Effectiveness of photodynamic therapy with topical 5-aminolevulinic acid and intense pulsed light in Chinese acne vulgaris patients

Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2013 Apr;29(2):90-6. doi: 10.1111/phpp.12031.


Background: The success rates of conventional treatments to acne vulgaris are limited because of intolerance and resistance. Photodynamic therapy with topical 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) and red light has been introduced. However, the side effects especially pigmentation are common.

Objective: To study the efficacy and safety of ALA-photodynamic therapy (PDT) with 420-950 nm intense pulsed light (IPL) in Chinese patients with acne vulgaris.

Methods: Forty-one patients with moderate to severe facial acne were randomly assigned to ALA-IPL-PDT group and IPL group. Ten percent topical ALA was applied to patients in the ALA-IPL-PDT group, while placebos were applied to patients in the IPL group. After 1 h occlusion, all patients were illuminated with 420-950 nm IPL. The patients in both groups had four treatment sessions with 1-week intervals. One week after each treatment and 4, 8, and 12 weeks after four sessions, acne lesion counts and adverse events were observed.

Results: Twelve weeks after treatments, mean reductions of global lesion counts of ALA-IPL-PDT group and IPL group were 75.2% and 51.0%, respectively. Mean reductions of inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesion counts in ALA-IPL-PDT group were (83.6 ± 4.1)% and (57.5 ± 6.8)%, respectively. No severe adverse events were observed.

Conclusion: ALA-IPL-PDT is an effective treatment for moderate to severe acne vulgaris, and side effects are mild and reversible.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / therapy*
  • Adult
  • Aminolevulinic Acid / adverse effects
  • Aminolevulinic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group
  • China
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intense Pulsed Light Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Photochemotherapy* / adverse effects
  • Photosensitizing Agents / adverse effects
  • Photosensitizing Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Aminolevulinic Acid