Friday, November 24, 2006

Beauty and Enlightenment: Laser Light Treatment of Acne

Acne is not a particularly attractive trait of anyone, whether adult or adolescent. Acne, in fact, contributes to lowering one's sense of self, and self-esteem. As acne untreated can scar one's skin, the effects brought on by acne can scar one emotionally for life.

Acne, however, is curable. Called by its formal name Acne vulgaris, acne is characterized by inflammation of the skin in the form of pus-filled bumps. These bumps are actually hair follicles clogged with oil and dead skin cells.

Acne is caused by a variety of problems. It can be due to a genetic predisposition to acne, a theory supported by the prevalence of acne in Western societies. Acne is also caused by fluctuations in hormonal levels, especially of the male hormone testosterone. Acne, scientists surmise, is the body's reaction to these hormonal changes.

Another cause of acne is stress, which on its own results in hormonal fluctuations due to overworking of the adrenal glands. Other causes include medications containing halogens, androgens, barbiturates, and iodides; exposure to chlorinated compounds such as chlorinated dioxins; and abnormalities in follicle physiology, such as channels that are too narrow, pores that are too wide and deep, among others.

Adult acne is common as well, and may be due to conditions such as ovarian syndromes, pregnancy, or a rare syndrome such as Cushing's.

Although highly unsightly and inconvenient, acne is not without its cures. Several topical ointments, such as those containing retinoic acid and benzoyl peroxide, have been shown to cure acne. These medications, however, do not provide immediate results, and are thus often expensive.

Previous studies on acne have shown that sunlight can improve acne problems, but sunlight actually worsens acne in the long term due to UV damage to the skin. Nevertheless, treatment of acne by other wavelengths of light is now becoming common, as it is a painless, non-invasive, and has been shown to decrease the incidence of acne. One type, light wave therapy, passes a blue light beam of high intensity over the skin. Originally used for cancer therapies, this treatment has shown to be effective in acne removal.

The light of blue light therapy is generated by fluorescent bulbs, lasers, or dichroic bulbs. When applied daily, blue light can reduce acne considerably. This is due to the effect the light has on Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria responsible for causing acne.

According to studies, the bacterium produces a set of molecules called porphyrins, which generate harmful molecules called free radicals when porphyrins are exposed to blue light. As these free radicals accumulate, bacteria are killed, and acne is reduced until it disappears.

Blue light treatment has been shown to be safe, and even more effective than benzoyl peroxide, but over a shorter period. Blue light treatment, however, is considered expensive, but is actually cheaper than using benzoyl peroxide over a period of years.

Laser surgery, on the other hand, makes use of a high intensity laser beam passed over the skin to treat acne. This kind of treatment has actually been used to treat acne scars, but is now commonly used to prevent acne.

Laser therapy works by one of the following methods:

  • Lasers degrade, or burn away the follicle sac, the opening in the follicle from which hair grows.
  • Laser light is strong enough to damage, or completely remove oil-producing sebaceous glands.
  • Like blue light treatment, lasers lead to the formation of free oxygen radicals in acne bacteria, which can kill them.

Laser surgery, however, is reputed to have disadvantages, such as damage to skin due to exposure to light. If used improperly, light and laser treatments can dry out skin, or induce the formation of spots.

If you are interested in laser surgery, consult with your dermatologist, and know the advantages and disadvantages of laser surgery. If used well, laser surgery can help you have cleaner, clearer skin free from acne.

About the Author: Elizabeth Radisson is a frequent author on the subjects of acne, and acne treatment products. For more information on ways to treat acne, head to

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