Is Rosacea Laser Treatment Right for You?
Topical medications can help with some rosacea symptoms, but they can only do so much. Rosacea laser treatment is another option.
By Marie Suszynski
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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Anyone who has rosacea knows it’s hard to get rid of the red — topical therapies are only effective to a point. However, there is an option to erase the damage done and give you an even complexion: laser treatment for rosacea. Rosacea laser treatment uses heat from wavelengths of light to disintegrate the visible, tiny red blood vessels just underneath the skin.
Laser treatment for rosacea is effective for people who have small red lines on their face and for people who tend to have a red face all the time, says John E. Wolf, Jr., MD, professor and chairman of the department of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.
People who flush bright red at certain times but tend not to have a constant red face can also be treated with laser treatments, but this is the most difficult form of rosacea to treat, Dr. Wolf says.
Laser Treatment Procedures for Rosacea
There are a few types of laser treatments or light therapies — which are sometimes lumped in with laser treatments, but are technically non-laser therapies — your dermatologist may use to clear up your rosacea.
- Pulsed dye laser (PDL).This laser works specifically on the broken blood vessels under the skin because it pinpoints the color red in the skin, says Jessie Cheung, MD, associate director of cosmetic dermatology and assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City.
- CO2 laser.This is one of the most powerful lasers and the latest technology available, Cheung says. In addition to treating wrinkles and acne scars, the CO2 laser helps when people have thickening skin — usually on the nose or cheeks — from rosacea. The CO2 laser can help shave down those bumps, Cheung says.
- Intense pulsed light (IPL).IPL isn’t actually a laser, Dr. Cheung says. It’s light of multiple wavelengths, but it works well at getting rid of broken blood vessels and brown pigmentation in the skin. It's also less expensive than laser treatment.
PDL and IPL treatments will cause some pinkness and puffiness afterward, Cheung says. Your doctor may give you an ice pack to use after the procedure, and these side effects should subside in 10 or 15 minutes. Some people may need an antihistamine to help with the swelling, Cheung says.
The Pros of Laser Treatment for Rosacea:
There are good reasons to choose a rosacea laser treatment:
- The results are long-lasting.You’ll get a better outcome when you get laser or light treatment compared to using a topical medicated cream alone, Cheung says. Once your treatments are completed, you’ll see benefits for quite a while; some people have reported having clearer skin for up to eight years. You can also help to maintain your clear skin after the treatment with topical therapies, Cheung adds.
- Risks and side effects are low.When done in a dermatologist’s office and by trained professionals, the risks and side effects of laser treatments are very low, Cheung says.
The Cons of Laser Treatment for Rosacea:
Laser and light treatments are effective options, but come with these caveats:
- The cost is high.Most of the time, insurance companies don’t cover laser treatments, so you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the procedure. It could get costly — you may pay as much as 0 to 0 per session. Most people need one to five sessions to see the most benefit, Wolf says, and the results, while long-lasting, are not permanent.
- If the lasers are used improperly, there are serious risks.Laser and light therapies can cause burns, blisters, scars, and skin discoloration if they’re not used the right way, Cheung says. That’s why she recommends having these treatments at a dermatologist’s office where the staff is trained to use the devices correctly and the risks are very low, rather than at a salon or spa where the staff may not be properly trained.
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