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How Effective is Laser Acne Scar Removal?

By S. Closser
Updated May 17, 2024
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Today's laser acne scar removal treatments are much more effective than they used to be due to advances in laser technology. Patients can benefit from these treatments that aim to treat existing acne, diminish scars, and even fade dark spots caused by acne. Laser treatments require less treatment time than other more traditional methods of acne scar removal, and can often achieve the desired results without leading to drug resistance.

Doctors often recommend laser treatments because of their long-lasting effects and minimal recurrence of skin problems. Though lasers vary in which areas they treat, they all use high-energy light to remove damaged skin. Doctors use a wand-like instrument to apply the laser light to desired areas. The technology makes it possible for doctors to treat areas with great precision, which is important given the delicate nature of facial skin. Laser treatments are also preferred over other skin resurfacing techniques because they are relatively bloodless.

The carbon dioxide (CO2) laser emits short burst of high-energy laser light to the epidermis, or outer layer of skin, destroying the areas of concern and revealing new tissue below. This was once of the most common tools for laser acne scar removal, but other methods have become more popular due to the potential side effects. CO2 lasers have a higher risk of causing additional scarring or hypopigmentation, the loss of skin color.

Erbium:YAG lasers are ablative lasers that also remove the outer layer of skin to get rid of scar tissue. It produces energy in a wavelength that penetrates the skin and is very effective for scar removal. The drawback to ablative lasers is they require a longer recovery time compared to non-ablative lasers; in fact, skin treated with the laser may remain red for several months after the treatment.

Fractionated lasers like Fraxel® and Affirm® provide the effectiveness of ablative lasers by stimulating changes in the dermis without damaging the epidermis. Many patients require multiple treatments to achieve their desired results, however. Scars are diminished as the targeted skin heals with the help of surrounding untreated tissue.

Not everyone is a candidate for laser resurfacing. For example, people suffering from psoriasis, cystic acne, and dermatitis may not respond well to this type of scar removal. Also, people using certain medications like isotretinoin for acne must stop using it for six months prior to treatment.

The most common minor side effects of laser acne scar removal include mild swelling, redness, brown discoloration, and crusting. Other rare side effects include hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation, both of which can be worsened by exposure to the sun. Other risks include infection or allergic reactions, both of which can be treated with medicated creams and antibiotics. As with any medical procedure, it's important to choose a qualified professional to administer laser treatments, such as a dermatologic surgeon with extensive laser acne scar removal experience.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On May 15, 2014

It's difficult to say whether laser acne scar removal will be effective for someone. I think everyone has a slightly different experience. I just know that it's very important to work with a very good, experienced doctor who has good reviews.

By SarahGen — On May 14, 2014

@bear78-- My advice is to speak to an experienced plastic surgeon. There are different types of laser treatments but the chances are, only a few of them will be suitable for you. The type of laser treatment used depends on different factors like your skin type, how deep the scars are and also what you can afford. This is really not a decision that you can take on your own. You need o make this decision in consultation with a plastic surgeon or dermatologist that can give you the best advice.

It's also possible that treatments other than laser may be best for you at this point, like dermabrasion for example. So I recommend following the advice of the doctor.

I had laser acne scar removal done last year (CO2 laser) and it worked very well for me. But I think I was lucky because I have heard that some people experience issues with this type of scar removal like more scarring or changes in skin tone. So I don't think that laser treatment is right for everyone.

By bear78 — On May 14, 2014

I'm interested in getting laser treatment for my acne scars but I'm very confused. There are many different types of laser treatments and I've been hearing contradictory opinions about laser for acne scars. Some people recommend it while others say it's best to avoid it because of the possible side effects. So I'm not sure what to do and if I choose to have laser removal done, I'm not sure which type would be best.

Has anyone here had laser treatment for acne scars? Would you recommend it?

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