PhotoDynamic Therapy

Medical Spa & Cosmetic Dermatology Serving Beverly Hills, Lancaster, Cerritos, Santa Ana & Nearby Southern California

For Moderate to Severe and Cystic Acne

Managing and clearing acne for some acne sufferers is a bigger problem than others. Ideally topical, simple light or laser treatments will control your acne. If, however, you experience troublesome acne with inflammation and cysts, you may require a more intense acne control treatment.

A newer procedure for severe and difficult acne combines light with a special light-activated solution that targets and treats the causes. The procedure is called Photo Dynamic Therapy and combines aminolevulinic acid (ALA) with lights or lasers which specifically alters the mechanisms that cause your acne.

Medical Roundtable discussion of PDT effectiveness
Source : Medical Insight.
(Individual results may vary) *

Photodynamic acne treatment involves three mechanisms of action against acne.

  1. Inactivates the bacteria that trigger acne
  2. Exfoliates the skin to unclog pores
  3. Lessens activity of the oil glands (sebaceous glands) in the skin

PDT is a process by which this photosensitizing agent (also known as Levulan) is applied to your skin and then "switched on" by a light source (Blue Light) or laser so it will kill the acne. Levulan has been used extensively for the treatment of a variety of different skin conditions.

ALA acne treatment diagramLevulan is a 20% solution of Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA). ALA is a "natural" product found in all humans throughout the body. It is a precursor for hemoglobin synthesis which creates red blood cells. ALA/PDT treatment also has the unique ability to minimize pores and reduce the size of oil glands, effectively treating stubborn acne vulgaris, acne rosacea, and improving the appearance of some acne scars.

Advantages of PDT over Standard Acne Medications

PDT is more effective than oral antibiotics and topical medicines like Retin-A, Tazorac, Benzyl Peroxide, etc, combined. Although severe cases may require an initial boost of oral antibiotic to reduce inflamed acne lesions, the effective process occurs with the photodynamic therapy procedure itself.

A short series of Photodynamic Acne treatments can have your skin predominantly clear for up to 18 months and ongoing sessions when needed may be able to keep your skin looking normal indefinitely. Two or three treatments at 2 to 3 week intervals generally obtain the best results.

A PDT series will also help smooth your skin texture and to some degree minimize acne scars. By controlling acne in the earlier stages, you can prevent many of the potential scars. Milder acne may not require this level of treatment and may respond quickly to simple Blue Light alone.

Photodynamic Acne Treatment Procedure*

Levulan treatmentThe Levulan, which is a clear painless solution, is applied to your skin and left on for 15-60 minutes. It is then activated with a specific wavelength of light called BLU-U or with a pulsed laser. This second phase takes about 8-10 minutes.

The Levulan is absorbed by active cells like acne sebaceous gland, making the targeted acne cells more sensitive to the light. This combined interaction of the solution and the light is what gives rise to the term "photodynamic therapy." Levulan will also target sebaceous hyperplasia (which are those small (1-3mm), benign bumps under your skin) and the papules of acne rosacea.

PDT therapy for acneAn important part of the treatment program is medical extraction of blackheads and release of acne pustules. This procedure will expedite the improvement in your skin condition by cleaning the pores of hardened sebum and infected debris. If your acne is particularly severe, Dr. Sedgh may place you on oral antibiotics to reduce painful inflammation prior to your preparatory and PDT procedures.


  • Rapid treatment of acne lesions all over the face
  • No scarring
  • No surgical excisions
  • No systemic side effects
  • Reduces skin oiliness
  • Minimizes the appearance of pore size
  • Improved overall skin texture


Your skin will be red and have some skin peeling (and crusting if you have skin cancers) for several days after the treatment. Usually, the first 1-2 days are the worst. Pressed mineral base powder (available in our office) will hide most of the redness. You must remain indoors the day following your treatment to avoid sun exposure, as you are photosensitive for at least 24 hours after PDT.

Day of Treatment Recommendations and Requirements

man with sunhatA broad brimmed hat or wide billed cap will provide needed extra protection when you leave the office. Bring one with you to your appointment. An umbrella will also provide protection from the sun. Your skin will be ultra sensitive to sunlight and it is vital that you prevent as most exposure immediately after treatment as possible.

Do not use exfoliants or aggressively wash your skin the day of treatment prior to or after your procedure.

Do not go outside other than what is necessary for you to go home.

Follow Dr. Sedgh's instructions completely. You will be given an instruction sheet to read before you leave the office. Discuss your treatment options for acne by calling Beverly Hills Laser Institute, Inc. at 888-333-2515 today.

* Individual Results May Vary