Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) With Levulan: It’s like your Photofacial on steroids
Imagine a skin treatment that has the ability to treat sun damage, rough skin, freckles, skin discolorations, redness, broken blood vessels, rosacea, acne, kill acne causing bacteria, reduce oil glands, minimize pore size, improve appearance of some acne scars and treat precancerous Actinic Keratose. Believe it or not, such a treatment does exist! The skin treatment I am referring to is PhotoDynamic Therapy (PDT). PhotoDynamic therapy is a non-invasive, non-ablative treatment with little to no down time.
PhotoDynamic Therapy (PDT) is a 2 part skin treatment that uses the light activated drug therapy, Levulan (aminolevulinic acid) also known as ALA. Levulan is a topical agent that is used to photosensitize the skin prior to light based treatments such as IPL (photofacial) and blue light acne treatments.
Adding Levulan (ALA) to a photofacial IPL treatment, is a bit like putting your photofacial on steroids. The Levulan photosensitizes the skin, allowing the IPL energy to be better absorbed by the targeted pigmented and vascular chromophores. This results in a higher level of correction of freckles, sunspots, skin discolorations, broken blood vessels and redness compared to photofacial alone. Although, Levulan in it’s self does not penetrate to dermal layers of the skin, the heat and inflammatory response caused by PhotoDynamic Therapy does reach the Papillary dermis. This heat stimulates the fibroblast to produce collagen.
PhotoDynamic Therapy is unique because Levulan is absorbed by abnormal cells, such as those of Actinic keratosis (AK’s). Aminolevulinic acid is also absorbed into the oil glands and hair follicles. When the Levulan is activated by the appropriate light or laser it damages the oil glands and reduces P. acne bacteria. Acne can be affectively treated by using Levulan to pretreat the skin before IPL (photofacial) or Blue light treatments.
How is the treatment done?
First your skin is pretreated with an acetone scrub, to remove oil from the skin’s surface. Sometimes microdermabrasion is also preformed before the Levulan is applied. Microdermabrasion will remove dead skin cells and cause blood vessels to dilate, which will result in a more effective treatment with IPL. After the skin is prepped the Levulan Kerastick is cracked open and applied to the skin. Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) doesn’t sting or burn like acids used in chemical peels. The ALA is left on the skin to “incubate”. The incubation time can be anywhere from 1-8 hours, a longer incubation time can cause more reaction as well as more correction. Non-facial skin generally requires a longer incubation time. Once the Levulan is applied, you must avoid sun exposure for 40 hours. Topical anesthetic may also be used. After the Levulan has been on for the determined amount of time, the skin is then treated with IPL and/or Blue Light. The light will activate the ALA. Blue Light is used specifically to treat acne and can be done alone or with IPL.
The degree of post treatment reaction will depend on the amount of skin damage and how aggressive the treatment is done. The Luvulan can be left to “incubate” longer, before it is activated for a more aggressive treatment. Those with a lot of sun damage or active acne can expect to have more reaction. Some people will experience little to no side effects. Similar to photofacial, pigmented spots will become temporarily darker, until they flake and peel off. The treated area will likely appear pink or red for the first few days and peeling may also occur and last for up to 7 days. Some may also experience mild swelling that lasts a couple days. It is important to avoid sun exposure for the first 40 hours post treatment, sun block will not protect skin against photosensitivity reactions caused by visible light. Sun exposure can cause stinging, burning, redness and swelling to the treated area.
How many treatments are needed?
The amount of treatments needed will depend on the skin condition and level of correction desired. There is significant improvement with each treatment. Some people may be satisfied with a single a treatment, however for optimal results a series of treatments are recommended. Treatments can be scheduled as soon as 3- 4 weeks apart.
Schedule a consultation to determine if you are a candidate for PhotoDynamic Therapy, and set up a treatment plan.