The main contributors to acne are the excess oil produced in the sebaceous glands of the skin and a particular skin microbe called Propionibacterium acnes which invades the glands and turns the oil into pus. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy can be used as an effective acne treatment to treat acne-prone skin.

IPL uses filtered light of a specific waveform (colour) that is selectively absorbed by the inflamed acne areas. The treatment creates heat in the acne lesions to control the microbes and reduce oil production in the sebaceous glands. For treating more severe acne, this effect can be magnified many times over by using a specific photosensitising agent called ALA (amino laevulinic acid) applied to the skin. The pulsed light activates ALA and causes it to release strong chemicals called free radicals that selectively destroy the bacterial cells and dry up the oil glands.

  • Light based treatments also have the long term advantage of improving collagen modelling in the healing skin, thus avoiding or reducing the possibility of scar formation.

  • Treatment can be used on acne lesions of any severity, both on the face and in other areas prone to acne such as the upper chest and back.

  • The treatment time depends on the area but is usually less than half an hour. If the photosensitizing agent is used, this has to be applied about an hour before the procedure and left on till the treatment is done. No anaesthetic is required, and patients usually do not find the treatment unpleasant, describing the sensation as nothing more than a hot pin-prick. Although this is an entirely safe treatment, a test patch may be suggested before the actual sessions are planned, to test the reactivity of the skin.

  • The skin feels warm after treatment and a reddening of the skin is quite usual, however, this quickly fades. Occasionally the skin may darken or lighten in tone, but these effects are temporary. Some skin peeling may be expected with the more aggressive PDT using the sensitiser. Applying sun screen is advised after the treatment, preferably avoiding the sun altogether for two days if PDT is used.

  • Depending on the severity or extent of the condition, you may need between one to six sessions at monthly or two-monthly intervals. This will be discussed with you during the consultation.