Acne Scar Laser Treatment
Acne scars generally heal well, leaving behind a layer of new skin that looks like the surrounding tissue. In some cases, however, your acne lesions may create permanent unsightly scars. The Acne Net website says laser treatments can effectively treat acne scars that are raised above the surface of the surrounding tissue, as well as those that leave a depression in the skin.
According to Dr. Eric F. Bernstein, a clinical associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, carbon dioxide lasers were used almost exclusively in the early days of laser medicine. Carbon dioxide lasers are considered ablative lasers, meaning that they destroy the outer layers of skin. Today, dermatologists also have access to other types of lasers that do not destroy the top skin layer.
Dr. Bernstein identifies three types of lasers used to treat acne scars today: ablative, nonablative and fractionated lasers. The DERMAdoctor website lists carbon dioxide and YAG lasers as examples of ablative lasers, while nonablative lasers include the pulse-dyed laser, the N-Lite and the newer Smoothbeam laser. Dr. Bernstein lists Fraxel and Affirm as examples of the newer fractionated lasers.
After removing the top layer of skin, ablative lasers then burn away scar tissue and stimulate tightening of the collagen protein in the underlying skin, according to the DERMAdoctor website. Nonablative lasers produce changes in lower skin layers, including the oil-producing glands, and tighten the lower skin layers by heating your body's natural collagen protein. Finally, fractionated lasers trigger remodeling of acne scars with little effect on the top layer of skin.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the area of skin that's been treated with lasers may regrow in a darker color, an effect known as hyperpigmentation. Laser treatments can reactivate a herpes simplex cold sore, trigger a bacterial infection or create milia, small white bumps on the laser-treated area.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, your recovery time will vary depending on the type of laser treatment delivered by your doctor. For example, your skin will sting or itch for 12 to 72 hours after a treatment with a carbon dioxide laser and will peel off 5 to 7 days after the procedure. You can expect the treated skin areas to heal in 10 to 21 days and to be reddened for 2 to 3 months after the procedure. If your skin tone is darker than desired at that time, your doctor may recommend bleaching treatments to even out your pigment.
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