For Acne Scars, Laser Resurfacing Is Popular, Effective

From the WebMD Archives

May 16, 2000 -- Chemical peels? Dermabrasion? Laser resurfacing? When you begin looking for ways to improve the acne scares on your face, what's the best option for you?

Laser resurfacing may hold promise as a new treatment for acne scars, but patients need more information before making a choice, according to a recent report in the British Journal of Dermatology.

"I had two dermabrasions that didn't improve my [acne] scars, but there's a big difference since laser surgery," says Mercedes Rezvanpour, 36, who underwent the laser resurfacing procedure in March.

Rezvanpour's dermatologist used the YAG laser, even though it takes longer to heal. After surgery, she applied moist bandages hourly and saw the doctor daily.

"It was scary at first, because my face was so swollen," Rezvanpour says. "But in two weeks, I was wearing sunscreen and makeup again." She advises taking at least two weeks off from work to heal.

"Lasers actually burn the face to create a new skin surface, but there's almost no information about how patients perceive the procedure or how it affects their lives," says lead study researcher Rachel Jordan, a research fellow at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

Jordan reviewed 16 research studies on laser resurfacing for facial acne scars. There were no standard measures for scar improvement or patient satisfaction, but the findings suggest that the procedure is up to 90% effective and is more precise than dermabrasion, in which a rough, abrasive edge is used to remove scars, and chemical peels, in which chemicals remove layers of skin to remove scars.

Lasers are named according to the source that creates the energy beam. Different lasers are more useful for certain procedures and skin types. For example, the Erbium:YAG laser is better for improving darker skin.

Most of the studies Jordan looked at tested the effectiveness of the carbon dioxide laser, although results were similar with the YAG laser. In all cases, a new skin surface formed within 10 days, and redness lasted for about two months. Up to 45% of the patients had temporary changes in skin color, but infections were rare.