Treatment Focus: Nonablative Laser Treatment for Acne Scars

Suzanne Bruce

November 3rd, 2014

Acne can be unforgiving—even though it may have cleared up years ago, the scars left behind act as daily reminders of the past. Fortunately, with the technological and medical advancements made in recent years, there are several treatment options available to help erase the ghosts of acne past.  For this second treatment focus post, I’m going to provide an overview of nonablative laser resurfacing treatment.

As reference, there are actually three main types of laser treatments—abalative, nonablative and fractional. We’ll cover ablative and fractional in more details in future posts. To review, laser resurfacing in general works by passing a customized light across the face to remove very minute portions of skin and stimulating the regrowth of new healthy skin.  Nonablative laser therapy is typically used to treat superficial rolling and boxcar scars, and works by stimulating the collagen found underneath your skin—reducing the depth and severity of the scar. The treatment produces a “wound healing” response  prompting a remodeling process—tightening the skin and reducing the appearance of scars.

Nonablative lasers are usually seen as a less-intensive option (when compared to ablative treatments) because they don’t remove or vaporize any tissue. As a result, the impact to the top layers of skin is minimized. However, with less intensity comes less dramatic results. Some patients have to undergo three-to five sessions in order to be satisfied with the results, which usually become apparent within three to six months. The picture below is a really good example of how nonablative differs from ablative.


As with many treatments, nonablative laser treatment comes with its own set of potential side effects. Complications can include swelling, redness, and crusting of the skin . Additionally, there is a possibility of an acne breakout and hyperpigmentation (blotchy patches on the skin). For the most part, patients who are treated with nonablative lasers have minimal downtime and are able to go to school, work or go out in public in as few as one to two days after treatment.

For more information visit the Acne Resource Library entry on laser resurfacing.


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