Traditional medical treatments for acne vulgaris include a variety of topical and oral medications. The combination of poor compliance, lack of durable remission, and potential side effects are common drawbacks to these treatments. The use of lasers and light devices has increased dramatically in recent years due to the overall ease of treatment, predictable clinical efficacy, and minimal adverse effects. A variety of light and laser devices has been used for the treatment of acne, including the potassium titanyl phosphate (KTP) laser, the 585- and 595-nm pulsed dye lasers, the 1450-nm diode laser, radiofrequency devices, intense pulsed light sources, low-intensity light treatment, and photodynamic therapy using 5-aminolevulinic acid and indocyanine green.
These devices are thought to target underlying pathogenic factors such as Propionibacterium acnes colonization, increased sebaceous gland activity, and the cutaneous inflammatory response. Lasers in particular also have a central role in the management of acne scarring, which tends to be refractory to medical therapies. Fractional photothermolysis, the 1450-nm diode laser, and pulsed dye lasers have been used in the nonablative treatment of acne scars with significant success. In this article, we review the current status of light- and laser-based treatment of acne and related conditions and briefly review the use of lasers for the treatment of acne scarring.