Photodynamic Therapy for Acne
Photodynamic therapy is a light-based treatment has been shown to affect both the acne-causing oil glands in the skin, as well as the P. acnes bacteria that contribute to the development of acne lesions. PDT has been reported to treat active pimples and comedones, decrease the frequency of acne breakouts, as well as improve the tone and texture of the skin while softening the appearance of acne scars.
Here’s How it Works
PDT employs a special photosensitizing solution called 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA, or Levulan). After the skin is cleansed, this solution is placed on the affected areas of the skin and allowed to soak in, or incubate, for anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. Sometimes, plastic wrap or heat is placed over the skin to make the solution work better. During this time, the solution is absorbed into the pores and acne glands. The skin is then exposed to a blue light (BLU-U) that activates the solution deep in the acne glands. Once activated, the ALA works by shrinking the acne glands and decreasing oil production in the skin. It also kills the bacteria that can contribute to the development of acne lesions. By normalizing the turnover of the skin and helping the skin shed dead cells more effectively, ALA-PDT can help unclog pores. All of this means a decrease in blackheads, whiteheads, acne bumps, and pimples on the skin!
PDT is can be combined with other acne treatments, such as topical creams and even antibiotic pills. It is also used in patients with moderate to severe acne who cannot tolerate oral medications or where Accutane (Isotretinoin) therapy is not an option. Usually, more than one or a series (usually 1-3 treatments) of PDT treatments are performed anywhere from two to four weeks apart to obtain maximum results.
PDT often leaves the skin red and scaly for a few days after treatment, similar to the reaction you get with sunburn. The skin remains sensitive to light for 48 hours after the treatment, so it is vital to wear sunscreen and protect your skin from excessive outdoor light exposure during this time period. Some patients do report discomfort with their blue light treatments. Topical anesthesia can be applied to make the treatments more comfortable, if necessary.