Acne AFT Pulsed Light

woman getting an acne laser applied to her face by aesthetician

Our Acne AFT Pulsed Light treatment utilizes wavelengths of light specifically targeted toward inflammatory acne. It employs proprietary pulsed light technology in the blue wavelength range (420-950 nm) ideal for permeating the skin and killing acne-causing bacteria. 

There are many factors that contribute to acne, and one of the biggest is a specific bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes that colonize inside sebaceous glands, causing them to clog. This leads to lesions, pustules, cysts, and inflammation. 

  1. P. acnes also produces special organic compounds called porphyrins. The Acne AFT module emits intense blue light that targets these porphyrins. When the porphyrins absorb the light, free radical damage is produced and rapidly kills the bacteria without causing any damage to the surrounding tissue. By getting at the root of acne, our patients can see a significant reduction in lesions, pustules, inflammation, and scarring. 

Acne AFT Pulsed Light treatment can be adjusted for use on all skin types, although we recommend avoiding it if you have done any recent tanning or have had significant sun exposure in the four weeks prior to treatment. As the bacterial load decreases, the pores are able to clear and the skin can repair and heal. 

Frequently asked questions

How many treatments are usually required? A total of 8 treatments is the usual recommendation, although some people need fewer and some people need more. 

How frequently should treatments be done? They can be done as frequently as every 48-72 hours. For moderate to severe acne we recommended twice a week for a month. 

How long do results last? This is different for everyone, but on average the results last over 3 months. Some people will need touch-up treatments for outbreaks. Because there are so many internal health factors that contribute to acne (e.g. hormones, diet, stress, detoxification) we highly recommend setting up a consultation with Dr. Wheeler to address the internal health issues that might be contributing. 

How effective is it? Studies have shown the Acne AFT treatment to be as effective as antibiotics without the side effects. Some people respond very well to the Acne AFT treatment, but others do not respond at all, and there is no way of being able to predict who will and won’t respond.

What do I need to do before treatment? No special precautions are necessary, although we do recommend thoroughly removing makeup before the treatment. We don’t recommend this treatment if you are tanned (fake or natural), and it is best to let any tans fade before treatment. 

Can I go out in the sun immediately after? Yes, although we recommend you always use appropriate sunscreen. 

Can I put makeup on immediately after? Yes. 

What is the downtime? There is none. After the treatment, the skin might be a little red and warm, but this usually subsides within a few minutes. Some people with very sensitive skin might have a histamine reaction that causes swelling, redness, and little red bumps (like a rash), and this usually resolves within 6-8 hours and can be treated with an antihistamine such as benadryl. 

Will the acne start improving right away? Yes and no. For some people the results start appearing immediately, and for others the inflammation might actually get worse initially before getting better. 

Can I do this if I am on other acne medications? It depends on the medication. We recommend the following wait time for certain medications: 

  • Any photosensitizing antibiotic (e.g. tetracycline, minocycline) or herbal medication (e.g. St. Johnswort) -- 10 days 
  • Isotretinoin (e.g. Accutane) --6 months
  • Tretinoin (e.g. Retin-A) -- 5 days

Are there people who should NOT have this treatment? We recommend against this treatment if you have vitiligo (hypopigmentation), any active inflammatory skin condition (e.g. cold sores, shingles, eczema) at the treatment site, any wounds that have not yet healed, or a previous poor response to pulsed light or laser treatments. 

Can this be done on teenagers? Yes, but anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult or guardian.

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