New Acne Treatment Uses Vacuum & Light

“Why does acne happen to good people?” Sofia C., a devoted mom and elementary school teacher, used to be plagued by this question. “My acne was so awful, it was like I was being punished for a past life. I must have been a terrible person.”

Sofia, like millions of others, faced constant battles against acne. She estimates having spent thousands of dollars on special face washes and lotions, spa treatments, oral medications and other anti-acne ammunition over a three-year period. Then she tried photopneumatic therapy. “I had to wait about two weeks for results. After that, my skin was finally incredible in a good way.”

In a study of 15 photopneumatic patients at Johns Hopkins University, all patients had meaningful reduction in acne and redness within three weeks of treatment. The results were assessed with photographs to avoid bias. Fourteen patients reported being extremely satisfied or very satisfied with the results. The fifteenth participant reported moderate satisfaction.

What Is Photopneumatic Therapy?

Photopneumatic therapy has been available to the public since 2006. It combines light treatment with suction. (Photo refers to light and pneu refers to wind or air.) First the skin is sprayed with water. Then a tiny vacuum pulls pore-clogging substances to the skin’s surface. The suction lasts for about a second. Finally, the skin is exposed to intense pulsations of light. The powerful light accomplishes two tasks: It stuns hyperactive oil glands and kills bacteria. The entire treatment takes about twenty minutes and no anesthetic or cooling is needed for comfort.

The result? Acne dries out quickly. Many patients have completely clear skin within six photopneumatic treatments. Reduced inflammation is evident immediately because pores are cleared of excess sebum and bacteria.

Dermatologists generally recommend a minimum of five treatments scheduled a week apart. Maintenance sessions are recommended too, especially for women who have monthly acne outbreaks related to hormonal flux.

Choose Light, Not Drugs

Photopneumatic treatment has yielded high success rates in people who don’t respond to topical creams and oral medications. It’s also preferable to drugs because results come more quickly without the risk of liver damage or other side effects of medication.

Side effects of photopneumatic therapy are usually mild for people who fit the treatment profile. The procedure is painless and negative side effects are, at most, short-term redness or mild swelling. However, people with dark skin risk having their skin pigmentation change. Future research may explore modifying the Isolaz light treatment device to suit all people with acne.

Is Light Treatment Right for Your Skin Type?

As of 2012 photopneumatic treatment is only appropriate for people with skin types I through IV on the Fitzpatrick Scale. Other people risk having their skin permanently lightened. The Fitzpatrick Scale categorizes skin types by considering genetic disposition, reaction to ultraviolet rays and tanning habits. It’s been an important part of dermatology since the late 1970s.

Basically, people falling into categories I through IV range from very light-skinned people to people with so-called Caucasian Mediterranean skin tones. Level I includes albinos, light-skinned northern Europeans and others who burn very easily with sun exposure. Level IV skin rarely burns and easily tans to a medium brown.

A Pigmentation Benefit

Appropriate candidates for surgery, i.e., people with skin types I to IV, can get additional cosmetic benefits from light-drive acne treatment. That’s because scars, liver spots, moles and other patches of hyperpigmentation may be eliminated.

The Price of Beauty

The cost of photopneumatic treatment varies wildly with geographic location. Sessions cost anywhere from $150 to $500 each and usually are not paid for by insurance. Given the 90% success rate though, most patients say it’s well worth the expense. Sofia says, “I’m not self-conscious about people staring at my skin anymore. I don’t feel the need to cake on powder and hide myself. You really can’t put a price on that freedom.”