Gold Photothermal Therapy at The Clifford Clinic: An Unconventional Solution to Stubborn Acne


Six months have passed since the wearing of face mask was made mandatory by our government for everyone venturing out of their homes. If your skin still hasn’t been reacting well to the increased humidity behind the mask while being at the mercy of acne, you are not alone. Almost every day, my jawline, chin or cheeks would be greeted with pustules or whiteheads after donning a mask for nearly 12 hours in an environment without air-conditioning. These pesky flare-ups lingered even after they had healed, leaving fresh red marks on my newly-treated skin.

Image from Freepik

Image from Freepik

While acne treatments are aplenty, the nature of my day job forbids me to take a few days off to recover from any downtime that follows. Therefore, when The Clifford Clinic introduced their latest localised treatment for recurrent acne that promises no downtime, it honestly felt like my cries for help were finally heard 😩 The new kid on the block is none other than Gold Photothermal Therapy (or Gold PTT) which, from its name alone, already sounds superior than whichever existing treatments for mild-to-moderate acne. The Clifford Clinic is also the pioneer of this novel approach in treating acne at its root.

But why gold? Apart from potentially giving clients a taste of opulence (I mean, it doesn’t get any fancier than having gold infused into your skin 🤩 bling bling!), the key component in Gold PTT is, duh, gold nanoparticles which are chosen for their biocompatibility with human tissues and ability to penetrate easily into the deeper layers of the skin. That said, the gold nanoparticles are also specially engineered to enable them to be precisely and accurately delivered into the pores and glands of the skin via ultrasound sonophoresis (a type of drug delivery) before heating them with a dermatology laser to activate their function. This process is only possible because of the efficient light-to-heat conversion of gold nanoparticles, which allows local therapeutic hyperthermia of tissue.

My first stop: cleansing room!

My first stop: cleansing room!

During the treatment, my face was thoroughly cleansed by an aesthetician before an ampoule containing the gold nanoparticles was carefully applied. As someone with highly sensitive nose, the pungent smell of the ampoule hit me hard at first but thankfully, it got better with every ragged breath I took. Other than that, the whole cleansing process was nothing short of soothing and calming – I only wished it lasted a bit longer!

The little bottle containing the gold nanoparticle-infused ampoule

The little bottle containing the gold nanoparticle-infused ampoule

Applying gold onto my skin..

Applying gold onto my skin..

Spot my whiteheads!

Spot my whiteheads!

Pulsing the gold particles into the oil glands

Pulsing the gold particles into the oil glands

Pulse some more..

Pulse some more..

My skin is so basic, it couldn't handle the opulence of the gold nanoparticles so it broke out in a rash! Luckily, most of it went away towards the end of the treatment

My skin is so basic, it couldn’t handle the opulence of the gold nanoparticles so it broke out in a rash! Luckily, most of it went away towards the end of the treatment

Once the application stage was completed, I was led to another room where Dr Ee would massage the gold nanoparticles into my skin using Bellasonic, an ultrasound machine imported from South Korea designed for skin treatments, before performing the rest of the photothermal therapy.

A picture showing my entire face slathered with cooling gel that was taken during my second session!

A picture showing my entire face slathered with cooling gel that was taken during my second session!

The cooling gel allowed my face to cool before laser application took place...

The cooling gel allowed my face to cool before laser application took place…

At this juncture, a specialised long-pulse diode laser was used to heat the nanoparticles to break down the sebaceous glands in targeted pores, thereby reducing their secretion permanently. This heat also kills Cutibacterium acnes (the bacteria responsible for causing acne) so the risks of inflammatory pustules and papules forming on my face would have likewise been greatly reduced.

Last step: laser treatment to heat up the gold and the oil glands

Last step: laser treatment to heat up the gold and the oil glands

The most uncomfortable part of the procedure because I could feel some tingling sensation.. but it was bearable.

The most uncomfortable part of the procedure because I could feel some tingling sensation.. but it was bearable.

Although the final part of the treatment has been said to be painless, I could still feel a tingling sensation (somewhat like snapping a small rubber band on my face, but the pain is certainly nowhere near the agony I experienced during AGNES, inarguably the mother of acne treatments) with every zap of the laser. Due to the minimal discomfort of this procedure, anaesthesia is not required.

Post-treatment

Post-treatment

Another one without those shades.. My face looks a bit red here but it subsided very quickly

Another one without those shades.. My face looks a bit red here but it subsided very quickly

In addition, the Gold PTT is a highly-tolerable procedure. Unlike other lasers used in dermatology, the diode laser administered in this treatment only interacts with the gold nanoparticles instead of the skin directly. This allows for a highly-localised treatment where healthy skin is left undisturbed so there will not be any drying or irritating effect on the skin. The leftover gold nanoparticles are also inert – they will not react with skin tissue and secretion, and will eventually be shed off together with dead epidermal cells.

A total of three sessions (including the first) was scheduled over a 5-week period for me (it could have been shorter if not for work), each treatment lasting no more than an hour. Even so, noticeable results could already be seen after the first session as the areas where my acne would usually appear have remained as clear as day – even at time of writing (that’s two months after my last Gold PTT session)!

The day after my first session! Still some visible blemishes but they weren't there for long!

The day after my first session! Still some visible blemishes but they weren’t there for long!

All in all, this acne treatment fulfilled its objective of pulling the plug on my pesky acne. However, this might not be the most ideal treatment for those suffering from severe acne. For that, perhaps AGNES would be a better option ☺️

Have you heard of Gold PTT before? What are your thoughts about it and would you consider it if you’re suffering from recurrent acne? Let me know your views in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

The Clifford Clinic · 24 Raffles Place #01-03 Clifford Centre Singapore 048621 (Exit A from Raffles Place MRT) · Tel: 6532 2400 / 8318 6332 (WhatsApp) · For more information about AGNES, do visit Their website or Like them on Facebook and Instagram.

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