A New Look At Acne

Acne vulgaris is the medical term for what is more commonly known as (yes, you guessed it) acne.  Sometimes I can’t help but use medical terminology, although my family constantly calls me on it.  Regardless, acne is one of the common dermatological conditions treated by doctors. Very few people escape it completely.  Medical studies have shown that up to 87% of males and females 11 to 30 years experience acne.

That fact should surprise no one.  However, while acne sees to be almost an adolescent rite of passage, many women find themselves facing stubborn outbreaks of acne in their 20s, 30s and 40s.  Fortunately, more treatments are available for acne than in the “old days”.  These treatments target the sebaceous glands, which are the source of the oil that feeds the P. acne bacteria.  See, there I successfully avoided the medical terms, because the “P” in P. acne bacteria actually stands for propionibacterium.

Topical treatment applied to the skin are improving steadily.  I am very excited by the new Overnight Spot Treatment which is the strongest therapy available to stop the pimple in formation from becoming a full-blown acne breakout.  This sort of prevention is the best therapy and decreases the long-term consequences of acne, including scarring.

The latest research also shows the positive role of lasers in treating acne.  Some studies have even confirmed that lasers used for facial rejuvenation can decrease the size of sebaceous glands (which lie beneath the skin and secrete an oily matter that helps lubricate the hair and skin) along with oil secretion.  A 2009 study specifically looking at inflammatory facial acne showed a decrease of acne lesions by 31% after one laser treatment, 58% after the second, and an 83% reduction after the third treatment.  All treatments were performed at 4-6 week intervals, and patients were 100% satisfied with their results, including those with previously refractory acne.

Another exciting development which I am looking into acquiring for Maine Laser Skin Care is low-level blue-light and red-light therapy.  Studies on blue-light have shown that the approach is painless and can be used in all skin types.  Apparently, the P. acne bacteria (no need to repeat what the “P” stands for) absorbs the blue-light wavelength preferentially, resulting in a significant reduction in the amount of acne bacteria on the skin.  One study showed a 70% decrease in inflammatory acne lesions after twice-weekly treatments for 4 weeks that lasted for at least 8 weeks after therapy stopped.  The addition of re-light wavelength also appears to decrease the redness and inflammation caused by the acne lesions.

I have also been seeing a great deal of success using the Fraxel laser for treatment of acne scarring.  After several treatments, the skin can be seen looking smoother and the scars less deep.  Deep stimulation of collagen production combined with more superficial skin resurfacing produces a much smoother appearance.  Patient satisfaction has been high.

While laser treatments do not provide a cure for acne, they do provide new and alternative treatments to standard topical or oral acne treatment.  Combinations of topical therapies and light-based treatments including lasers can be more powerful and effective than either treatment alone.  I will continue to keep all of you up-to-date in other new research as it becomes available.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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