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Laser Treatments for Acne Scars

Laser Treatments for Acne Scars

Laser treatments can be very effective in reducing the appearance of acne scars by 50 to 80 percent, with the average acne patient requiring two treatments at a cost of around $750, according to findings in "The Patient's Guide to Acne Scars." There are two basic types of lasers used to treat scars, ablative and nonablative. Ablative lasers are the most traditional but also the most harmful, since they burn away the outer layers of the skin, requiring a long recovery time, although the treatment only needs to be done once. Nonablative lasers don't damage the outer layer of skin but instead reduce scars by stimulating collagen growth. There are fewer side effects, but the treatment must be repeated.

CO2 Laser

The carbon dioxide, or pulsed CO2, laser as been used the longest in scar treatment. This is an ablative laser with a longer healing process and a risk of permanent whitening of the skin and scarring. A new form of the laser, the Feather Touch, uses an adjustable, computer-controlled scanner to deliver the laser in pulses which target the scar like a paintbrush, with each pass removing tissue until the desired effect is achieved.

Erbium YAG Laser

The erbium YAG laser is the other type of ablative laser, and like the CO2, the upper skin layer is removed. Newer generations of this laser are able to be more delicate with a light "laser peel" effect resulting in a faster recovery and less pain, says plastic surgeon Dr. Kenneth R. Dubeta. Of the two ablative lasers, the erbium YAG is better for dark-skinned individuals because it is less likely to cause hypopigmentation.

Pulsed Dye Laser

The pulsed dye lasers, such as N-Lite and V-Beam, are nonablative and use a concentrated beam of light that targets blood vessels in the skin and destroys them, leaving the surrounding skin undamaged. The yellow light it uses is considered safe because it doesn't result in long-term skim damage. It only takes a few minutes with no anesthesia. Hypertrophic scars or keloids may require several treatments.

Smooth Beam Diode Laser

The Smooth Beam laser, which is nonablative, heats the sebaceous gland to reduce the sebum gland which can lead to acne, but it also heats collagen in the skin, which tightens the dermis layer and makes scars less visible. It usually requires three to four treatments with no down time.

Fractionated Lasers

Fractionated lasers, such as Fraxel, Affirm, Pixel or Palomar Lux, use various types of lasers, even fractionated CO2 and Erbrium YAG, but they are considered nonablative because the process uses a wavelength that is easily absorbed by water and creates tiny vertical holes in the tissue, leaving new scar-free skin to heal in their place. Dermatologist Dr. Brian Zelickson says he sees an average of 50 to 60 percent improvement with most scars after two to three treatments.

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