When Angelica Rivas looks in the mirror, she sees the scars of adult onset acne. "I actually experienced it in the past three year, that it started getting pretty intense," she said. Now, she is turning to a laser technology to make the pitting and scarring less noticeable.
Dr. Sheena Kong says the Fraxel Restore Laser has been approved for several years, but is becoming a popular option for treating skin problems among ethnic groups with darker or more sensitive skin.
"Now traditionally, for Caucasian skin types, it's much easier to treat acne scars because you can treat much more aggressively. You can use a fractional ablative laser and patient will do fine," Kong explained. She says some ablative lasers which burn off layers of skin can potentially damage pigment in Asian, Latino and African American patients. "You don't want to get into complications," she said.
Instead of removing skin, she says the non-ablative laser sends a column of laser light into the layers underneath. The technique is designed to stimulate collagen growth "so the cells can regenerate and produce new collagen, therefore, to fill up some of the scars." The procedure has a smoothing effect. Still, some experts believe alternative treatments can offer similar results at a lower cost.
Dr. Roy Grekin directs the laser center at UCSF's Department of Dermatology. "You can get a lot more improvement out of that one treatment than you can out of five of the fractional," he says. The non-ablative system typically requires four to five treatments to show results. Costs range from $750 to $1,500 per session.
Angelica is hoping to restore some smoothness to the areas of her skin damaged by acne outbreaks."Little to minimal blemishes, like them being gone. That would be amazing. That would be such a relief," she said
The laser is also approved for use in treating light scars from cuts or surgery, however, it is typically not covered by insurance.