Acne scars are a common problem that many patients experience after a breakout. A staggering 80% of those aged 11 to 30 will face acne, with one out of five of that population having to deal with acne scars.
And as we get older, the gradual loss of precious collagen resources in our body can worsen the appearance of scars—making acne scars a problem that is tricky and frustrating to handle.
Thankfully, there are a plethora of treatment options available today to help improve the appearance of any undesirable scarring, with laser treatments being one of the most popular.
And as technological advancements are constantly improving, so are more effective laser treatments being introduced into the market. While the gold-standard laser for treating acne scars has always been the fractional CO2 laser, there is now a safer, faster and equally effective laser that is quickly becoming one of the most sought after aesthetic treatments.
Introducing the Pico laser: an innovative laser technology that is clinically proven to get rid of acne scars, stubborn pigmentation and rejuvenate the skin!
What are Pico lasers?
First introduced as a tattoo removal treatment, Pico lasers were later subsequently proven to be effective in treating a wide variety of skin conditions including:
- Acne scars
- Post-inflammatory erythema
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Enlarged pores
- Pigmentation such as freckles, sun or age spots
- Dull skin
Pico lasers work by delivering powerful, ultra-short pulses onto the target area to shatter pigmentation by breaking down melanin into smaller particles that can then be absorbed and released by the body naturally.
It is often compared to the Q-switch laser—the go-to laser treatment for treating pigmentation. However, Pico laser is considered to be the next generation of Q-switch in that it relies very little on photothermal energy. Instead, it offers a photomechanical effect that minimizes thermal damage to the surrounding tissues and is much gentler on the skin.
Unlike Q-switch which releases laser beams at a billionth of a second (nanoseconds), Pico does it in one trillionth of a second (picoseconds), making it essentially 100 times faster in delivering more shots into the dermis for better and quicker results.
Studies have shown that the Pico laser demonstrated faster and better clearance of melasma as compared to Q-switch!
Since Pico lasers come in multiple wavelengths and various spot sizes (3-10mm), this also allows doctors to fully customize your treatment according to your needs.
Treating acne scars with Pico + HEXA MLA handpiece
A unique feature of the Pico laser is that it comes with an additional Micro Lens Array (MLA) handpiece. This attachment helps to focus and magnify the light energy by up to 15 times, allowing the doctor to deliver high fluence microbeams in a fractionated pattern to produced highly-controlled and precise micro-injury deep within the skin.
This kickstarts a process known as laser-induced optical breakdown (LIOB), which generates pressure waves that propagate into the dermis to impact the cells; signalling the skin to trigger an inflammatory response and creating intra-epidermal cavities or “bubbles” without causing harm to the epidermis.
Collagen then forms inside these tiny bubbles that help to “lift” and resurface depressed acne scars and shrink enlarged pores. In fact, a 2018 study concluded that picosecond lasers are safe and effective as an acne scar removal in Asian patients!
The stimulation of collagen and elastin is what helps remove acne scars, fine lines and wrinkles, and also improves overall skin texture.
And because of its ability to deliver energy at such a rapid pace, this removes a major problem that traditional lasers like Q-switch and fractional CO2 have; which is the risk of burns, blisters and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) post-treatment due to thermal damage being done to the surrounding tissues.
Given that Asian skin is more prone to PIH, this makes Pico lasers a safe and effective treatment for them. In fact, Pico lasers are safe on all skin types!
While conventional acne scar laser treatments are usually associated with longer downtimes, side effects like PIH and more discomfort; the high peak power and ultra-short pulses is what allows Pico lasers to produce excellent results with more precision, reduced risk and less discomfort in fewer treatment sessions.
So, is faster better?
In short, the answer is yes—but the answer also depends on your specific condition and goals.
This is also not to say that traditional lasers should be considered obsolete. Nanosecond lasers are still very successful in destroying certain kinds of pigments; it’s just that picosecond lasers can help to address stubborn pigmentation that isn’t seeing results with nanosecond lasers.
A study made on picosecond lasers revealed that it produces results that are comparable to several treatments of fractional ablative lasers in improving the appearance of acne scars. Also, the picosecond laser can better target multiple depths to achieve more favourable results.
However, fractional CO2 lasers are still the best option in treating severe cases of depressed scars. Subcision for acne scars and dermal fillers work best for tethered, depressed scars. Fractional radiofrequency treatments such as INFINI RF is ideal for those facing cystic acne and acne scarring at the same time, and Q-switch can be used to control swelling of the acne and minimize sebum production.
Given that the majority of patients face multiple acne scar types at a time, acne scar treatments require a comprehensive and holistic treatment plan that uses a combination approach. This is why we offer a wide variety of laser devices and technologies to maximize your treatment options and results.
With more than 40 years of combined experience treating even the most stubborn cases of acne and acne scars, our doctors at The Clifford Clinic strive to understand your needs to deliver a bespoke experience that exceeds your expectations.
If you are looking for a non-invasive, FDA-approved acne scar treatment that boasts a high patient satisfaction rate, contact us to book your consultation today!
- What is the procedure like?
This treatment is a fairly straightforward process. First, numbing cream will be applied and you will be requested to put on protective eyewear throughout the procedure.
The doctor will then proceed to use the handpiece and move it across the treatment areas.
The entire treatment can be completed in just 15-20 minutes where you will be able to see results in just a few sessions. It is highly recommended to undergo 3-5 treatments at 4-week intervals for optimum results.
- Are treatments painful?
Not to worry, the laser treatment is largely tolerable and it is our priority to ensure that you are comfortable throughout the entire procedure. We will apply a numbing cream to increase your comfort level and the majority of patients report a slight tingling or prickling sensation that feels similar to a small rubber band snapping on your skin.
- What is the downtime for the treatment?
The best part about Pico laser treatments is that it is a minimally-invasive treatment, with patients experiencing some redness and tiny scars or blood spots for 4-6 days post-treatment.
Other than that, you should be able to jump right back to your day-to-day activities immediately after a session with no problems and apply make-up as per usual.