Photodynamic therapy for acne vulgaris: a randomized, controlled, split-face clinical trial of topical aminolevulinic acid and pulsed dye laser therapy

J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010 Mar;9(1):28-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2165.2010.00483.x.


Background: There remains the need for more effective therapeutic options to treat acne vulgaris. Interest in light-based acne treatments has increased, but few randomized, controlled clinical trials assessing the value of photodynamic therapy (PDT) for acne have been reported.

Aims: We sought to examine the efficacy of PDT using 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) and pulsed dye laser therapy in the treatment of acne.

Patients/methods: We conducted a randomized, controlled, split-face, single-blind clinical trial of 44 patients with facial acne. Patients were randomized to receive three pulsed dye laser treatments to one side of the face after a 60-90 min ALA application time, while the contralateral side remained untreated and served as a control. Serial blinded lesion counts and global acne severity ratings were performed.

Results: Global acne severity ratings improved bilaterally with the improvement noted to be statistically significantly greater in treated skin than in untreated skin. Erythematous macules (remnants of previously active inflammatory lesions) decreased in number in treated skin when compared with control skin and there was a transient but significant decrease in inflammatory papules in treated skin when compared with untreated skin. There were no other statistically significant differences between treated and untreated sides of the face in terms of counts of any subtype of acne lesion. Thirty percent of patients were deemed responders to this treatment with respect to improvement in their inflammatory lesion counts, while only 7% of patients responded in terms of noninflammatory lesion counts.

Conclusions: PDT with the treatment regimen employed here may be beneficial for a subgroup of patients with inflammatory acne.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Acne Vulgaris / pathology
  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adolescent
  • Aminolevulinic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lasers, Dye / therapeutic use*
  • Low-Level Light Therapy* / methods
  • Male
  • Photochemotherapy / methods*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Aminolevulinic Acid