I just turned 30 and have been battling acne since college. I have seen countless dermatologists and must have tried just about every product out there. To help with texture and scarring it was recommended that I try a series of Smoothbeam laser treatments. I recently had four treatments that seemed to help with the acne and scarring a bit, but the sessions weren't as effective as I had hoped and were quite expensive. Do you recommend any treatments or products to help even out skin texture? The Smoothbeam was recommended to me by my dermatologist, but I'm not sure how impartial he was. With your huge knowledge base and objective advice, I really trust your opinion and am eager to hear what you recommend.
Gina, via email
The Smoothbeam Laser is a 1,450nm wavelength, diode, nonablative (meaning noninjurious) laser that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating acne scars as well as acne. There is limited research showing it to be effective for scarring and for reducing the presence of acne lesions, and most of the research was sponsored by the company that sells Smoothbeam. As far as is known, Smoothbeam isn't a slam dunk, not everyone is going to be a happy camper about the results or the cost (which is usually $500 per treatment and it can take four to six treatments before you can see if it worked for you). It's important to know that the FDA classifies laser and light therapies as procedure-oriented, so the stringent, long-term studies necessary for approval of drugs is not required. As such, more comparative studies are needed to determine the long-term effects and to perfect these technologies. It's a bit shocking how little research is needed for the FDA to approve a "machine" for a medical treatment.
As you may know, acne develops as a result of one or more of the following: excess sebum production, rapid production of P. acnes (the strain of bacteria responsible for acne), skin cells shed too quickly, or release of inflammatory substances. For a treatment to work, it must interfere with the various elements causing the acne. Thus, many physicians use a multi-targeted approach, which is why an acne treatment prescribed by a dermatologist often requires patients to use more than one medication.
For now, Smoothbeam is sort of the new kid on the block, but there are several "light" and laser treatments for acne that can be helpful, including blue-light therapy; pulsed light and heat energy; aminolevulinic acid (ALA) + light therapy; and pulsed dye laser. Lasers and light therapies, however, target only one process, which means that a patient's acne problem may not be resolved. Until more is known, laser and light therapies offer an alternative for individuals whose acne has not responded to traditional acne therapies (Sources: http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/index.html, Acnenet from the American Academy of Dermatology; Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, July 2005, pages 97–102; and Dermatologic Surgery, September 2005, pages 1223–1226).
Source: Paula Begoun