The Use of Lasers and Light Devices in Acne Management: An Update

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2021 Nov;22(6):785-800. doi: 10.1007/s40257-021-00624-5. Epub 2021 Jul 21.


Acne vulgaris is a disease of the pilosebaceous unit and the most common inflammatory dermatosis worldwide. It is also associated with significant economic burden. Limitations of conventional topical and systemic treatments include long treatment course, intolerable adverse effects, antibiotic resistance, and patient compliance. Therefore, laser and light-based interventions present as alternative options over the past decade and have been used in combination with conventional pharmacological therapies and other physical modalities. An updated overview on the use of lasers and light-based devices in acne management is presented to help clinicians understand the safety and efficacy of these treatment options. The effectiveness of neodymium:yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) for treating acne is supported by more high-level studies compared with other laser devices. There is limited evidence to support the use of CO2 lasers, potassium titanyl phosphate lasers, and 1565-nm non-ablative fractional lasers for treating acne. Among light devices, photodynamic therapy is the most studied, showing higher efficacies than some of the conventional topical and oral acne therapies. Intense-pulsed light and blue light therapies also show favorable outcomes. A limitation is that most studies are non-randomized and lack a control group, and report on a variety of device settings, treatment regimens, and outcome measures, making it challenging to summarize and generalize findings. Although the use of laser and light devices to treat acne is promising, further work with randomized controlled study designs and larger sample sizes will provide improved guidance on the application of these modalities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / diagnosis
  • Acne Vulgaris / therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Intense Pulsed Light Therapy / instrumentation*
  • Lasers, Gas / therapeutic use
  • Lasers, Solid-State / therapeutic use
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / instrumentation*
  • Photochemotherapy / instrumentation*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome