The Surprising Treatment That Could Be Giving You Acne

If you suffer from breakouts and acne on the regular, it’s important to let your doctor know before having your skin treated with a laser of any kind. The reason? Some lasers can make existing acne worse and even bring about breakouts days after the treatment. “Breakouts are commonly seen after laser resurfacing because some of the post treatment ointments used are petrolatum-based and can clog pores,” says Melbourne, FL, dermatologist Anita Saluja, MD. If breakouts are rare and only happen after a laser, they could be popping up because of the treatment itself, the ointments or a combination of the two.

“Breakouts often arise from laser hair removal because the hair is dense and coarse. Afterward, a portion of the hair follicles contain dead hair fragments, which the body tries to expel,” says Scottsdale, AZ, facial plastic surgeon Kelly Bomer, MD. “When this happens, there is an inflammatory response, which can cause red bumps with pus, resembling a red pimple with a whitehead.”

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But it’s not just hair removal that can cause it—any heat-based laser can lead to a breakout because many of them stimulate sebum production.

Here’s what you need to do to stop this from happening. First things first: The next time you have a laser treatment, use an antibacterial ointment or gentle skin-repairing cream post procedure to help mitigate any acne. If you and your doctor can pinpoint exactly what’s causing the flare-ups—either the laser or the ointments—then you can put a plan in place and get your skin on the track to clear. It’s important to keep your skin moisturized after a laser, but if you know your skin is breakout-prone, you may want to skip the heavy, occlusive salves and ointments. “Instead, you can use your favorite moisturizer with hydrocortisone (0.05-1.0 percent) and bacitracin conservatively for a day or two if the laser causes peeling that needs this type of moisture,” says Dr. Bomer.

And rather than waiting for your skin to erupt after the treatment, play it safe and ask your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic for a few days before and after the laser is to be performed, which can help reduce any existing inflammation and clear up whatever may be lurking in your pores. If that still doesn’t help, you may want to consider doing a different type of treatment on your skin, like a chemical peel, which shouldn’t instigate breakouts. 

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