Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

Non-invasive, topical light treatment.

What is photodynamic therapy (pdt)

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a useful treatment option for patients who wish to avoid oral antibiotics and standard acne therapies. It is a noninvasive treatment for acne that involves application of a topical photo sensitizing medication, followed by activation with a blue colored light. 

It is hypothesized to work through the accumulation and stimulation of reactive oxygen intermediaries that lead to destruction of oil glands in the skin.

Many studies report reduction in inflammatory acne lesions for at least 12 weeks after the initial treatment of PDT.

Most people who undergo PDT have good results. However, the success rates vary between 25% to 75% reduction in inflammatory acne lesions. Some people achieve significant remission lasting up to six months following a course of PDT.

2 to 4 sessions spaced apart by four-to six weeks intervals is recommended.

The cost of each session is $650 and is not reimbursed by insurance companies.

The most common side effects seen include transient redness, swelling, and pain at the time of treatment. Most of symptoms resolve within a week. Occasionally, crusting may develop. Patients who undergo PDT are highly sensitive in the sun light for 48 hours and must practice strict sun protection. Patients with darker skin types can experience hyperpigmentation after the treatment.

Pain and burning during the treatment are a common side effect. New protocols that place the patient immediately under blue light after application of the photo sensitizer leads to significantly increased comfort during the treatment.

What to expect

Upon arrival, we will bring you to our treatment room. 

We will remove any oils on the face with an acetone cleanser.

We then apply the Levulan photo sensitizer onto the skin.


We will either ask you to incubate for 30 to 60 minutes followed by exposure to a U-shaped blue light for 17 minutes 




We may immediately apply the Levulan and then immediately place you under the blue light for an extended time of 30 minutes.


While in the light, you will need to wear protective goggles and we supply you with a fan should you become overheated. 

 You we ask you to wash your face at the end of treatment and then use moisturizers and sunscreen.



A review of photodynamic therapy (PDT) for the treatment of acne vulgaris

Christy C Riddle 1Shaundre N TerrellMolly B MenserDaniel J AiresEric S Schweiger