What is Sebaceous Gland Ablation?

Sebaceous Gland Ablation is an exciting new treatment for active acne. The root cause of all types of Acne and breakout is overactive sebaceous glands. We have approximately 1200 sebaceous glands per square centimetre of skin. Only a tiny fraction of these are affected by Acne.

Many treatments can be effective for controlling Acne and traditional medical treatments have focussed on “normalising” Acne affected sebaceous glands. One of the biggest shortcomings of traditional medical treatments for Acne has been our lack of understanding of the fundamental cause of Acne, therefore, most of the treatments have been bandaids, rather than cures. Isotretinoin, known as Roaccutane in Australia, is a very powerful and effective acne controlling drug, but even with it, researchers are unsure as to why it produces long term sebaceous gland suppression. If Isotretinoin was not such a powerful drug, with so many potential serious side effects, there would be no reason to search for alternative treatments, as it is a highly effective treatment for Acne, particularly in males with severe Acne. Unfortunately, it is not quite so effective for females, who often relapse after experiencing brief remissions. One study of Isotretinoin use in women with adult Acne documented a 40% relapse rate on stopping the drug, with those women experiencing a worsening of their Acne. Many of my patients and their parents and partners are frightened of the potential serious side effects of Isotretinoin and for my patients with milder, but annoyingly persistent Acne, Isotretinoin seems to be too extreme a treatment to undertake.

One of the things that has always puzzled me about Acne is why do sebaceous glands malfunction in such a large number of people? If you think about how effectively the human body works throughout our lives, our hearts keep beating, our brains keep thinking and our lungs keep breathing and we don’t even have to worry about it. Yet 85% of teenagers and more than 20% of adults suffer from malfunctioning sebaceous glands, and some of the unlucky ones, to an extent where they are permanently scarred. These tiny organs, almost insignificant in importance for the human body, can cause so much trouble.

When I first learned about Sebaceous Gland Ablation, it seemed such an obvious solution to Acne, I felt foolish I hadn’t thought of it. Like many treatments though, it is very important for it to be “placed” amongst the myriad of Acne treatments available.

Acne is a very complex condition to treat. Because there are so many different forms of Acne and a number of factors that can exacerbate it, it is not a case of there being a “one size fits all” solution.

Sebaceous Gland Ablation will find it’s place amongst the proven medical treatments – tretinoin, adapelene,  benzyl peroxide, the oral contraceptive pill and oral antibiotics, as an effective treatment for Acne. I like to use the analogy of laser hair removal versus waxing versus shaving. All are effective as methods of hair removal, but a client’s choice of a preferred method of hair removal is usually governed by the degree to which they view their hair as a problem.

I have many, many patients who are sick and tired of breaking out. For them, Sebaceous Gland Ablation will be the perfect solution.


SGA Case Study

I will be bringing you regular posts about our growing experience with Sebaceous Gland Ablation. With any new treatment, our knowledge base grows as we treat a wider and wider range of skin types and acne presentations. One of the first clients I treated was a fellow staff member ( MR ) who had been suffering from persistent treatment resistant acne since giving birth to her first child 3 years ago. She could not remember a time when her skin was clear and free of lumps under her skin. She had tried many of our treatments, with some improvement, but was still never breakout free. Here are her notes from the day of her treatment and the week after:

16/02/2012 – Thursday

Before: It is the morning of my SGA treatment. I am excited but a little worried about the pain. Fingers crossed this works as I am sick of my stubborn acne. It is very embarrassing that a grown woman still has acne.

Directly after treatment: What a relief! The treatment was not uncomfortable. I barely felt the needle entering the breakout and once the RF started it was very bearable. I am a little bit red with some slight swelling. The skin feels slightly sunburnt and there is tightness when I smile but not at all uncomfortable.

PM: There is still slight swelling and my skin feels a little bumpy but I’m very excited to see the results. No pain or tightness now.


17/02/2012 – Friday – A cyst that has NEVER come to the surface is starting to make a head. I am beyond excited about this as it means it is working! The cyst is a problem as it is a normal breakout and each time it comes up it never forms a head so I can’t get rid of it, finally I will be able to CLEAR my skin! My skin is quite bumpy and all I want to do it pick!


18/02/2012 – Saturday – That terrible cyst finally came to a head. After a warm shower I used the Easy Squeeze and I managed to finally clear it. I then used the Easy Squeeze to clear the other breakouts that had come to a head. My skin still feesl bumpy and has started to flake but I can see it is working.


19/02/2012 – Sunday – No swelling today. A few more breakouts have come to a head so I used the Easy Squeeze again. Skin is still bumpy, I just want to pick, but I know I can’t.


20/02/2012 – Monday – Lots of flaking today, no redness and no swelling. The usual redness around my breakouts is starting to fade as well.


21/02/2012 – Tuesday –  Where the 2 cysts were there is a slight graze and some flaking. Both heads have been removed so I am excited to see what they will look like when they clear. I still have to resist picking.


22/02/2012 – Wednesday

I had a lot of flaking this morning but I am starting to see that my skin is  not as red. Not as bumpy which is great as I don’t want to pick.


23/02/2012 – Thursday

Today I looked in the mirror and I can see a huge improvement. I can also feel a huge improvement. My skin is not as bumpy to tough. There is still some slight flaking but this is now almost gone.

(On a side note – removing the larger cystic pimples has allowed me to feel the smaller bumps along my chin which I didn’t worry about before ). I can’t wait for another treatment to get rid of these too!


What MR describes is very typical of the response we are seeing following SGA treatments. It is very common for the skin to feel lumpy for around 10 days after the treatment. It is also common for a breakout to occur after the treatment as the treated gland expels it’s contents up to the surface of the skin. We recommend an extraction three to four days after the treatment and then a peel seven days after treatment.