"Laser treatments for acne scars" is one of the most-searched phrases online when it comes to skincare. It makes sense considering that over 50 million Americans suffer from acne. Even when people manage to get their acne under control, they're often left with a reminder in the form of hyperpigmentation and scarring.
Rest assured, though -- due to advancements in laser technology, acne scars can now be effectively treated. One of the most popular non-invasive treatments for acne scars is intense pulsed light (IPL), which targets the redness of acne scars, returning skin to a healthy hue.
Here's how IPL treatments work
IPL treatments work by targeting a specific color in the skin. When the skin is heated, your body gets rid of the unwanted cells, helping to even out skin tone. While lasers typically send out one wavelength of pulsating light, IPL devices send out more than one to treat a range of skin conditions at the same time. They primarily target the lower layers of skin (dermis) while leaving the top layers of skin (epidermis) unaffected.
This is what a treatment is like
Before an IPL treatment, your medical professional will give you protective eye gear to wear and will apply a topical anesthetic along with cooling gel to the target area. They'll gently apply the IPL handpiece to your skin to deliver healing light in precise pulses. You might experience some discomfort similar to a rubber band being snapped against your skin. The whole session should take less than a half-hour.
IPL treatments require little-to-no downtime. The treated area might feel sensitive for a few hours afterward, similar to a minor sunburn. Your skin might also be red for a few days.
To achieve optimal results, you'll need five or six treatments spaced approximately three weeks apart.
What you can do to maximize your results
There's a lot you can do before and after an IPL treatment to maximize your results:
- Don't tan in the sun for four weeks before your first session.
- Avoid chemical peels or collagen shots for two weeks beforehand.
- Wear SPF 50 or higher every day to protect your skin from sun damage.
- Wash your skin with a cleanser designed for sensitive skin.
- Moisturize your skin twice a day, both in the morning and at night.
Remember that there are limitations to IPL treatments. They aren't ideal for people with darker complexions since the risk of skin discoloration is higher. While IPL treatments target pigmentation changes that result from acne, they don't treat depressed scars. But, IPL treatments can be used in conjunction with fractionated laser resurfacing and micro-needling to treat both textural and color changes.
- "Can Laser Treatments Lighten Acne Scars? We Asked an Expert," Byrdie, January 18, 2019.
- "What Really Happens When You Get Laser Treatments for Acne Scars," Elle, November 24, 2016.
- "What is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatment?," WebMD, n.d.