Medical Procedures for Acne

If topical or oral medications aren’t effective at clearing acne, or if you have scarring as a result of past breakouts, dermatologists at NYU Langone can offer several medical procedures that may help you achieve smoother skin. All of these procedures can be done right in your dermatologist's office.

Corticosteroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections are often a quick way to eliminate large, painful blemishes that are deeply rooted in the pore. A dermatologist injects a steroid solution into the blemish, targeting the source of the clogged pore. He or she may inject medication into more than one blemish during an appointment. Steroid injections can be effective almost immediately.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels, which are typically made from concentrated glycolic acid—a substance derived from sugar cane—can clear blackheads, whiteheads, and papules by exfoliating, or stripping away, the layers on the surface of the skin. Removing the damaged skin cells helps to stimulate the growth of new skin and keep pores from clogging.

To perform a chemical peel, a dermatologist applies a layer of glycolic acid solution over the affected skin and leaves it on for a few minutes. The solution may sting or burn slightly. Then the solution is washed off, removing a layer of damaged skin. It typically takes a few days for improvements to take effect, and your skin may be more sensitive to sunlight during this time. 

Doctors recommend wearing broad-spectrum sunblock with SPF 30 or higher if you plan to spend time outdoors in the days following a chemical peel.

Laser and Light-Based Therapies

Laser and light-based therapies are new techniques used to reduce redness, skin discoloration, and scarring on the surface of the skin due to acne. Our dermatologists offer several types of laser and light-based therapies that are administered using handheld devices or larger panels of long, thin light bulbs that emit light that has been customized for dermatological treatment. Your doctor determines the appropriate type of therapy based on your symptoms. 

Depending on the type of treatment, these high-energy light sources may prevent acne bacteria from multiplying, reduce inflammation, or stimulate your body’s natural production of new skin cells. Because you may feel some discomfort during certain procedures, your dermatologist may apply a cream beforehand to numb the skin.

In some instances, you may see improvement after a single treatment. More often, laser and light-based therapies require several treatment sessions for best results. 

After some types of light therapies, your skin may be tender and appear shiny or red for a couple of days after treatment.

Extraction Treatments

Extraction is the removal or "popping" of a blemish. It might be tempting to squeeze, pop, or scratch away blemishes yourself, but a dermatologist is much more experienced at doing this safely. He or she uses a sterilized instrument to extract a blemish and protect your face from scarring. Your dermatologist can then assess which additional treatment options can best help to reduce another breakout. Your doctor may recommend extraction of one or more blemishes before you start a long-term medication treatment.

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