If you have acne (especially the recurring kind), you’ve probably tried about every treatment known to man to try to combat it. Take it from me—in my teens, I tried using toothpaste (which ended up all over my pillow and never on my face) as well as Noxzema and Oil-Free Neutrogena Acne Wash. I also didn’t moisturize because I thought the oil would make me break out more. What a time. In my 20s, I had a retin-A prescription and was on birth control (great, until it wasn’t), and now I’m in my 30s, and as luck would have it, I’m still getting hormonal acne breakouts.
As a beauty writer, I’m always on the hunt for the latest, most innovative acne treatments. That’s when I found out about Isolaz, a new-to-me professional treatment that could help treat acne in a painless, non-invasive way. If you’re like me and you’ve struggled to get your acne under control, the Isolaz treatment might be something to consider.
Below, we break down everything you need to know before you schedule your first Isolaz acne treatment.
Meet the Expert
What Is Isolaz?
The Isolaz treatment (which is FDA approved, by the way) is a machine that combines the power of Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and vacuum technology to deep cleanse your pores and reduce acne. According to Alexis Parcells, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon, “Isolaz is an in-office therapy designed to combat acne," she says. "This technology, called photopneumatics, combines the effects of laser therapy with a vacuum. The vacuum works to loosen and suck debris from inside the pore, while the laser destroys the acne that causes the breakout and decreases the production of bacteria from the sebaceous gland.” Anyone who has mild to moderate acne and blackheads on their face, back, and chest is a candidate for the treatment. However, Isolaz is not designed to treat cystic acne.
Isolaz also helps prevent future breakouts, as it gets all of the bacteria and oil out of your pores that cause acne. Jennifer Chwalek, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, says, “Isolaz is a broadband light with a vacuum head that gently compresses this skin closer to the light as it is firing. This helps to reduce the bacteria and inflammation that are involved in acne.” With all the bacteria gone, it has nowhere to grow, and after repeated treatments, the bacteria should be gone altogether. We love to see it.
Isolaz is performed by a specially trained esthetician or dermatologist. Chwalek recommends three to five treatments to see visible, long-lasting results, although you might notice an improvement in your acne after the first treatment.
Benefits of Isolaz
The Isolaz treatment has a number of awesome benefits, including:
- Safe for all skin types
- Long-lasting acne treatment
- Painless procedure with no downtime
- Purifies and clears out pores
- Reduces redness
- Removes blackheads, bacteria, and oil
- Improves skin texture
“Isolaz painlessly cleanses and disinfects the skin's surfaces, while promoting healing," Parcells says. "It has been shown to decrease pore size, remove oil and debris, and improve skin texture and pore size. It works on any skin type. The most common areas affected include the face, chest, and back.” If your skin has not had any response to topical acne treatments like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), benzoyl peroxide, retin-A, antibiotics, and even Accutane, you might want to add the Isolaz treatment to your regimen. Studies have shown that the Isolaz treatment provides a significant reduction in acne.
And like Parcells mentioned earlier, the treatment is completely painless. It also doesn’t require any downtime, and is relatively quick—it takes only about 30 minutes to treat the face, and slightly longer to treat other, larger areas of the body. Depending on the severity of your acne outbreak, you might need anywhere from two to six sessions to see long-lasting results.
How to Prepare for an Isolaz Treatment
Discuss use of your regular skincare products, especially isotretinoin (aka Accutane) with your provider before your Isolaz treatment.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of spray tanning, using self-tanner, or enjoy spending time in the sun, you’ll want to avoid that. Chwalek says, “Prior to any laser treatments, it’s important to avoid the sun. Having a tan increases the risk of pigment issues following treatment.” She also recommends finding a laser specialist. “It’s also important to seek treatment with a practitioner who is skilled in laser surgery, especially if you have darker skin," Chwalek says.
If it’s possible, you should also come to your appointment with clean, makeup-free skin.
What to Expect During an Isolaz Treatment
First, your esthetician will cleanse your face and assess the condition of your skin to determine the correct amount of IPL to use.
During your Isolaz treatment, your esthetician will first use the patented Isolaz vacuum to gently get deep down into your pores to break up and remove bacteria, dirt, and blackheads, and oil. After that, the broadband light is meant to kill any lingering bacteria and reduce any redness. Depending on the severity of your acne and the location, this can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. The procedure is virtually pain free—users report that it feels like a warm massage.
After this, your esthetician will give you a light peel solution—as your pores are “open” and clean, the topical treatment may get deep down into your pores to prevent your acne from coming back.
Afterward, you can expect your acne to slowly flatten and dry out over the course of the next few days.
Potential Side Effects
While the Isolaz treatment is generally quick and painless, you might experience slight redness after your session.
After your Isolaz treatment, you’re free to resume any and all normal activities. Obviously, you’ll still want to wear sunscreen for overall skin health. “Following treatment, we recommend using gentle cleansers and moisturizers and daily sun protection," Chwalek advises. "Usually most people can restart their acne meds right away.”
Isolaz has a ton of benefits, but it can be cost prohibitive for some. A single treatment can run anywhere from $250 to $500 per session, depending on your location and provider. Considering most people might need anywhere from two to eight treatments, the cost can run up pretty quickly. Some providers will offer slight discounts for purchasing the treatment in bulk.
Overall, the Isolaz acne treatment is a really effective way to treat acne, even if it is a bit on the expensive side. So, if you’ve tried lots of other topical and oral treatments and they haven’t worked, Isolaz would be a really great option for you.
Narurkar VA, Gold M, Shamban AT. Photopneumatic technology used in combination with profusion therapy for the treatment of acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2013;6(9):36-40.
Lee EJ, Lim HK, Shin MK, Suh DH, Lee SJ, Kim NI. An open-label, split-face trial evaluating efficacy and safty of photopneumatic therapy for the treatment of acne. Ann Dermatol. 2012;24(3):280-286. doi:10.5021/ad.2012.24.3.280
Whitney KM, Ditre CM. Management strategies for acne vulgaris. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2011;4:41-53. doi:10.2147/CCID.S10817