Acne Laser and Light Treatments

About Treatments

Laser and light treatments show great promise in treating acne.  Some patients with severe acne cysts have seen clearing for years when laser therapy was added to their treatment plan.  No one laser or light treatment can treat pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, acne cysts, and acne nodules.  That’s why different types of lasers and light therapies are used to treat acne.


Most people see clearing and noticeable reduction in acne.  Results do vary, however, studies have shown that multiple treatments deliver significantly better results than just one treatment.  Patients typically see the best results weeks after their last treatment. Studies have shown that after photodynamic therapy had 50% fewer spots at the end of the 4-week treatment period. Twelve weeks after the last treatment, they had a 72% reduction.

Follow Up Treatments

Results from laser and light therapies are generally long lasting.  To maintain results, some patients need follow up treatments once or twice a year.

Side Effects

Redness and swelling are common after treatment with many lasers and light treatments.  Mild side effects may include skin stinging or burning which will disappear within a few hours or by the next day.  For most treatments the chance for any side effects can be greatly reduced by following the after care instructions given to you at the time of treatment.  Most laser and light treatments require that the patient avoid sunlight for 48 hours after treatment.

Blue, Red, and Blue+Red Light Devices

Blue, red, and blue+red light devices are called visible light because you can actually see the colors.  These devices are used to treat pimples.

Infrared Light

The FDA has approved this type of light to treat pimples, including those that develop on the back. 

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

During PDT, a solution that makes the skin more sensitive to light is applied to acne-prone skin. The solution must sit on the skin for a while — between 15 minutes and 3 hours. Next, a laser or light device to treat the skin.

PDT therapy shows great promise in helping to treat severe acne. Some patients who had acne cysts have been clear for years after receiving PDT.

Photopneumatic Therapy

This treatment combines an intense pulsed light (IPL) laser with a gentle vacuum. It works by removing excess oil and dead skin cells from clogged pores. It is FDA-approved to treat blackheads, whiteheads, and some pimples. It cannot treat acne nodules or cysts.