Light Therapy for Acne


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Like laser therapy, light therapy is a reasonably new and under-researched ‘optical’ treatment used to reduce and control mild-to-moderate acne. There are a couple of ways in which the therapy can be used; you can buy devices which allow you to apply the treatment yourself or a licensed practitioner can perform the treatment using a handheld light device. It is claimed to work painlessly in a very similar way to laser therapy. The aim is to destroy acne-causing bacteria by exposing your skin to blue light, while promoting the production of collagen with red light; this will encourage your skin to heal.

If the therapy is proven to work it could revolutionise the treatment of acne. It is a painless procedure with almost no side effects that you can perform yourself at home. The negative side of this treatment is that you may need to have regular treatment for a long time, which can be expensive and time consuming. Also whether it works is not certain and nobody can really tell if it has any long-term health risks.

How does Light Therapy for Acne Work?

The science behind this is a little confusing. Theoretically, the light from light therapy kills the acne-causing Propionbacterium Acnes by affecting porphyrins that the bacteria themselves produce. When your porphyrins are targeted by the right kind of light they start to behave differently, producing comparatively large amounts free radicals, more than the bacteria can deal with. This destroys the bacteria.

Other kinds of light are thought to have different effects, which is why blue light is often combined with red light, which is thought to boost healing by increasing blood and oxygen flow. For many years UV lights were pioneered as an acne treatment, however, these are not now in use as they have been show to cause the skin to age faster and using can even put you at risk of developing skin cancer.

Other similar, hopefully safer, treatments are underdevelopment and recently the use of light therapy in conjunction with a photodynamic cream called Levulan or ALA that increases the effect of the treatment has been gaining popularity. This therapy is called PDT (photodynamic therapy) and it works by making the skin more sensitive to lights during light therapy. This is one type of light treatment which should be performed by a professional as it is a more effective, harsher process which could have more side effects including stinging.

Does Light Therapy for Acne Really Work?

This is a contentious issue. A number of studies have shown that light therapy, especially as a combination of red and blue light, is very effective at treating acne. They state that the treatment is at least as effective as using the best topical benzoyl peroxide treatment and has far fewer side effects.

This may sound very promising but, problematically, very few studies have been carried out, and, those that have haven’t been done very well. This means that there is very little proof that light therapy actually works. Some studies have even shown that light treatment might not work at all. So far, so confusing. Whether light therapy works or not really depends on whom you ask. It cannot really be denied however, that some people have definitely seen results from it.

There is another risk however. Because there have been so few studies and because the therapy is so new, nobody really knows if it will have any long term side effects. Many people claim that it could be as dangerous for the skin as full UV lights but this cannot be ascertained until the therapy has been in use for a few more years at least.


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