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Acne vulgaris, or commonly termed as pimples or zits, affect a big proportion of teenagers and to a certain extent, adults. It is a social menace, as it deprives us of youthful, radiant skin. It affects our self-esteem and sense of well-being, even though acne is not a life threatening or serious disease. Along with acne, comes the often inevitable consequence of scarring of the face. There are various types of scars that acne may leave. In terms of colouration, the scars can be hyperpigmented, or reddish in appearance. This makes our facial skin appear uneven, oily, angry even.

The scars can also leave an uneven skin surface, and the scars are described as either rolling, like how waves appear in the ocean, ice pick, boxed, pitted, etc. This is largely due to the underlying collagen and skin structures healing in a haphazard manner during the active acne phase. Such scars are very resistant to treatment and the best way is to prevent the scars from forming in the first place. Unfortunately, this is not always possible.

There have been many attempts or remedies to address the problem of acne scarring. These can range from creams, to facials, etc. None of these remedies really work to a satisfying degree. Thankfully, with the advent of laser treatment, we now have a treatment that is effective and safe.

There are a number of lasers in the market that have been designed to treat acne scars. The principle is based on stimulating collagen regenesis so as to smoothen the surface irregularities. A few of the lasers in the market include the fractional CO2 laser, the erbium-yag laser and the erbium-glass laser. The fractional CO2 laser seems to provide the most dramatic results, although one would have to accept a downtime of about one week, where the face will be very red and peeling.

Improvements of between 30 to 50% with each treatment is not unheard of. The most obvious improvements would be in terms of the acne scars itself, but even pore size and skin tone have been demonstrated to improve as well, giving rise to a smoother appearance, radiant and rejuvenated. The erbium-glass laser is a gentler, non-ablative laser, but some feedback is that the results are not so noticeable with each treatment.

Medical lasers are not without risks and the doctor needs to be very respectful of the potential pitfalls when using lasers to treat the face. We believe firmly that less is more and to start low and go slow. With this principle in mind, the optimal results are often achieved for our patients’ benefit, with minimal risk or unwanted side effects.

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