Acne scars? A tattoo removal laser might help

Acne and subsequent scarring affect people of all ages and ethnicities, and can cause severe psychological effects.

A laser used to remove unwanted tattoos appears to improve facial acne scarring, according to a medical study.
Acne scar treatment then and now

Historically, acne scarring has been treated by chemical peeling for superficial scars, dermabrasion for deeper scars, subcision to release fibrous tethering below the acne scar (with or without use of fillers), and punch excisions and elevations to remove deeper scars. More recent treatments include the use of a plasma skin regeneration system, autologous fibroblasts, platelet-rich plasma, and needling.

Tattoo removal laserLasers, intense pulsed light, and other energy devices are also regularly used in the treatment of scarring and fractional resurfacing, whether with ablative or nonablative devices, and have become the current standard. However, these resurfacing procedures often require anesthesia, sometimes with prolonged healing and greater risk of complications.

A lower-dose laser treatment for acne

The US Food and Drug Administration has recently approved the use of a 755-nm picosecond alexandrite laser, a technology that delivers lower doses of energy, theoretically leading to fewer adverse events, for the treatment of unwanted tattoos.

In research published online by JAMA Dermatology, Jeremy A Brauer, MD, of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, and his co-authors describe the use of a picosecond 755-nm laser with an optical attachment called a diffractive lens array in the treatment of facial acne scarring in a small study.

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The authors’ single-center study included 15 women and five men (average age 44 years old) with facial acne scarring. The patients received six treatments.

Results indicate patients were satisfied to extremely satisfied with improvement in the appearance and texture of their skin at the final treatment and at follow-up visits one and three months after the sixth treatment. Masked assessments of photographs by three dermatologists found a 25 percent to 50 percent global improvement at the one-month follow-up, which was maintained at the three-month follow-up.

“Additional studies with larger sample sizes, specific scar subtype stratification and histologic analyses are needed,” the authors note.

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