Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is the combination of a light source – we use the BBL pulsed light system in combination with a topical drug known as aminolevulinic acid (ALA). The ALA is absorbed into skin cells and is then activated by the BBL light pulse resulting in the creation of reactive oxygen species that eliminate atypical skin cells, and/or reduce sebaceous glands involved in acne formation. In addition the BBL pulsed light can eliminates red and brown spots, shrinks pores, and improves skin texture, and the use of ALA can enhance this additional effect.  

What is it for?

Photodynamic therapy is commonly used for the elimination of precancers (solar keratoses) and improving sun damaged skin but it also has effects for facial rejuvenation and for acne. You can think of PDT as a "turbocharged" version of broadband light.  

How many treatments?

Most patients treated with PDT will require one to two treatments, but some may require a third depending on their response. These treatments are generally performed once per month. 

How to prepare?

On the day of treatment: Do not wear makeup, lotions, or perfumes on the day of treatment. Take all of your medicine, unless you are told not to by your doctor or nurse. Bring items to protect your skin (umbrella, sunglasses, wide brimmed hat) because your skin will be sensitive to light after the treatment. Bring a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. 

What to expect on the day of the procedure? 

When you arrive at your appointment, we will photograph you, and ask you to wash your face with a mild cleanser. Then we will apply the ALA. This is a topical medication and does not hurt. After 30 – 60 minutes, we will have you again wash your face, and then begin the procedure using the BBL pulsed light. You will have protective goggles on, and should keep your eyes closed. Most patients tolerate the procedure well, but you may feel some stinging or mild warmth. 

What to expect the following the procedure?

While this is a very effective procedure, there is downtime compared to the regular BBL. You skin will be very sensitive to light and you will need to wear a broad brimmed hat and sun screen. It is very important to avoid the sun and bright indoor lights for at least the first 48 hours. Most patients will become very red – as red as a tomato – for 3 – 7 days. You will also have some swelling and some flaking of the skin, which may last for up to one week. If you are very fair, and have moderate to severe sun damage, then the redness, flaking and swelling could be quite extensive for the first 5 days. Most patients can go back to work in 3 – 4 days; though their skin may still be red.