Hopefully, you are seeing a dermatologist who has provided you with a more effective and less costly treatments.
One of the less savory things I am seeing increasingly in medicine is the situation where physicians are trying to practice out of their specialty and a proclivity of some physicians to chose treatments which may be more financially rewarding over treatments which are more effective. I guess what I see in acne treatment performed by non-dermatologists is the rolling up of these two nefarious trends into one.
What I am saying is that the basisof acne treatment is a step-wise paradigm. One starts with what is most suitable. Mild acne is treated with topicals. Moderate with a combination of topicals and maybe oral medication. Severe acne brings out medications such as hormones ( birth control pills, Aldactone), and Accutane. If these fail ( or a patient declines Accutane or their are other reasons not to prescribe it), then the modalities you mention can be summoned. Sometimes, they can be used in addition to the above measures but not as a replacement for them.
Now my words in your case may be irrelavant in that you have aleady tried and failed traditional treatment. If so, fine. However, those words probably apply to many other situation. I see this especially in the rise of physician owned medi-spas ( usually so-called non-core physicians...gyns, Er, Opth, Neuro etc. ) where the prinicapal motivation is greed. Sell. Sell. Sell. After all one does not make anything writing a prescription and believe me the IPledge program is a hastle and certainly less financially effective than a Smoothbeam treatment.
Also, I do not want to make it seem that we dermatologists are hungry for patients and that is what motivates me to rant a bit. Further, I have two of these machines myself and they are effective. It is just I see patients coming in who have spent $2,000-$3,000 and still have their acne. One course of Accutane and usually their acne would be gone.
With all that said, probably the Smoothbeam is somewhat more effective, but I have been impressed with the results of the Isolaz too. If you are to use the IPL, I would combine it with Levulan or Mehtyl Levulinic acid.