser use on darker skin, explains Dr. Westbay.
Most non-ablative lasers, such as Fraxel Dual and Clear and Brilliant, are fractionated. This means that they only target a small portion of the skin at a time by creating tiny columns of destruction while leaving the surrounding skin undamaged. These treated areas are known as microthermal zones.
Fractionated lasers have shorter recovery times and are less likely to cause complications because they leave normal, untreated skin between the treated areas. This untreated skin acts as a reservoir for tissue regeneration and remodeling.
According to Dr. Westbay, this makes them a safer option for most patients with atrophic and hypertrophic scarring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation than ablative lasers, which require more downtime and carry a higher risk of adverse effects.
Although non-ablative, fractionated lasers may not produce as dramatic resurfacing results, they are generally considered to be a safer choice.
Radiofrequency Microneedling For Acne Scars
During the procedure, a handheld device is used to stamp the skin with heat and sterile needles, creating tiny wounds that boost collagen and elastin production. This can help smooth out acne scars.
Radiofrequency microneedling is typically used to tighten and smooth skin in patients with wrinkles and skin laxity, but it can also be a great option for improving overall skin texture and treating atrophic scars. Additionally, it’s considered safe for all skin types and tones.
You have a variety of radiofrequency microneedling treatments to select from such as Morpheus 8, Vivace, Pixel8-RF, and Potenza. It’s recommended that you consult with your dermatologist or doctor to determine which option would be the most suitable for you. As for recovery time, you may experience a few days of redness, but it shouldn’t be too severe.
IPL/BBL For Acne Scars
According to Dr. Westbay, IPL and BBL can be beneficial for treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and post-inflammatory erythema, which are the flat brown and red marks that can remain after acne has healed. However, these treatments are not suitable for addressing any depressions in the skin as they do not stimulate collagen production.
Instead, IPL and BBL use light energy to target both melanin pigment and redness by adjusting the machine’s filter, gradually reducing the appearance of marks and spots with each session. Dr. Westbay notes that the downtime associated with these treatments is minimal, and they are virtually painless with the application of some numbing cream.
Overall, IPL and BBL are useful options for addressing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and erythema, but they are not a solution for acne scars that cause indentation in the skin.
Picosecond Lasers For Acne Scars
According to Dr. Hartman, while IPL and BBL are ineffective in treating atrophic or hypertrophic acne scars, they are not without their benefits.
n particular, picosecond laser technology is a fantastic option for treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, particularly in skin of color. This laser technology is considered the most advanced modality for removing tattoo pigment and hyperpigmentation.
Dr. Hartman explains that picosecond lasers work by delivering extremely fast pulses of energy to the skin, similar to how a sledgehammer breaks up concrete. This process breaks down the pigment particles, allowing the body to absorb the smaller fragments over time.
One major advantage of picosecond lasers is that they do not produce heat, making them a safer option for individuals with darker skin tones, who are more susceptible to variable outcomes and unpredictable results when heat is involved.
The majority of dermatologists agree that laser treatments (like the ones mentioned earlier) are the quickest and most effective way to reduce the appearance of acne scars.
However, it’s crucial to remember that these lasers are incredibly powerful and can cause serious negative effects such as permanent scarring and severe burns if used incorrectly by inexperienced providers.
Therefore, it’s essential to schedule an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist who has experience in treating acne scars that are similar to your own and who has also treated patients with similar skin tones if you decide to go the laser route.