Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy was originally developed to treat different types of cancer and expanded to treat acne and sun-damaged skin safely and effectively. Henry Ford board-certified physicians are among the most experienced in Michigan in extensive use of photodynamic therapy.

Phototherapy works by using visible light in the blue or red spectrum and a topical product which produces oxygen “free radicals” which can rid the skin of unwanted damaged areas.

Photodynamic therapy is used for a wide range of skin conditions and diseases including:

What to expect

Photodynamic therapy combines the use of a topical photosensitizer called aminolevulinic acid (ALA) and light therapy. The ALA is applied to the patient's skin, and the treated skin area is exposed to blue light, red light, or laser light, which activates the acid. The ALA concentrates in abnormal cells, oil glands, and hair follicles, and the light therapy destroys the tissues that have absorbed the ALA. Photodynamic therapy allows specific areas of the skin to be treated while causing little or no damage to the surrounding skin. Minimal downtime is needed.

Photodynamic therapy for acne

An ideal acne treatment, photodynamic therapy targets the three main factors that cause acne: overproduction of oil, blockage of hair follicles and growth of bacteria. Together, the laser and ALA work to decrease oil gland production and to reduce the bacteria. This helps to diminish acne, and in some cases, completely remove the acne.

Photodynamic therapy for sun-damaged skin

Photodynamic therapy also works to decrease redness, sun spots and freckles, smooths fine lines and rough skin, and helps improve the skin's overall appearance.

Common questions about photodynamic therapy

Will I be sensitive to sunlight?

The treatment will make your skin VERY sensitive to light for 48 hours

Is there any down time with PDT treatment?

When booking your appointment, make sure that you do NOT have any commitments for 48 hours after treatment that requires you to be in sunlight (including sunlight through windows such as car rides).

What should I bring to the appointment?

If your face or scalp is being treated, please bring a hat (preferably a wide brim hat to cover your ears) and sunglasses to the treatment to wear home. If your arms are being treated, please bring a long sleeve shirt and gloves to wear home.

What do to after your treatment

Please purchase a sunscreen with SPF 30 and bring it to apply after your treatment and for 48 hours after treatment.  The main active ingredient should be titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.  Examples of a good sunscreens to buy are (read the label carefully as each brand makes many different types of sunscreen):

  • Banana Boat Kids Tearfree SPF 30 or 50
  • Blue Lizard Sensitive SPF 30
  • Blue Lizard Baby SPF 30
  • Bull Frog SuperBlock Lotion Sunblock with Titanium Dioxid, SPF 45
  • Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock Lotion SPF 30
  • Vanicream Sunscreen Sport SPF 35 Sensitive Skin

If you have any further questions, please call (313) 916-7165.

Take the next step

For information call us at 1-844-432-6763.

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If this is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.

For your safety, please select a MyChart video visit on demand or call our MyCare Advice Line at 844-262-1949 before scheduling if:

  • You currently have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • In the past 21 days, you have been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • In the past 14 days, you have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19
  • You are experiencing a new loss of taste and/or sense of smell
  • If you have experienced two or more of the following symptoms in the last 3 days:
    • fever
    • chills
    • drenching sweats
    • new cough
    • shortness of breath
    • body aches
    • headache
    • sore throat
    • runny nose or nasal congestion
    • nausea/vomiting/diarrhea

Henry Ford Health System is committed to ensuring our Deaf or hard-of-hearing patients and visitors have equal access to all services. We provide the appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, TTYs and other assistive listening devices, at no cost. To request assistance, call 313-916-1896 or email

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