Can this laser treatment really zap zits? We asked the pros to weigh in.

Lisa DeSantis
November 20, 2017

If you have acne, you know how debilitating it can be. Whether it's one breakout or a whole area of your face that's red and inflamed, acne takes a hit to your confidence. So a laser treatment that seemingly treats pimples could be enticing, but should you actually try it?

A London-based trainer named Maeve Walker went through an excruciating amount of pain after using Pixel, an in-office laser treatment that's marketed as being able to help clear acne scars and fine lines. Walker has been documenting her skincare journey with her 140,000 followers on Instagram, posting images of before, immediately after, and seven days after receiving the treatment. In the final photo, her skin appears totally clear and glowing.

"It has been 1 week since my Pixel Facial and I just took the super smiley selfie," Walker wrote in the caption. "The pain was agonising on day 1 but my [sic] day 3 the redness and swelling has started to go down. The laser left my skin super dry and sensitive."

SKIN UPDATE: Firstly thank you everyone for all you kindness and support over the past few months . It has been quite the emotional journey but I am so happy I shared it with you all and we all now know we do not face these things alone. It has been 1 week since my Pixel Facial and I just took the super smiley selfie.. The pain was agonising on day 1 but my day 3 the redness and swelling has started to go down.. The laser left my skin super dry and sensitive . Using factor 50 Oil free spf is a must. I cleansed my skin every day using @cellnutrition_Ireland hypertonic Derma spray, a natural sea salt spray to cleanse my skin and prevent bacteria .. The hypertonic spray helped to heal my skin so quickly: Today is day 7 and my skin feels fresh and new, it was definitely worth the pain.. My scars have faded, most are gone and the texture of the skin has greatly improved . I will have to have another facial to completely clear the skin before or after Christmas . The pixel facial also reduces fine lines and tightens the skin woohooo.. I know this has not completely cured my hormonal acne. As I still have PCOS I have no doubt I will go through another breakout but at least this will help heal the skin and control it .. For now I am just going to smile. I felt knocked down but I took control, I feel like me and it’s time to be happy again. Remember it’s not selfish to love yourself, to look after, invest and take care of yourself. make your happiness the number one priority, it is self love and we need more of it, it’s a necessity. Thank you @dailymail for sharing my story today. Thank you @ocellejewelry for this pretty rose gold set .. Let me know if you had pixel and your results below. #maevemadden #realtalk #skincare #loveyourself #acne #pcos #pcosawareness

A post shared by Maeve Madden (@maeve_madden) on

The Instagram star told ThisIsInsider.com that while she's thrilled with the results, the process was less-than-pleasant. "I began to get a little agitated as smoke started to rise and I could literally smell my skin burning," Walker told the site. "By the time I got home I was in total agony and my face was burning, it felt like I was on fire."

This sounds scary, but while the scabbing and peeling the personal trainer experienced is normal after receiving this type of treatment, the pain she says she went through is unusual, says Michelle Yagoda, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in New York City who uses lasers in her practice. For most people, mild discomfort is more typical, Dr. Yagoda says.

Dr. Yagoda tells us that it's also important to note that this treatment won't actually treat acne: Pixel is a resurfacing laser that's best suited for helping heal acne scars, she says. By creating microscopic holes in the skin, new collagen is produced during the recovery process, which then helps to fill in indentations from past blemishes. If this sounds familiar, it may be because another Instagram star-beloved procedure, microneedling, rejuvenates skin in a similar way, only with tiny needles instead of lasers. 

Skin Update : I’m officially a 🍓.. So I have been a little MIA on socials with Fitness Tips as I have had a Pixel Facial to help remove acne scaring .. I can’t workout atm until it has healed, not that I’m complaining 😝. After a few months of trying to get rid of my hormonal acne break out I finally had a few weeks where the acne wasn’t active and so I have started a procedure to help@clear all those dead spots and dull marks on the skin.. 💕You know when your spot is dead but it still leaves a mark, so frustrating, it’s like even though the acne is dead it leaves it’s past behind on your face .. I was advised to have a Pixel facial and if you follow snapchat - Maeve_Madden you will have seen how much agony I was in.. Pixel is a skin resurfacing treatment, that can improve skin texture and acne scarring .. I read online it says there isn’t significant down time or discomfort, I can tell you it is agony, if felt as though my face has been completely burnt and this picture is day 3 still super red, Swollen and sore .. I expect my skin to peel off, I’m sure it will be a week before it looks any better.. If anyone else has had this treatment or similar to remove acne scarring let us know and leave a comment .. Still Smiling though, trying to be positive, smiles are contagious and if you force yourself to smile your brain automatically sends happy endorphins throughout your body... Try it ... Smilings my favourite “Elf omg ‘‘tis the Season 💫💫💫💫 #maevemadden #acne #acnescars #pcos #pcosawareness #pcostribe #loveyourself #selflove #skincare #pixel

A post shared by Maeve Madden (@maeve_madden) on

If you're dealing with breakouts, Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, recommends a laser called the Isolaz. With this treatment, variable amounts of intense pulsed light are applied to kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce blood vessel dilation and inflammation surrounding each pimple, he explains.

Not ready to try a laser? Ask your dermatologist about an in-office chemical peel, which are a little more intense than what you can get OTC. Dr. Yagoda is a fan of TCA peels in particular; they utilize trichloroacetic acid to slough off the first layer of skin, leaving behind a smoother, brighter looking complexion.

For at-home treatments that use light, there are some great, affordable options out there. Our top picks: Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Spot Treatment ($20; amazon.com) and Neutrogena Light Therapy Mask ($38; amazon.com). These drugstore devices use both blue and red light to help kill bacteria and bring down inflammation. The mask is a good choice for someone who needs to treat widespread breakouts (wear it for about 10 minutes a day), while the spot treatment is better for targeting specific problem areas.