Is Laser Treatment for Acne Scars Permanent? - Shens Clinic
3 Killiney Road, Winsland House 1, #09-08, Singapore 239519

Is Laser Treatment for Acne Scars Permanent?

asian woman with acne scars on face

Considering that acne affects a large number of folks in Singapore, it is no wonder why people are looking for ways to combat acne scars beyond the traditional methods. Laser resurfacing is a  treatment that has been requested on and on for the past years. But does it really work and how?

As every case is different, there is a spectrum of effectiveness that has to be considered. Keep reading to find out more about laser acne scar treatment.

How Effective Is Laser Treatment for Acne Scars?

Laser treatment can have an amazing effect on acne scars as long as you use the right setting for your skin type. They work by causing controlled injuries to the skin layers which ultimately encourages the body to create more healthy cells. Newer models can single out just the damaged tissue, thereby shortening the downtime and producing better results. The skin appearance is rejuvenated and eventually, less scar tissue can be seen.

Laser treatments work for mild to moderate acne scars but may turn out to be less effective for deep scars. A well-trained board-certified dermatologist should warn you about this ahead of time.

The main thing to remember is that laser treatment can lessen the appearance of acne scars so they are less visible to the untrained eye. It may never be able to eradicate a scar completely. To explain the mechanism by which it acts, we could say that it involves replacing one scar with another, much tinier and far less pronounced scar. 

The machine causes microscopic injuries to the skin, which automatically puts it into healing mode. But as you know, every injury, even though inconspicuous, leaves its mark on the skin. Hence, scars. So, the best way to put it is to say that laser treatment can lead to considerable scar reduction rather than complete elimination.

Immediately following the treatment, your skin may look a little worse. As you know, the laser beams cause tiny wounds and wounds are not cosmetically appealing. But there is nothing to worry about because once the skin heals, a new layer of cells will emerge on the surface. As a result of that, you will obtain a more beautiful appearance.

Here is how laser resurfacing works compared to other treatments.

Fractional CO2 Lasers for Acne Scarring

asian male with deep acne scarring on face

Fractional CO2 lasers are suitable for injury scars, dark spots, stretch marks, sun damage, boxcar scars and rolling scars. The name comes from the fact that these lasers shatter the laser energy into hundreds of minute beams that cover only a fraction of the skin. This causes less damage and reduces downtime significantly.

There are two types: ablative laser and non-ablative laser. The main difference is in the depth of action they provide. While an ablative laser affects the top skin layer, a non-ablative laser focuses more on the tissue underneath, bypassing the skin surface. It also revs up collagen production, an important aspect of soft, supple skin tissue. The treatment should be carried out by a certified skin doctor and the results vary from person to person.

Intense pulsed light (IPL) / Pulsed-dye laser (PDL) for Acne Scarring

female holding IPL laser device

PDL treatment is designed to act on facial redness by hitting excess blood vessels and constricting blood flow (in a good way). It also softens scars by getting the body to induce extra collagen growth. The word dye in the name comes from the fact that there is an actual organic dye involved which serves to cause a laser-like effect. On that note, the device should be operated by a skin doctor.

Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) can penetrate deeper than PDL treatments but at the same time, it doesn’t damage the skin. This is too a non-ablative type of treatment that is similar to lasers but that employs multiple wavelengths as opposed to just one. It is used for all skin types and it also works as an acne treatment. Inflammation is reduced because of the constricted blood vessels. That being said, the results are determined based on the severity of the acne scar tissue. In addition to the other effects, IPL treatment could even out skin tone.

Microneedling Radiofrequency (RF) for Acne Scarring

woman having microneedling treatment for facial acne scars

Two separate treatments combined into one. It tends to rebuild collagen and tighten the pores. As a whole, it strives to create a normal skin structure. The good thing is it goes past the epidermal layer (the top skin layer), leaving it intact. This treatment should be performed by a medical practitioner.

Risks and Side Effects of Laser Treatment

The side effects of laser treatment vary in intensity depending on your skin type, as well as laser type and settings. In most cases, they include swelling, redness that lasts for a couple of days after the procedure, and pain in the affected area that goes away in an hour or two.

Fractionated lasers should not be used too aggressively on the skin as they may cause scarring. The good news is that an experienced dermatologist knows how to adjust the settings just right.

How Many Laser Treatments Does It Take to Remove Acne Scar Tissue?

To get the most out of your laser therapy for acne scarring, you will be advised to have anywhere between 3 and 5 appointments. They have to be made several weeks apart from one another so that the skin is provided some time to heal. You should receive detailed information about your journey and any side effect that may arise during the process.

Can Acne Scars Come Back After Laser Treatment?

young woman squeeze her acne

Although a rare occurrence, acne scarring might re-appear on the skin surface following laser treatment. The therapy can produce permanent results but there are individual factors that make some people more predisposed to experiencing this unpleasant outcome.

In the first place, it depends on the type of acne scar tissue. Take for instance keloids. They tend to bounce back on the face after a certain time. Second, it is very much down to the body’s natural powers and how well the skin heals. And that’s strictly individual. This is why not everyone makes a good candidate for laser treatment.

Last but not least, scar depth and severity is also a factor. It probably won’t come as a surprise that extensive scarring is more challenging to tackle and may never go away completely.

All these things should be added to the equation beforehand so that you know what to expect from the laser procedures and where your money goes. Setting the right expectations is half the work. For that to happen, you need to get your hands on the best information.

Can Laser Treatments Lighten Acne Scars?

Laser treatments for acne scars can cause temporary skin decolouration in the targeted area but it goes back to normal after a while. It is more accurate to say that a laser treatment minimises the appearance of acne scars and kicks off collagen production. The effects materialise several months following the last appointment and will be influenced by the severity of acne scars in the skin.

Things to Keep in Mind before You Opt for Laser Treatments for Acne Scars

Don’t go thinking things are as simple as signing up for an appointment. There is some prep work involved and some aftercare is required to make the treatment effective.

Before Your Skin Treatment

  1. Your treatment may consist of other therapies as well since scar tissue is impacted by several approaches. That’s why acne treatment is not restricted to the use of lasers. Sometimes professionals combine different procedures to obtain better results. For example, they may employ dermal fillers when the scars you are dealing with are indented into the skin (i.e. they heal under the skin tissue instead of over it). These are called atrophic scars and they respond well to fillers.
  2. Before you go in for your first session, you will be instructed to make some lifestyle changes. Dermatologists usually recommend that the following steps be implemented:
    • 14 days pre-treatment, you need to quit smoking to give your body the ability to heal properly
    • Avoid sunlamps, tanning beds, and sun exposure in general (always use sun protection)
    • Don’t use any products with glycolic acid or retinoid on your face prior to laser therapy
    • You have to stop taking supplements and medications that may delay the healing process such as aspirin and vitamin E
    • If you suffer from cold sores in your skin, you may be put on medication to prevent this from happening during your laser treatments
  3. On that note, you will have an initial consultation that will outline your problem areas and needs. One of the purposes is to ensure that you are in superb health and therefore eligible for the procedure. The other is to find out what methods will better fit your particular case. Remember that there is a variety of laser machines and settings. They all work for several types of skin problems. An experienced board-certified dermatologist will know which one to employ to treat your scars in the most optimum way based on your skin condition.
  4. Medical insurance and laser treatment for acne scars don’t go together due to the purely aesthetic intentions of the procedure. You need to have the money at the ready if you want to get it going.

After Your Skin Treatment

  1. You won’t see the full effects of the treatment right away but rather with the progression of time. In fact, you will have to arm yourself with patience because the outcome will start to unfold many months after you have finished the therapy. It’s a gradual process. Your body will be working at full speed to grow new, healthy tissue as it is getting rid of the damaged skin cells. Let it do its job.
  2. After your laser procedures, you will want to use sun protection all over your body and especially around the treatment area. In general, it is recommended that you schedule your sessions at a time of the year when the sun is at its lowest; however, if you live in an area with a lot of sunlight all year long, you will have to take extra steps to shield yourself from the harmful rays.
  3. Cover yourself up with long-sleeved shirts and big hats; wear sunglasses and don’t forget to apply lots of sunscreen. You should also consider spending more time at home the first week or so. If you feel like going out, choose early in the morning or late in the evening as your preferred timeframe. This is crucial for the outcome and your appearance.
  4. Stick with the skin care products that your dermatologist suggested. Your skin will be sensitive after each laser appointment and you have to treat it accordingly. A doctor will recommend certain products to add to your routine that will minimise the side effects and provide more comfort.
  5. The outcome will mostly depend on the expertise and training of your dermatologist. You should be extra careful when choosing a dermatologist since this is a serious treatment that requires a special skillset and knowledge. A lot of things can go wrong if you trust a non-professional with your precious skin. Eliminating acne scarring should not happen at all costs, especially when your health is on the line.

What is the Patient Satisfaction from Laser Resurfacing for Acne Scars?

People have different experiences with laser treatments. There are not many big studies on patient satisfaction with laser skin resurfacing but the majority of findings claim more than 90% effectiveness of said treatment. Some research on fractional lasers reported that they work best for boxcar scars and rolling scars but they are less effective for pitted scars. This should be put into consideration before any treatment plan is rolled out.

Another important clarification to make is that laser treatment is ideal for scarring that can be extended with the fingers. This leaves some room for poor effects. All in all, patients should expect around 50% to 80% improvement in their appearance (and therefore their self-esteem) but not 100% removal of their acne scars.

Although laser treatment is a great way to address whatever skin concern is torturing you, it is not a magic cure and you should have all the information laid out for you before you make any big decisions.

Also note that your skincare routine remains a vital component of your everyday life, pre- and post-laser treatment. As a whole, it is important to listen closely to what your dermatologist is advising for and against because this will be the difference between excellent results and a poor outcome.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding acne or our acne scar removal procedures.

Shens Clinic, 3 Killiney Road, Winsland House 1, #09-08, Singapore 239519

Monday – Friday: 09:00am – 06:00pm
Saturday: 09:00am – 02:00pm
Sun and PH: Closed

(Strictly by appointment only)

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