Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

for Superficial Skin Cancers & Sun Damage

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a versatile treatment used to address various skin conditions, including superficial skin cancers, sun-damaged skin, and acne.

Understanding PDT and How It Works:

PDT employs a photosensitizing agent known as Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA) and LED blue light (or natural sunlight) to initiate a photochemical reaction that selectively destroys cancer cells and addresses various skin conditions. This process generates reactive oxygen species when ALA, light, and oxygen interact, leading to the targeted destruction of problematic cells.

What Does PDT Treat?

Superficial skin cancers (excluding melanoma)

Sun-damaged skin


The PDT Treatment Process:

Stage 1: Application of ALA

ALA is applied to the face.

A waiting period of at least 3 hours allows the drug to concentrate in the targeted cells.

For patients with thick, scaly skin, an exfoliating agent like salicylic acid may be used for 7 days to facilitate ALA penetration.

Stage 2: PDT Session

A local anesthetic spray is applied to the skin to ensure comfort during the procedure.

LED blue light is administered to the skin for 20 minutes.

Discomfort is common during the LED treatment, and water is periodically sprayed onto the skin to alleviate any discomfort.

Stage 3: Post-Treatment Reaction

A sunburn-like reaction may occur, characterized by redness, swelling, itchiness, and a burning sensation.

This reaction typically resolves within 2 to 4 weeks.

Recent evidence suggests that topical PDT may be more effective when combined with high-dose oral vitamin D for 7 days before the treatment.

 Possible Side Effects of PDT:

Burning or stinging sensation

Swelling and redness



Peeling and blisters

Skin infections

The treated skin lesion may blister and ulcerate as cancer cells die off. Healing may take several weeks, with minimal to moderate scarring. Loss of pigmentation may occur, occasionally resulting in permanent changes.


To optimize your recovery and results, follow these aftercare guidelines:

Avoid direct sunlight for 2 days after treatment.

Refrain from applying makeup for 1 week following treatment.

Avoid active skincare products such as exfoliating agents and retinols for 5-7 days to allow your skin to heal.

Apply daily sunscreen and use moisturizers generously to aid in skin recovery.

Follow up:

4 weeks after your treatment. Any residual skin lesions can be spot treated


Dr May Marr Cosmetic Physician Lennox Head


Dr May Marr is a Flinders University Medical School graduate and a member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. She has a long-held interest in aesthetic medical procedures and evidence-based skin care. She holds a passionate belief that people should have access to procedures and products that are research-backed, ethically prescribed and skilfully delivered.

Dr Marr has trained with Dr Jacque Le Coz at the Institute of Mesotherapy in Paris. She holds an Advanced Diploma in Dermatology from the Australian Institute of Dermatology and in 2020 completed her Dermatology Fellowship.

The ethical, educational and procedural standards that Dr Marr brings to aesthetic medicine have been recognised by some of the largest aesthetic companies in the world. She holds advanced injector status and her extensive clinical experience sees her regularly called upon as an industry educator.