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Photo Dynamic Therapy

“Photo Dynamic Therapy is a 2 step treatment for the targeted destruction of abnormal cells from acne and sun damage.”

Photo Dynamic Therapy (PDT) is used to treat resistant and cystic acne. A relatively new procedure, PDT combines light and a special light-activated solution, Levulan,  that targets and destroys acne activity. Levulan is applied to your skin and is absorbed by the abnormal cells of acne and actinic keratosis.  The Levulan solution is activated by a specific wavelength of light and has been used extensively for the treatment of various skin conditions. It is the chosen topical agent for PDT due to its effectiveness.


torrance photo dynamic therapy
Photo Source Nissan Pilest MD
PDT with Vbeam and Bluelight
Patient results may vary

PDT Acne Treatment provides a viable alternative to all types of acne treatment without having negative systemic effects. PDT Pilot Study for effectiveness on acne.

Historically, the best available treatment option for resistant and cystic acne was Accutane. However, with Accutane there are many systemic* side effects including birth defects, liver abnormalities and other potential problems. Patients choosing this treatment must follow rigorous monitoring and government regulations administered through the iPledge program.

*Systemic treatments are any medications that are taken orally, injected or infused that affect the entire body system.

Photodynamic Acne Treatment Procedure

photodynamic acne treatmentLevulan, 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. This takes about 20-30 minutes.

The Levulan is absorbed by abnormally active cells of acne which makes the targeted acne cells more sensitive to the process. This combined interaction of the solution and the light is what gives rise to the term “photodynamic therapy.”

PDT blue light laserWhen the light is turned on, the Levulan creates a reaction in which the acne cells are destroyed, or at least disabled, and the sebaceous gland activity is reduced to a more normal level.

The Levulan will also target sebaceous hyperplasia which are those small (1-3mm), benign bumps under your skin, and the papules of acne rosacea.

An important part of the Acne Photo Dynamic Therapy treatment program is medical extraction of blackheads and acne pustules prior to the procedure. Extractions will expedite the improvement in your skin condition by cleaning the pores of hardened sebum and infected debris. Often your treatment will be immediately preceded by microdermabrasion to enhance the uptake of the Levulan in the skin cells.

PDT reduces skin oiliness and minimizes the appearance of pore size,  while improving the patient’s overall skin texture.

Advantages of PDT for Acne

  • rapid treatment of acne lesions all over the face,
  • no scarring,
  • no surgical excisions and
  • no systemic side effects.

The skin appears refreshed and younger following these treatments. We advise 3-4 treatments at 3-4 week intervals to obtain optimal results.


The “downside” of Photo Dynamic Treatment (PDT) is that your skin will be red and have some skin peeling (and crusting if you have superficial skin cancers) for several days after the treatment. Usually, the first 1-2 days are the worst. Important! You must remain indoors the day following your treatment to avoid sun exposure, as you are photosensitive for about 48 hours after PDT. Sunscreen will not protect your skin from further reaction during this time. You may prefer to have your treatment at the end of the day to avoid light exposure.

What are the side effects?

The most common side effects include scaling/crusting, hypo/hyperpigmentation, itching, stinging, and/or burning, erythema and edema.

Other Acne Treatments

  • Light treatment for mild acne
  • Accutane for cystic or difficult to treat acne
  • Acne chemical peels such as beta peels
  • Acne topical products
  • Prescription topical and oral medications
  • Acne Scarring

Photo Dynamic Therapy for Actinic Keratoses – “Pre-Cancers”

Over time, UV exposure causes damage to the cell DNA. Once this occurs, most people will experience some level of skin lesions referred to Actinic Keratosis. Untreated, AKs can potentially become skin cancer. It is not necessary to have them removed, but it is advisable to have your skin checked yearly by a dermatologist.

Actinic Keratoses, also known as Solar Keratoses, are generally “felt” before they are seen. They will feel like small rough patches and can occur any place on the body. They are often referred to as “pre-cancers”, though the majority of people of who have them removed do so for cosmetic purposes.

torrance actinic keratosesActinic Keratoses (AKs) are rough, scaly patches on the skin, caused by excessive exposure to the sun that can sometimes progress into skin cancers. Over 10 million Americans live with these lesions, and far too many people ignore them, leaving them untreated and undiagnosed. It is estimated that 40% of squamous cell carcinomas, the second leading cause of skin cancer deaths in the United States, begin as AKs.

Removing AKs dramatically changes the skin’s appearance. Brown rough lesions peel off to reveal smooth skin with better texture and color balance.

treating actinic keratoses

Levulan is absorbed only by abnormal cells and does not affect healthy skin next to the lesions. This is why it can be a highly selective and effective treatment that is often preferred over treatments such as Aldara or Efudex since normally only 1-3 treatments are needed, clearing is faster and “hidden” lesions that are not readily visible are also targeted and destroyed.

Photodynamic Therapy with Levulan is indicated for:

  • Removing pre-cancerous actinic keratoses
  • Preventing skin cancer
  • Improving wrinkles
  • Reducing pore size
  • Improving skin texture
  • Improving pigmentation
  • Treating moderate to severe cystic acne
  • Treating sebaceous hyperplasia

PDT with Levulan side effects

Levulan Actinic Keratosis BrochureThe most common side effects include scaling/crusting, hypo/hyperpigmentation, itching, stinging, and/or burning, erythema and edema. Severe stinging and/or burning at one or more lesions being treated was reported by at least 50% of patients at some time during the treatment.

Who is not a candidate for PDT?

Levulan Kerastick should not be taken by patients who have cutaneous photosensitivity at wavelengths at 400-450 nm, porphyria, or known allergies to porphyrins, and in patients with known sensitivity to any of the components of the Levulan Kerastick for Topical Solution. Be sure to tell the doctor if you are using medications on your face or scalp and if you are taking oral medications. If you are nursing or pregnant, we advise waiting for treatment.

Download Levulan Actinic Keratosis Brochure

Related Treatments for Skin Rejuvenation

MiXto Resurfacing Laser for pigmentation and skin resurfacing

IPL Intense Pulsed Light for treatment of redness and superficial brown patches

Chemical Peels for Exfoliation of rough and sun damaged skin

Vascular laser for Spider Veins

Microdermabrasion for manual exfoliation

*For any procedure and service described on this website, individual results may vary and may not be applicable in all cases.