Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Dr. Daniel Friedmann's last name.

For decades, the first line of treatment for patients with moderate acne involved the use of prescription medications, creams and lotions. However, recent technological advancements have made lasers an increasingly popular choice among Austin dermatologists, promising fewer side effects and longer-lasting results than other methods.

In 2021, Westlake Dermatology became one of only a handful of practices in the country to participate in the clinical trials for the Accure laser acne device, which is now Food and Drug Administration-approved and available to Austin patients with a price tag of $800-$1,000 per session.

Dr. Daniel Friedmann, a Westlake Dermatology dermatologist and clinical research director, spoke to Community Impact about how the device works, who the treatment is best suited for and how the technology came to be.

How does the laser acne treatment work?

The goal of the treatments is targeting oil glands. Oil is the primary force behind the creation of acne, and so you can stop new acne from forming by injuring oil glands in the face. ... [The laser] heats up the oil in the oil gland, and [the gland] gets injured irreversibly, so now you have less structures making new oil and less acne over time.

How was the technology developed?

Laser actually stands for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation." Sounds complicated, but all that means is it's just a very intense, narrow beam of light, all at the same wavelength in the infrared range. ... Since oil glands are very deep structures in the skin, it all came down to developing a device that could emit a wavelength strong enough that it would reach the oil glands safely, without damaging the skin. ... There have been other [laser] treatments out there for the past decade that were based more on acne scarring or stopping the blood flow into acne lesions. But they don't actually stop new acne from forming. They're only treating what is there right now. Realistically, those are more for anti-inflammatory benefits.

What is the procedure like?

How many sessions a patient needs will vary by person, but we typically offer the treatment in four sessions. ...Each full-face session takes about an hour, and we do some numbing cream. Depending on the age and experience of the patient, we may offer laughing gas. ... There is some pain; usually people call it mild. I would say someone who has had laser hair removal before will consider this much milder. ... The recovery is pretty minimal. Most people will have a certain amount of redness or very light swelling for a few hours after.

What kind of patient is it best suited for?

Many of our patients are in their late teens or early 20s with moderate acne. It's not really suited for painful cysts or nodules but more superficial acne. ... It's a great option for those who would like to avoid the side effects of medications like Isotretinoin, [formerly Accutane], and antibiotics.

Who is it not suited for?

I feel it's a little bit more challenging for people with hormonal acne, so very young teenagers that have just pure testosterone, or women in their late 30s and 40s. Those people can be a little bit more challenging. It's not as much the oil that is at fault but all those hormones feeding oil production.

Why are laser skin treatments becoming more popular in Austin?

Being a pretty modern, tech-heavy city, it's not hard to find this kind of treatment in Austin. ... We have even had some people come in from other states where there was no provider that uses it yet. ... It's a treatment that is simpler, has less risk. It solves the existing problem, and it can prevent problems in the future. ... I think a lot of different aspects of medicine are heading in that [preventative] direction, not just dermatology.