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N Lite Acne Treatments: A Closer Look

The N-lite laser is often advertised as a kinder, gentler approach to laser acne treatment. Approved by the FDA as a non-invasive pulsing laser treatment, many acne care seekers go in for N-Lite treatment with the expectation that it will be completely painless, but that is not always the case.

laser treatment for acne
The N-lite laser is supposed to help stimulate new skin growth.


  • The N-Lite Laser is intended to stimulate skin growth rather than to burn off scar tissue.
  • Stimulation of skin growth is of no value for raised acne scars.
  • Rosacea may respond well to N-Lite Laser treatment.

What Is the N-Lite Laser?

The N-Lite Laser is billed as a “nonablative skin rejuvenation device.” This laser generates yellow light with a wavelength of 585 nanometers. The wavelength of light penetrates beneath the skin, but does not  heat water to its boiling point or coagulate the blood. The purpose of exposing the skin to yellow laser light, we are told, is to stimulate the growth of collagen beneath the skin, opening up pores, and filling in scars. But that’s not exactly how the N-Lite Laser works.

Laser light at a frequency of 585 nanometers is selected for oxygenated hemoglobin. That is, this wavelength of light energizes red blood cells that are carrying oxygen in the bloodstream. The N-Lite only reaches to the depth of the uppermost capillaries bringing blood to the skin, and only interacts with some red blood cells, not all. It triggers inflammation in those red blood cells, which in turn triggers the activation of a collagen-producing “repair crew” in the skin. Early studies of the laser showed that it increased the rate of collagen production underneath the skin by about 84%. This does not create dramatic, overnight results, for any kind of skin condition, but it can help reduce redness of the skin caused by leaky blood vessels.

N-Lite yellow laser light is a compromise between the stronger blue light lasers that generate a tiny layer of steam beneath the skin and the red light lasers that do not destroy any tissue at all. It is too strong for at-home use, but not so strong that it causes pain or redness—usually. Dermatologists do not do laser treatment on dark skin, because of the risk of causing permanent discoloration of the skin by activating melanin-producing cells, but most advocates of N-Lite Laser claim it is safe for all skin types, and for use on the face, neck, chest, back, buttocks, and arms.

Does the N-Lite Laser Really Work?

Most people who go to clinics to have N-Lite Laser to treat active pimples are not happy with the results. Representative reports go something like this:

  • I had N-Lite Laser treatments where I had brown spots from healed-over pimples. Now I have new nasty sores.
  • After paying £500 (US $800) to book three N-Lite Laser treatments, I can’t see that my jaw line acne has improved one bit.
  • N-Lite Laser seems to stop acne dead in its tracks, as long as I get another treatment every two weeks.

The simple fact is that the N-Lite Laser really was not designed to kill acne bacteria. It works by increasing inflammation, not decreasing it. It will not reduce redness of either scars or pimples. It will not shrink protruding scar tissue, but it may help rebuild collagen underneath the “moon shaped” type of sunken acne scar over the course of several treatments. Partial results may be visible in nine months to a year.

What Can Go Wrong with N-Lite Laser Treatments?

The biggest problem with N-Lite Laser treatments is not when it does not work. The biggest problem is when it works on the wrong scars. With N-Lite Laser treatments, it is always possible that they may smooth out little scars so that bigger scars look even more noticeable.

Another problem with N-Lite Laser is the potential for blood leakage. Treatments may stimulate enough collagen production to expand the skin but not enough collagen production to build new blood vessels. Blood may leak and form tiny purple streaks, especially around the nose. This problem is compounded when patients take aspirin within 10 days before or after treatment. People who take prescription blood thinners such as Trental, Plavix, or Coumadin should not get N-Lite Laser Treatment at all.

So who benefits from N-Lite Laser therapy?

N-Lite for Rosacea

The one type of acne that usually responds well to N-Lite Laser therapy is rosacea. This type of acne is not caused by bacterial infection in pores. It is the result of the expansion of weak blood vessels underneath the skin of the cheeks and nose. Invisible blood vessels may fill with blood so the skin looks red, usually after some kind of stimulus to the peripheral nervous system of the face (sipping a cup of hot coffee or coming in from winter cold, for example). As the blood vessels break down, there may be permanent purple marks on the nose and around the eyes, and eventually scar tissue can create little lumps in the nose known as rhinophyma.

Stimulating collagen production with N-Lite Laser treatment sometimes reduces redness the very first visit. The N-Lite Laser will not change the surface of the skin, but can improve the color of the skin, especially in rosacea sufferers who have fair skin and red or blond hair.

Most people who have their rosacea treated with N-Lite have slight swelling for a day or two. N-Lite, however, should never be the sole treatment for rosacea. Here are some ideas for treating rosacea that are easy to overlook:

  • For reasons scientists do not understand, the presence of the bacterium Helicobacter pylorans in the stomach can aggravate rosacea. If you have ever traveled to any Central American country other than Costa Rica and drunk tap water, you almost certainly have been exposed to this infection. In the United States, Hispanics are much more likely than other groups to have this germ in the stomach. Treating the stomach infection with antibiotics or by taking deglycyrrhizinated licorice (sold as DGL) can help clear up the face.
  • Anything you do that stops rosacea attacks while your skin is recovering helps it grow stronger. Even if you have N-Lite laser treatment, you may still need to avoid hot drinks and spicy food, wear face protection when you go out in the cold, and keep your air conditioner setting high to avoid temperature contrast when you go outside during the summer. N-Lite Laser treatment helps rosacea but it does not cure rosacea. You will still need to be vigilant with your skin care routine.
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