All about Photodynamic Therapy


What is Photodynamic Therapy?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment where we use a chemical applied to the skin, which is then activated by LED light, to treat various skin conditions

When photo-sensitisers applied to skin are exposed to a specific wavelength of light, they produce a chemical that destroys nearby unhealthy cells. Each photosensitiser is activated by a specific wavelength of light . The wavelength or color of the light determines how far it penetrates into the skin. Different wavelengths of light can therefore be used to treat different conditions.

What does PDT treat?

PDT is used mainly to treat sun damaged skin and pre-cancerous lesions known as Solar keratoses. It can also be beneficial in the treatment of Acne as well as other skin conditions such as:

• Actinic Keratoses ( Solar Keratoses), Seborrheic Keratoses
• Cystic Acne, Acne Vulgaris, and oily skin
• Bowen’sDisease
• Early and superficial Basal Cell and Squamous Cell skin cancers.
• Rosacea
• Sebaceous Gland Hyperplasia
• Hidradenitis suppurativa – a condition causing infections in the sweat glands in the armpits.

PDT and sun damage

Some areas of sun-damaged skin can develop multiple solar keratoses. These are red, scaly patches that appear on sun-exposed areas, and often need to be treated. They can also develop into early or superficial skin cancers. Treatments include topical creams and lotions, liquid nitrogen, laser and photodynamic therapy. Most of the clients we treat with PDT at Southern Cosmetics have tried these other options and want a more definitive treatment.

PDT and Acne

PDT is also beneficial in acne , as it destroys the bacteria in the skin that are contributing to acne, and it also has a beneficial effect on the sebaceous glands that produce oil.

The PDT treatment

At Southern Cosmetics, we use the state of the art Fotona SP Dynamis Erbium laser to remove a superficial layer of dead skin cells which allows  better penetration of the photosensitising compound. We are one of the few clinics in this area to offer PDT treatment, and we have doctors who specialise in assessment of sun damaged skin.

The first step in this process is to apply a thin layer of anaesthetic gel which is left on the skin for 1 hour. Once the skin is numb the laser treatment is performed.

Thephotosensitising lotion is then applied to your skin – this makes your skin very sensitive to bright or intense light. We then  incubate the photosensitiser on  your skin for a period of time decided by the Doctor (known as the incubation period) This varies from 30-60 minutes for acne, up to several hours for sun damage and skin cancers.

During this time, the area being treated is exposed to daylight for several hours, which begins the activation process.

When you return to the clinic, the area being treated is then exposed to LED light.
LED Light exposure lasts for between 5-15 minutes.
During this phase, the skin becomes red and sensitive.
Pain relief may be required. And a fan is used to cool the skin during this period.

After PDT treatment:

Initially the skin will be red and may become swollen-usually for 2-3 days .
The skin is often quite red and sensitive for the first 48 hours.

Usually a review appointment will be performed after 1 day to assess how your skin is responding to the treatment.
At this review, a further LED light treatment is performed to aid the healing process.

The treated skin then dries out, and crusts may form.
The skin then peels and flakes over the next few days.
This healing phase generally lasts 7-10 days.

In Acne patients, side effects are milder and don’t last as long as the time period the photosensitiser is applied for is much less.

Usually in Acne repeated treatments are required for best results.


PDT Before and After