Laser treatment for acne scars – everything you need to know
Most people are likely to experience acne at some stage in life. And of those who do, 95 per cent will be left with some form of residual scarring. These scars can stick around way after the acne has cleared up.
There are a range of different laser options out there. So, how do you know which acne laser treatment is right for you?
In this article:
1 to 3 sessions
Duration of results
Up to 6 months
Back to work
Full recovery time
7 to 10 days
5,100 SAR to 14,290 SAR
What is laser treatment for acne scars?
Laser treatment can reduce the appearance of acne scars and reveal smoother skin. There are different types of lasers – ablative, non-ablative and fractional – each with their own benefits.
It’s worth noting that for an active acne breakout, you’ll need red or blue light therapy as laser treatments won’t work.
How does laser treatment for acne scars work?
The science behind it
Generally, acne laser treatment works by breaking down damaged skin tissue. Heat from the laser stimulates collagen production, which gives the skin a tighter, smoother appearance when it heals.
Before the treatment
At a consultation, your clinician will examine your acne scarring and decide on the best laser treatment for you, or whether another approach might be more effective. You will also discuss any side-effects.
There may be a few steps you need to take to prepare. These could include stopping smoking, as this inhibits blood flow, as well as avoiding intense sunlight and steering clear of certain skincare products.
During the treatment
The procedure itself generally involves the application of an anaesthetic cream, which numbs the area. After this, your treatment will last around 30 minutes, during which a laser will be passed over your face while another device simultaneously cools the area.
You may feel some minor discomfort, even with the anaesthetic.
Your face may be tender after your treatment. Some people liken it to bad sunburn. You will be prescribed various soothing and anaesthetic creams to help. Drink lots of water and avoid direct sunlight.
Your skin will start to peel after around four days, and there may be some crusting too. Allow this to shed naturally as picking your skin can result in more scarring.
After around seven to 10 days, your skin should have fully healed. You can expect final results within six months.
What are the best laser treatments for acne scars?
Different types of laser tackle scarring in different ways. The best type for you will depend on several factors, including what type of scarring you have – depressed or raised – and your skin tone and type.
- Ablative laser treatment removes a section of skin above and around the scar, allowing the skin to grow back smoother.
Ablative lasers are the most powerful variety. They apply the heat from the surface down, so have to overheat and destroy (ablate) the top layers of skin in order to radiate down to the collagen in the deeper layers of the skin.
They’re suited to deeper scarring and are also the most effective in smoothening wrinkles. However, the recovery is difficult. The skin’s pigment can be lightened, and redness can last for up to a few months
Examples of ablative lasers include CO2 and erbium.
Best for: dramatic improvements, signs of ageing, deeper scars.
- Non-ablative laser treatment doesn’t remove skin but focuses purely on heating up the skin tissue underneath – stimulating collagen production.
Non-ablative lasers are gentler. They work deeper into the skin, stimulating collagen without removing tissue, and have less risk of hyperpigmentation or burns. Recovery time is minimal, but the treatment is likely to be less effective, too.
Best for: darker skin tones, less severe scarring.
- Fractionated or fractional laser resurfacing targets a portion (or fraction) of skin at a time.
Fractional lasers only break down the discoloured skin pigmentation, allowing the skin to grow back in a more natural tone. By using powerful but scattered light that only targets pigmentation, they leave the rest of the skin intact. As a result, downtime is reduced and can be between three to five days.
Best for: moderate signs of ageing, less aggressive scarring.
- Intense pulsed light (IPL) is a laser therapy that can help reduce redness. It heats up the pigment in the cells and destroys them, reducing scarring.
- Chemical peels can exfoliate the skin with less trauma than a laser treatment. They use an acid solution to peel off damaged cells and reveal newer ones. These are likely to be an ongoing treatment, rather than a quick fix.
- Microneedling pierces your skin to stimulate collagen production for newer, healthier skin. Microneedling with radiofrequency goes even further to promote collagen production. Both treatments will need multiple sessions until you see results.
- Home remedies for acne scarring can include salicylic acid to reduce swelling and redness, retinoids to promote new cell growth and reduce inflammation, and lactic acids to peel away dead skin cells. These may help but are likely to be less effective than laser treatments.
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