Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a non-invasive therapy that utilizes light treatments in combination with the application of the photosensitizing agent, typically a medicine called Levulan® (5-aminolevulinic acid). Photodynamic therapy is very effective in treating acne.
PDT treats acne by two primary mechanisms. First, it shrinks the skin’s oil glands (sebaceous glands) that contribute to acne formation. This can drastically reduce the amount of oil within the pores, thereby reducing comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). Second, PDT also kills the acne bacteria that live on facial skin and cause acne breakouts. In addition, PDT seems to improve the skin’s overall texture, and may speed the resolution of acne-induced discoloration (red or dark spots that remain after the pimples have resolved).
First, excess dead cells on the skin’s surface are removed using an acetone scrub. This enhances the penetration of the photosensitizing agent. Next, the photosensitizing agent (Levulan) is applied to the skin and allowed to incubate for a period of 15 to 60 minutes. The agent is then removed and the skin is treated with light for about 15 minutes. Most commonly blue light, laser light or red light is used to activate the Levulan. Many patients report feeling moderate warmth during the procedure but most do not feel any pain. The majority of patients report significant improvements ranging from a 50% to 75% reduction in acne lesions after a few treatments.