Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes the blood vessels in your face to become visible and your face to appear red or flushed. Patches of small, pus-filled bumps are another common symptom.
Affecting over 16 million Americans, rosacea doesn’t pose a danger to your health, but it can make you feel self-conscious when your symptoms flare up.
Dermatologists have found ways to treat rosacea symptoms with laser and light therapies. Different types of lasers target different aspects of rosacea. This article will talk about how these laser treatments work and how effective they are in treating symptoms.
These laser treatments target the symptoms of redness, thickening skin, and recurring patches of visible blood vessels that occur for some people who have rosacea.
Types of laser treatments for rosacea include:
Erbium YAG laser
This treatment targets visible blood vessels. It’s also used to correct excess tissue that can make the nose appear bulbous, a symptom of phymatous (type 3) rosacea. It can also add to its shape.
Cynosure, V Beam, and V-Star are names for this type of laser treatment.
With this treatment, light is pulsed at an optimal wavelength to penetrate vascular lesions, or visible blood vessels. Dye is used to make the laser beam different colors, which aims to reduce the look of redness and inflammation.
These types of lasers are called ablative lasers. They aim to reshape your nose or other parts of your face if they have been scarred or enlarged by rosacea-inflamed tissue.
CO2 lasers are typically used to treat rhynophomas (thickened skin or puffy shapes on your nose) that are caused by rosacea.
Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL)
Intense pulsed light therapy is different than laser therapy. Instead of using one laser that focuses in on your skin, it uses several wavelengths of light at once.
IPL aims to get rid of unwanted pigment, redness, or unevenly toned areas of your skin. Some people think that IPL can be just as effective as laser treatments for certain skin conditions.
Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified NYC dermatologist and author of the book “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist,” explained the basic principle of laser treatments for rosacea in an interview with Healthline.
“The lasers use heat from wavelengths of light to collapse the visible, tiny red blood vessels,” Jaliman said. The result is a very effective, and mostly painless, way of treating rosacea symptoms.
Jaliman believes that a laser treatment for rosacea is a good choice for some patients. “Many patients see very good results,” she said. “These treatments help to eliminate the visible blood vessels from the face. It helps with redness, and dramatically improves the texture of the skin.”
The American Academy of Dermatologists states that lasers used to treat visible blood vessels have excellent results. Patients see a 50 to 75 percent reduction in their symptoms after one to three treatments that can last up to five years.
In one of treatment with the YAG laser, 50 percent of participants saw “good to excellent” improvement in their rosacea symptoms. This treatment may work better for people with vascular lesions (erythema rosacea) than people with pustules from papulopustular rosacea.
A concluded that pulsed-dye laser therapy for rosacea was successful for all 40 study participants. While some developed complications or symptoms that came back, each participant said they felt this treatment for rosacea was “worthwhile.”
Ablative laser treatments (CO2 lasers) are able to reshape or correct your nose’s shape after rosacea has created jagged or rough-looking tissue on your nose. A medical review of the literature calls this method of treatment “good.”
IPL treatments have also been deemed effective for treating visible blood vessels from rosacea. A of 60 people who used IPL to treat rosacea found the treatment worked for 77.8 percent of participants.
Here’s an example of results for one person who opted for laser treatment for rosacea.
The most likely side effect you could have after this treatment is increased redness on your face or nose. “It’s common to see some redness after the laser,” Jaliman said. “This will usually fade within one to two weeks.”
Other side effects from laser treatment for rosacea include:
These side effects are temporary and should go away within a few days. If your face appears to be burned or you experience symptoms of burning after a laser treatment in a dermatologist’s office, speak to your doctor about your symptoms.
Costs for this kind of treatment can get expensive. “The cost is not cheap,” Jaliman said, “[and] usually, it will be an out-of-pocket cost.” People who receive laser treatment for rosacea typically need several sessions, and each one may vary in cost.
The cost will vary depending on where you live, where you get the treatment, and the severity of your symptoms.
Jaliman ballparked the cost at “$500 to $700 per session,” noting that “light therapies tend to be a bit more affordable.”
Usually, laser treatment for rosacea is a choice you make after trying other types of treatments. Laser and light therapy might not be right for every person.
“Normally, a person will try other treatments, such as a mix of topical medications to try to manage and treat rosacea,” Jaliman said. “Usually, when a treatment or combination of these treatments does not manage this condition, a person might look into laser treatments.”
Other commonly used treatments used to treat rosacea include:
- oral antibiotics, like doxycycline or tetracycline
- topical medications that constrict blood vessels, such as brimonidine, azelaic acid, and metronidazole
- isotretinoin, a powerful anti-acne medication
From what we know so far about laser treatment for rosacea, the treatment is effective and not very painful. There are some people who shouldn’t get this type of treatment.
Find a dermatologist to discuss your symptoms to determine if you’re a good candidate for laser therapy.
There’s no cure for rosacea. Even though the results of laser treatment for rosacea may be impressive in some case studies, the results do fade over time. Keep this in mind as you weigh the costs, time commitment, and side effects.
This treatment is helpful for some symptoms of rosacea, and results will last for three to five years.