Acne scars are far from uncommon. In fact, over 50 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from them. While many people opt for surgery or other medical procedures, there are also some good non-invasive options available.
One of these is Halo Laser for acne scars. The procedure is relatively painless, and most patients say that it’s not even noticeable after treatment. Here’s what you should know about Halo Laser for acne scars:
What is Halo Laser For Acne Scars?
Halo Laser is a type of laser treatment that can be used to treat acne scars and other types of scars as well as fine lines and wrinkles. It works by breaking down the scar tissue under the skin so it can be absorbed by the body, which causes it to fade away over time.
How Does It Work?
The Halo laser targets specific wavelengths of light that specifically target damaged tissue without affecting surrounding tissue or organs such as skin or muscles. When you undergo this treatment, your doctor will apply numbing cream to your skin before beginning treatment so you won’t feel any pain during treatment sessions (which usually last only about 30 minutes).
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Halo Laser For Acne Scars
With a moniker like the “Halo glow” following it around and stunning before and after photos popping up every time the device is entered into a Google search, the Halo Laser’s reputation certainly precedes it. Although it’s an intense treatment that requires a few days of downtime, some of the benefits include the reversal of sun damage, a complete resurfacing of uneven texture, and a general overhaul of your complexion to the point that makeup is entirely optional.
As an early-30s beauty enthusiast who has a mild case of Dorian Gray syndrome (okay, maybe it’s more moderate to severe), I was intrigued and just had to try the Halo Laser for myself. I had a laundry list of skin concerns to atone for, with tanning bed usage in my teens and pimple-picking among them, and evidence lingered on my face in the form of hyperpigmentation, red patches, and enlarged pores I had to monitor for budding breakouts and blackheads alike. My goal was eventually to become one of those lucky people who wore makeup as an extracurricular, and the Halo Laser seemed like the most promising option for getting me there at the speed of light.
What Is the Halo Laser?
The Halo Laser is a hybrid treatment that combines the powers of an ablative laser and non-ablative laser to resurface skin. “Think of it as a chemical peel on steroids,” Dr. Kim says. “The ablative laser evaporates or pulverizes the top layers of skin to address more superficial areas, while the non-ablative laser creates controlled, deeper micro-traumas in the subcutaneous layers of skin to simulate inflammation and promote both skin-tightening and collagen production.” While the term “micro-trauma” sounds like something you wouldn’t want, Dr. Kim notes that it’s actually a good thing—by tricking the skin into thinking it’s injured, it causes your natural healing process to go into overdrive, creating more collagen and in turn, addressing skin texture issues like oversized pores, fine lines, wrinkles, roughness, laxity, and acne scars.
Benefits of a Halo Laser Treatment
For those who have several different concerns with skin texture, tone, and damage, the Halo Laser may be worth considering due to its multiple potential benefits. A few main things the treatment may help with are as follows:
- Stimulates collagen and promotes tighter skin
- Removes hyperpigmentation and sun damage
- Smooths over uneven texture
- Diminishes fine lines and wrinkles
- Reduces the appearance of pores
If you want to completely resurface uneven skin texture and impart a more even tone in a single session, then the Halo laser is a good option for you. “The combination of the ablative and non-ablative lasers allow you to combine the high strength of the ablative with the collagen-stimulating powers of the non-ablative, resurfacing your skin to reveal the healthier complexion underneath,” explains Dr. Kim. “This would be the ideal treatment for someone who isn’t new to laser treatments, and wants a more dramatic result.”
By obliterating the first few superficial layers of skin, the newer, healthier skin underneath is able to surface, and the increase in collagen promotes a smoother, more even finish. In fact, right before my treatment, my practitioner Rita shared her Halo experience with me, and noted that, after getting the treatment the previous year, she hadn’t worn foundation on her skin since. Because we’re exposed to the elements and sun damage can always happen to even the most diligent of us, Dr. Kim notes that, after your initial treatment, you’ll only need to follow up with annual Halo sessions to reverse any environmental impact from the previous year.
How to Prepare for a Halo Laser Treatment
The first thing you’ll want to do in advance of your Halo Laser treatment is stop using any retinoids in your existing lineup. “Topical retinoids can make your skin more sensitive to the laser, so avoid them in the two weeks leading up to your treatment,” Dr. Kim explains. Stick to a pretty simple skincare routine and use light, mild formulas that keep your skin hydrated—Dr. Kim recommends the Cetaphil cleanser, moisturizers by either Cetaphil or CeraVe, and your usual daily sunscreen. “While sunscreen is important to use year-round, it’s especially important before your Halo treatment,” she says. “Because you’re resurfacing your skin, you don’t want sun damage to cause any hyperpigmentation regardless of the upcoming laser treatment.”
And speaking of hyperpigmentation, certain skin types might need to incorporate hydroquinone each night starting two weeks before the Halo treatment. Case in point: Me. I’m half-Filipino and because inflammation can trigger hyperpigmentation in my skin, New Look New Life Patient Coordinator Janette Guzman prescribed me hydroquinone to prep my skin for the appointment. “If you have more melanin in your skin, inflammatory processes can cause hyperpigmentation, which is called PIH—post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Kim says. “Usually when patients experience that, we prescribe the hydroquinone to pre-treat the skin for any inflammation to avoid any potential PIH post-treatment.”
You’ll also want to mentally prepare for the downtime associated with the Halo Laser. “The healing process will look scarier than it actually feels, and in the days that follow, you’ll start to get the epidermal debris, also known as MENDS—or, microscopic epidermal necrotic debris,” Dr. Kim explains. “They’ll show up in the form of little brown spots all over your face, which peel off as the Halo result starts to surface.” The MENDS can take anywhere from five to seven days to completely fall off, and Dr. Kim notes that slight swelling for one to three days following the treatment isn’t uncommon.
What to Expect During the Halo Laser Treatment
Depending on whether or not your skin is breakout-prone, your provider may choose to pre-treat your complexion with a device to target acne. This was the case for me, and my practitioner Rita used the Forever Clear BBL laser on my skin to zap any lingering breakouts below the skin. Then, she gave me two Advils, applied numbing cream, and allowed it to sit for an hour. A word to the wise: The treatment is not one of those chill laser facials you can get on your lunch break and not have anyone notice. Numbing is required, and I imagine the process would be pretty painful without it, since it wasn’t exactly sensation-less even with the numbing cream. Granted, the New Look New Life team prepared me for this—during my consultation with Janette, she expressed how she found the treatment to be pretty painful, but completely worth it.
After my practitioner Rita mapped out the quadrants of my face, she went to work with the Halo device, working section by section. It wasn’t the most painful sensation in the world (says the girl who has six tattoos so far), though I’d equate it to a combination of intense heat and the dull snap of a rubber band. The areas around my hairline, near my brows, and on my upper lip were the most sensitive, and once my full face had been completed, Rita applied a topical steroid to cool down the skin and soothe inflammation. “The steroids also help to calm down the skin so that the inflammation doesn’t cause hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Kim adds.
After your Halo Laser treatment, you’ll be instructed to wash your face three to four times a day using lukewarm water with a mild cleanser like Cetaphil. Moisturize frequently—I veered between Cetaphil and Dr. Jart+’s Ceramidin Cream—and a mineral-based sunscreen with SPF 30 or more is also a must, even if your exposure to the outdoors is limited to the window in your apartment. When you shower, keep the temperature on the cooler side, and make sure you don’t stick your face directly under the stream of water to avoid triggering any PIH.
As you continue to wash your face, the MENDS will naturally come off as the skin heals, so resist the urge to pick or peel at them prematurely. This can be hard as the tight and dry feeling starts to settle in. “Be conscious of how forcefully you’re washing your face so that you don’t take any of the MENDS off prematurely,” Dr. Kim says. “Try to just dab your face with a clean towel or paper towel when you wash it, and try to be as gentle as possible.” She notes that, in most cases, the dermal debris will have peeled off by day seven or eight at the latest, and that you should wait two weeks post-treatment to start using any topical retinoids again.
Immediately after, my skin was extremely red and sore, and the dermal debris began showing up within the first two days following the treatment, with the MENDS being the most dramatic on day two (pictured above). By day three, the epidermal debris started to fall off more and more as I continued to wash my face, and by day four, I was starting to see more of that “Halo glow” peeking through, albeit with a bit of redness. While the epidermal debris continued to fall off in days five (also pictured above) and six, my skin had calmed down significantly, and a full week after the treatment, that coveted “Halo glow” was in full force.
The Halo Laser vs. the Clear + Brilliant Laser
Because of its ability to also treat fine lines, pores, uneven texture, and hyperpigmentation, the Clear + Brilliant Laser is often compared to the Halo Laser. On paper, the two seem extremely similar—with Clear + Brilliant’s claims of no downtime being a plus—but according to Dr. Kim, it would take multiple rounds with the Clear + Brilliant laser to achieve a result similar to that of a single session with the Halo Laser. “Clear + Brilliant is a great modality, but it’s less intense, so you’d have to do it more frequently to get similar results as Halo,” she says.
Clear + Brilliant, however, would be a good entry-level treatment for someone who has little experience in the laser realm, and would eventually like to try the Halo method—baby steps.
Potential Side Effects
The threat of PIH—which, as we noted before, stands for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation—is the only potential side effect, and in the instance it does take shape, Dr. Kim notes that it can easily be treated with either a prescription-grade retinoid or hydroquinone.
The Halo Laser treatment has an average cost of $1500, but the final price may be slightly higher or lower depending on your practitioner and whether or not any pre-Halo treatments are needed. For example, the pre-treatment session with the Forever Clear BBL laser used to target acne on my skin would have been an additional cost to the overall sticker price.
This is a bold statement, but I stand by it: The Halo Laser is one of the best things to happen to my skin in recent history. My pores are less noticeable, my skin became more even in terms of tone and texture, and I got this otherworldly glow. I wasn’t the only one who noticed—friends, family, and even my husband (who didn’t even notice when I once came home bruised after a filler appointment) commented on how great my skin looked and asked what I was using, as if I was an influencer with a huge following. Among all the things I could have listed on my 2021 bingo card (you know, that fun overused joke), I never would have thought that having really, really, ridiculously good skin would be an option. I fully plan to get my yearly Halo touch-up come 2022—I’ll just have to leave my camera off for the Zoom meetings in the few days that follow.
8 Things You Need To Know About The Halo Laser Treatment
1. HALO IS THE FIRST AND ONLY HYBRID FRACTIONAL LASER.
Unlike other treatments, Halo is uniquely designed to deliver both ablative and non-ablative wavelengths to the same treatment zone. This dual-wavelength feature means that the laser resurfaces both your epidermis (the topmost layer of skin) and the dermis (the thick layer of living tissue directly under the epidermis) at the same time.
2. HALO DOESN’T JUST TREAT FINE LINES AND WRINKLES.
Although the Halo laser is one of the most effective fine line and wrinkle reducers, it isn’t just a treatment for aging skin. It also corrects issues such as:
- Uneven skin tone
- Enlarged pores
- Sun damage
Results will vary depending on the number of treatments you get and the severity of your skin problems. However, most patients report a significant improvement in their complexion after just one Halo treatment.
3. HALO PROVIDES MORE DRAMATIC RESULTS.
Thanks to Halo’s unique dual-wavelength technology, the treatment can resurface about 25 to 30 percent of the skin. Many other more gentle lasers only resurface approximately 5 percent. This means the results of your treatments will be much more noticeable and dramatic than less powerful laser treatments.
4. HALO WORKS ON ALL SKIN TYPES.
Some laser treatments are only effective for men and women with lighter pigment skin complexions. This is because the laser targets visible skin imperfections, some of which are more easily overlooked with darker skin tones.
Halo is different. By using a motion-tracking technology to measure your face beforehand, the laser can scan and target imperfections deep within the epidermis — even imperfections that would not be visible to the naked eye. Because of this, it is effective for all ages, all skin types, and all complexions.
5. YOU’LL SEE RESULTS IN AS LITTLE AS 2 DAYS.
Your skin undergoes a bronzing stage every several days. During this stage, your skin will peel to reveal new, revitalized layers beneath. If you receive a Halo treatment, these layers will contain improved skin tone and texture, as well as a decreased appearance of scars and dark spots. The first signs of improvement will be noticeable 2-5 days after your treatment.
During the next few weeks, you’ll continue to see subtle improvement in pigmentation, texture, and tone. These results will continue as your skin regenerates through the following months. Overall, if you protect your skin from UV rays, your results can last for years to come.
6. HALO TAKES A COUPLE OF HOURS PER SESSION.
Lasers can be painful. To reduce the pain and improve the experience, your esthetician will apply a topical anesthetic 30-60 minutes before the procedure. Once the numbing medication has kicked in, your face will be measured with motion-tracking technology to ensure an even skin treatment. The laser will then be applied.
If you experience any side effects immediately following the treatment, your esthetician may administer anti-inflammatory ointments to reduce symptoms.
7. EXPECT MINOR DISCOMFORT FOLLOWING THE PROCEDURE.
Many individuals report a burning sensation immediately following their treatment, similar to the feeling of a sunburn. This typically passes after several hours. Swelling and redness are common and can last 2-3 days. We recommend you do your Halo treatment on a Friday so you have plenty of time to recover.
There are other post-care considerations to keep in mind as well. You need to remain make-up free for at least 24 hours following your Halo treatment. You should also stay out of the sun as much as possible throughout your entire healing process, which can last several weeks.
8. HALO REQUIRES FEWER TREATMENTS FOR BETTER RESULTS.
Halo is more expensive than a chemical peel or traditional fractional laser. On average, Halo costs about $1,500. Other peels and lasers are typically in the $100-$500 range per treatment.
That said, it can take a chemical peel or fractional laser 3-4 treatments to achieve the results of a single Halo procedure. Halo treatments are also known to provide better, lasting results in the long run. Because of this, for many patients, Halo is actually the more affordable option.
Before and After
Before my Halo laser treatment, my skin was more or less as temperamental as it was when I was a teenager—my pores were definitely visible, and the signs of breakouts past were lingering in the forms of hyperpigmentation and some red, sensitive areas.