Phototherapy For Acne Treatment: 2 Best Light Colors
How Phototherapy For Acne Works
Acne grows in the tiny holes in your skin called pores. Each pore has a gland that makes oil. The oil is good for your skin. But oil, dirt, and dead skin cells can sometimes get stuck in pores and block them. Live bacteria on your skin called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) can also get into these clogged pores. P. acnes causes clogged pores to swell up into acne bumps.
Light is one way to kill bacteria and get rid of zits. Certain kinds of light can kill the bacteria on your skin. When these lights shine on your skin, toxic substances are made that kill the bacteria. Phototherapy for acne also makes your skin’s oil glands smaller, so your skin makes less oil that clogs pores.
The Advantages of Light Therapy
In the clinic, blue light and red light are the two main types of visible light phototherapy for acne that is used. Each one is used for a different thing, and even though they both help get rid of acne, they each have different benefits.
Blue light phototherapy for acne
Blue light phototherapy for acne is the most common type of light therapy used to treat acne.
Blue light’s wavelength has an antimicrobial effect, which means it can kill bacteria that can grow in your pores and oil glands and cause pimples.
In one study, 77 percent of the people with acne who used blue light therapy for five weeks saw their skin get better.
Blue light phototherapy for acne is also good for your skin because it gets rid of free radicals that cause your face to age by oxidizing. The treatment also helps reduce inflammation, which makes other acne symptoms like redness go away.
Red light phototherapy for acne
Blue light phototherapy for acne kills bacteria better than red light therapy, but red light therapy can still be helpful.
Red light phototherapy for acne helps the body heal and may help make acne scars less noticeable. It can also help reduce inflammation.
Red light therapy helps soothe and heal tissue deep below the surface of your skin. If your acne is caused by a skin condition that lasts for a long time, you might want to try red light therapy.
How Light Therapy Works to Treat Acne
Most people think that blue light is the best color for acne breakouts because it works in three different ways:
“P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne, makes a protein called porphyrins. When this protein absorbs blue light, it sets off a chemical reaction that kills the bacteria,” says Nussbaum. Second, it controls the production of sebum. We know that too much sebum can clog pores and is a key part of the acne cycle.
Improves inflammation: Blue light also reduces swelling and redness, which is a big help when you have breakouts. All of this makes it a great and effective solution for people with sensitive skin who may not be able to use traditional topical treatments (say that three times fast). The experts we talked to all agreed that phototherapy for acne combined with topicals is the best way to go (and Fedotova points out that light therapy can also help deliver topical products deeper into the skin and intensify their effect as an added win). Still, LED treatments are a great alternative to the usual treatments for acne, such as creams and pills.
The only thing to keep in mind is that not all pimples are the same, so light therapy, especially blue light therapy, may not work as well for everyone. As a general rule, “light therapy is best for people with inflammatory acne lesions,” which are the red, tender bumps and pustules, says Dr. Nazarian. Dr. Birnbaum adds that it probably won’t be very effective against comedonal acne (AKA blackheads and whiteheads).
Blue light has been talked about a lot, but it’s not the only color that can help. Red light also helps reduce inflammation, which is why it’s often used with blue light to treat acne.3 Red light speeds up the skin’s healing process and the production of collagen and elastin, which could help with acne scars, says Fedotova. In the same way, she says, “green and yellow light help to balance melanin, or pigment, and can help lighten scars from acne.”
What to expect during light therapy
You will see a dermatologist before you undergo phototherapy for acne. They can tell you if you’re a good candidate for this treatment, what kind of light they’ll be using, what to expect, and how many treatments you might need.
You may need to stay away from retinol and other products that thin your skin for two weeks before a light therapy session.
Ask your dermatologist if you should stop taking any anti-inflammatory drugs you are taking. Avoid tanning beds and long periods in the sun without protection in the days before your treatment.
Each session of blue or red light phototherapy for acne lasts 15 to 30 minutes. During the session, you’ll either lie down or put your head in a special device made to keep your face still.
A nurse or dermatologist who is trained in light therapy will use a device to send pulses of light to different parts of your face, moving around in a circle. The treatment is done when this process has been done several times.
Your skin may be pink or red after you’ve undergone phototherapy for acne. There might be some light peeling of the skin in the area that was treated.
Your skin may be more sensitive, and you may need to skip your usual skin care routine for a few days, especially scrubs, exfoliants, and topical vitamin A.
Dermatologists recommend that you wear sunscreen every day, but while your skin is healing, you’ll need to be extra careful.
The American Academy of Dermatologists says that whiteheads, blackheads, and nodular acne are not helped by visible light therapy. People with mild to moderate acne do best with it.
Phototherapy for acne isn’t usually done just once. Most of the time, it’s best to start with a few rounds of phototherapy, usually two to three times a week for four to six weeks.
After that, there may be a need for follow-up treatments every three months or so to keep the treatment’s effects going. Most insurance doesn’t pay for these treatments, which cost about $50 per session on average.
Light therapy risks
Phototherapy for acne doesn’t use ultraviolet light, so there is no risk of skin damage or radiation. But that doesn’t mean this treatment is risk-free.
If the treated area isn’t taken care of properly, it could get infected. If you get pus, blisters, or a fever after light therapy, you should call your doctor right away.
Some people should also stay away from light therapy. If you are taking antibiotics, are very sensitive to sunlight or get sunburned easily, light therapy for acne might not be the best choice for you.
If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, you should also avoid this kind of treatment.
Home Light Therapy
There are some things on the market that can be used to do light phototherapy for acne at home. In the past few years, blue light therapy masks and other devices that use light to treat problems have become popular.
Research shows that these treatments can work. For example, a small study found that using blue light therapy on your own for 28 days did reduce the number of acne lesions on people’s faces.
Light therapy devices that you can use at home may seem expensive (one popular device costs $30 for 28 days of treatment), but they are cheaper than acne treatments at a dermatologist’s office.
On the other hand, light therapy done at home probably works, but there is no evidence that it works as well as treatment done by a professional.
Visible light phototherapy for acne is a good way to treat condition for a lot of people.
Be honest with yourself about how well you think light therapy will work for you. Even though it might make your symptoms better, it probably won’t get rid of your spots and pimples for good.
Most of the time, it’s also suggested that you try other, less expensive ways to treat your acne before you try light therapy. Talk to your dermatologist to find out if this type of treatment for acne is right for you.
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