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Photodynamic Therapy – PDT – for Acne and Sun Damage

Photodynamic Therapy – PDT – for Acne and Sun Damage


What is Photodynamic Therapy?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) using Levulan® is a very safe and effective treatment for moderate to severe acne, aging, and severe sun damage.
At Cosmetic Laser MD, Susan Stevens Tanne, M.D. offers Photodynamic therapy with Levulan® and the BLU–U® light or FotoFacial RF (IPL) from Syneron to help reverse sun damage and treat acne. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a special treatment that uses a photosensitizing agent that is applied to skin and then activated with a light source. The beauty of utilizing PDT is its ability to rejuvenate skin — in addition to successfully improving such skin conditions as acne and severe sun damage — all in one procedure.


How does Photodynamic Therapy Work?

The Levulan® is absorbed by actively proliferating cells such as bacteria, oil glands and sun damaged cells. The light source used may be a visible blue light, intense pulsed light or laser light. It activates the Levulan® in the targeted cells which are then destroyed. Bacteria are destroyed, oil glands shrink and sun damaged cells peel away. Skin texture is improved, pore size is reduced, and skin appears smoother, brighter, and healthier.

What happens during and after the treatment?

The patient experiences a mild tingling during the treatment. The next few days feel like a sunburn as the old cells are shed off.
It is very important that you avoid direct sunlight for 36 hours (including car windows) after having the treatment. Sunlight contains the spectrum of light that can unpredictably activate the chemical and result in a much deeper peel than was expected.

What conditions can be treated?
  • Sun damage: face, neck, shoulders, back, chest, hands, arms and legs
  • Acne, oily skin, and enlarged pores
  • Rosacea
  • Keratosis pilaris (tiny bumps on cheeks and the back of arms)
What happens during PDT Treatment?

Clean your skin of all makeup, sunscreen and moisturizers. If you have recurrent cold sores, we’ll start an Antiviral prophylaxis. We will perform an acetone scrub or microdermabrasion. A clear painless solution is applied to your skin and left on for 30–60 minutes. It is then activated by a light source, usually BLU–U®, LightWave blue LED therapy or IPL, for a few minutes and then washed off. Most people require three to five treatments, two to four weeks apart.
The treatment will also target sebaceous hyperplasia (those small, benign bumps on your skin), and the papules of acne rosacea. Skin oiliness is decreased, and the appearance of pores is minimized. The entire skin texture improves following a Photodynamic Acne Treatment.

PDT Acne Therapy

There are several different presentations of acne ranging from comedonal (blackheads and whiteheads), papular, pustular, and cystic acne. In many cases, many of these presentations of acne can be present on an individual simultaneously.
Prior to photodynamic acne treatment, the best available treatment option for cystic acne was Accutane. However, with Accutane there are many systemic side effects including birth defects, liver abnormalities, mood depression, and virtually all patients get dryness. PDT Acne Treatment provides a viable alternative for all types of acne treatment. For many people this means being able to avoid oral antibiotics or Accutane.

FotoFacial RF and PDT

Photodynamic therapy can be combined with our regular skin rejuvenation treatments using FotoFacial RF, which targets redness and brown spots, as well as stimulates formation of more collagen in the skin. There is normally no downtime for FotoFacial RF treatments without Levulan. However, one can enhance and boost the FotoFacial RF skin rejuvenation results by adding Levulan to the treatment process. The down time is a little longer than for a typical FotoFacial RF treatment but the results are phenomenal! The pores become finer, spots flake off and the result is a subtle air brushed look that your friends and family will compliment you on.

Is there any downtime? What happens after treatment?

We’ll apply sun block and make sure you wear your hat out of the office. Patients are more sensitive to the sun for 36 hours after treatment and must avoid direct light. If possible, patients should remain indoors for the first 24 hours after treatment. There may be mild swelling around the eyes for 1 day and redness and peeling for about seven to 10 days. You’ll use mild cleansers and moisturizers until the peeling stops. Sunscreen is mandatory. Topical acne medications can be used in between the PDT treatments once the redness has settled down, usually over a period of a few days. Again, if you are prone to facial cold sores, Dr. Tanne will prescribe antiviral medication to prevent a recurrence.
The advantages of PDT are rapid treatment of acne lesions all over the face without scarring or surgical excision. The skin appears refreshed and younger following these treatments. There are no systemic side effects.

Who should avoid Photodynamic Therapy?

Pregnant women, those who have taken Accutane® in the past three months, and those with active cold sores. Dr. Tanne will discuss whether this treatment is appropriate for you during your free consultation.

When is the BLU–U® light or LightWave LED therapy used without Levulan®?

Since the BLU–U® light and LightWave LED destroys bacteria that aggravate acne, mild to moderate acne can be improved with just the light. Treatment involves sitting in front of the light for a few minutes twice a week for 5 weeks. It is safe and painless, and can be used together with prescribed acne medication, microdermabrasion, and light chemical peels.