Exploring New Laser Treatments for Acne

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Dr. Karan Lal provides an overview of laser therapy for acne, and speaks on the "phenomenal" responses observed in patients with the first and only FDA approved laser treatment, AviClear.

Though laser therapy has been a staple of dermatology for close to 6 decades, it is only recently that new therapeutic strategies have been developed for acne care.

In an interview with HCPLive, Karan Lal, DO, MS, FAAD, of the Schweiger Dermatology Group and member of The Society for Pediatric Dermatology, provided an overview of laser treatments related to acne care, and how they have evolved in recent years.

Initially, 585-595 nanometer lasers known as pulsed dye lasers (PDL) were used to reduce redness in patients with acne. Though PDL therapy did result in reduced inflammation in affected patients, it did little to treat the root cause of acne and was largely abandoned.

Additional laser therapies would be introduced into the dermatology field, many of which targeted water in the skin to reduce redness and inflammation.

Light therapies, which typically range from 500-1200 nanometers, were used to great effect in the ensuing years, especially when paired with topical agents. This, too, would eventually be phased out due, in part, to the time-consuming nature of light therapy.

Enter diode lasers, which long-term data presented at the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery 2022 Annual Conference have shown to produce durable responses in selected patients 2 years after treatment.

Currently, only 1 of these treatments, AviClear (Cutera), have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

“You get 3 treatments 1 month apart, and this is targeting the sebaceous gland and down-regulating the activity of the sebaceous gland, which is the root cause of acne,” Lal said. “The beauty of this device is that it’s safe on all skin types, there’s very minimal downtime, it’s very safe, and you don’t need to be on any other treatments.”

While this type of laser treatment is costly and often not covered by insurance, Lal has seen “phenomenal” responses in patients affected by moderate to severe acne and has actively contributed to the research of this device.

For patients interested in this treatment, Lal urged them to seek out dermatologists who are trained in laser therapy, as these treatments are also offered medical spas and through non-medical providers, many of whom do not have a proper understanding of the equipment.

“I'm a dermatologist, so acne is my bread and butter; why would I go see someone who is a non-dermatologist for this treatment, right?” Lal said. “It doesn't make any sense, but a lot of people don't know that, and people will look for Groupons and (deals), and I think that's dangerous. When people talk about safety and say, ‘this is a safe device’, my caveat to that is it's a dangerous device in the wrong hands, so you have to have the knowledge and the skill set to do this.”