Acne treatments: Medical procedures may help clear skin

Medical procedures, such as light therapy or chemical peels, may help clear stubborn acne. Learn more about these acne treatments. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Acne treatments aren't a one-size-fits-all commodity. If prescription creams and antibiotics aren't working for you — or if you can't tolerate the side effects these medications can cause — you might consider acne treatments that can be provided at your doctor's office.

Ranging from blue-light therapy to chemical peels, several types of office-based medical procedures have been found to be effective acne treatments for many people.

Regardless of which acne treatments you use, try to keep your expectations realistic. Acne can't be cured, only controlled. You won't start seeing improvements from most treatments for four to eight weeks, and your acne might appear worse before it gets better.

Light therapy

The redness and swelling that can occur with acne is caused by a type of bacteria that can be killed by exposing your skin to different types of light. Blue light is the most commonly used wavelength, although a combination of blue light and red light also appears to be effective.

Before the procedure, your doctor might apply a medication to your skin to make it more sensitive to light. Multiple treatment sessions are usually necessary with light therapy. Side effects can include temporary redness, crusting and peeling in the treated areas.

The acne bacteria can also be killed with pulsed light and heat energy. These treatments also shrink oil (sebaceous) glands, which decreases oil production. Side effects include temporary redness in the treated areas.

Aug. 01, 2012 See more In-depth