The scared girl with anti-akne cream on the face

NY Dermatologists Drs. Joshua Fox and Francis DiSpaltro discuss new state-of-the-art devices

Although it might seem life-threatening to a teenager with a face-full of pimples (and a big date coming up), acne is not considered a serious disease. It is the most common skin disorder in the U.S. today: Experts say that between 50 and 60 million Americans—close to 85 percent of us—will develop acne at some point in our lives, and more than 40 percent of adolescents will have pimples serious enough to warrant a visit to the dermatologist.

But despite its prevalence, acne is still one of the trickiest skin conditions to treat, says Dr. Joshua L. Fox, founder and medical director of NY and NJ-based Advanced Dermatology PC. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Dr. Fox says, “and many teenagers think they have to let a case of acne ‘run its course’—that it’s just part of growing up.” Even when someone develops acne as an adult, he says (it’s not at all unusual for people, particularly women, in their 30s, 40s and even 50s to suddenly see pimples on their skin), there’s this notion of it being just a normal part of life, Dr. Fox says. “People blame their pimples on stress or bad diet or any one of a number of other things, and think they just have to ride it out.”

But that’s simply not the case, says Dr. Fox’s colleague Dr. Fancis DiSpaltro, also with Advanced Dermatology in West Islip, NY.  We know that acne is caused by a few factors—overproduction of oil, inflammation, blockage of the follicles that release oil, and overgrowth of bacteria called Propionbacterium acnes—and we now have tools to address all of them. We also know that ignoring acne is a mistake.

“Without treatment,” Dr. DiSpaltro says, “even a moderate case of acne may leave you with dark spots and permanent scars.” Acne can also create significant emotional and psychological problems. The good news, he says, is that there are several new acne treatments available to dermatologists and their patients. “Not every acne treatment works for everyone who has acne,” Dr. DiSpaltro cautions. “But with the new tools we have at our disposal, virtually every case of acne can be controlled.”

Let there be light
The big news in acne treatments is light—or, more specifically, light-based treatments such as lasers and intense pulsed light, which target the oil glands and reduce the p. acnes bacteria in the skin and thus can dramatically improve a case of acne. Used in conjunction with other acne treatments—topical agents like benzoyl peroxide and retinoids, or oral medications such as antibiotics and the drug Isotretinoin—a series of light or laser treatments can work wonders. “These devices are great for patients with persistent acne who have had limited success with over-the-counter or prescription medications,” he says. “They can be used on all skin types and produce great results.”

The most noteworthy of the new treatments are:

•  Acleara and Isolaz. These devices utilize intense pulsed light, or IPL, which delivers short bursts (pulses) of broad-spectrum light to the skin. IPL is known to kill bacteria and reduce redness in the skin. In these new devices, the IPL is combined with a suction, which effectively clears the pores of oils, bacteria and dead skin cells. Either treatment can be performed in as little as 15 minutes, with little or no discomfort or downtime.

The Fraxel Dual 1550 and1927 lasers. This device uses fractional laser resurfacing to minimize the scars and pigmentation left behind by acne lesions. It works by targeting microscopic columns of skin—only a fraction of the area that’s being treated will actually be “lasered”—a process that thermally damages those bits of skin while the leaving the surrounding tissue unharmed. As these tiny injuries heal, the process triggers the production of collagen, which reduces scars and improves the overall appearance of the skin. “The Fraxel laser is really effective at treating scars because it can reach deep into the skin—past the uppermost layer and down into the dermis—to stimulate collagen remodeling while keeping the surrounding skin intact. It also helps lessen the redness,” Dr. Fox explains. A Fraxel Dual treatment involves minimal discomfort (you might get the sensation of a rubber band snapping against your skin) and only a day or two of redness and bronzing afterward.

Some of the other laser, light devices and procedures include Smooth Beam, IPL (without suction), chemical peels, Microdermabrasion & laser peels, and Blue Light treatments, both with and without amino levulinic acid (ALA). All of these treatments include minimal to no downtime.