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Have you heard of using blue or red light to treat acne? Light therapy, also called phototherapy, is one of the latest fads in skincare, but is there anything to the hype?
In this article, we’ll explore the claims and burgeoning science behind light therapy to see whether light can clear your acne.
What is Light Therapy?
Light therapy is the use of light in the visible spectrum, meaning light that you can see, to treat various conditions like acne, wrinkles, joint pain, psoriasis, depression, and more. Phototherapy does not use UV light, so it does not increase your risk for cellular damage or skin cancer.
There’s long been a myth that sun tanning clears acne. The efficacy of UV rays for treating acne is unclear, but the likelihood of cellular damage is almost guaranteed. Increasing your risk for skin cancer is not a fair trade-off for the possibility of fewer blemishes, so stick to UV-free light therapy and skip the tanning bed.
The scientific evidence about whether light therapy clears acne is still mixed. While some studies have shown a reduction in both open comedones (blackheads) and closed (whiteheads), other studies have shown little reduction in the number of acne lesions. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, light therapy shows promise for helping some people clear certain types of acne, but the results vary from person to person.
If you have not seen your desired results from other methods of acne treatment, light therapy may be a good addition to your regimen.
Blue Light Therapy: How Does it Work?
Blue light therapy (BLT) produces a specific wavelength of light that researchers believe is antimicrobial. The light destroys acne-causing bacteria that like to sink into your pores and cause pimples. BLT is also anti-inflammatory, so it can help reduce swelling in your existing blemishes.
The benefits of BLT are that there is little to no discomfort, and you can do it in the comfort of your own home. Compared to drying topical creams, BLT is very gentle. Most people experience no side effects, but some may experience temporary redness or swelling that clears within a few hours after a treatment.
Phototherapy can be used to treat acne anywhere on the body. In most cases, you can safely combine it with other products. However, you should always consult your dermatologist before adding new treatments to your skincare regimen. BLT also shows promise in reducing sebaceous hyperplasia (enlarged oil glands) by reducing the production of pore-clogging oil.
The primary downside of all light therapy is that it may not be enough to clear acne on its own, especially for patients with severe acne. Phototherapy also does not appear to be a permanent solution. While the therapy can help keep skin clear for several months, you may have to continue using it periodically to maintain your clear skin.
Red Light Therapy: How Does it Work?
Red light therapy (RLT) is not antimicrobial like blue light, but it is anti-inflammatory. RLT is thought to improve skin by strengthening the mitochondria in a user’s cells. Mitochondria are like the batteries of your cells; they contain the energy. When your mitochondria are more energized, they can do more work, which means that your cells function more efficiently and repair damage more quickly.
Research demonstrates that red light penetrates deeply into the skin to promote healing and tissue repair. RLT may speed the healing time for blemishes, in addition to reducing swelling and inflammation around existing clogged pores.
There’s also strong evidence that red light therapy increases collagen production, which is an essential protein building block for your cells. The more collagen you have, the smoother your skin will appear. Red light therapy may be a suitable treatment to reduce scarring after a blemish has healed. And, as a bonus, it can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles!
Before You Add Light to Your Regimen…
The efficacy of light to treat acne and other conditions is still being researched, but the current body of evidence is intriguing. However, light therapy may not be suitable for all people. Speak to your dermatologist if you have a chronic health condition, are pregnant or think you could be pregnant, or if you have a disorder that makes you more sensitive to light.
Keep in mind that it can take several weeks of consistent phototherapy treatment to begin seeing results. Beautiful, clear skin doesn’t happen overnight. A combination of a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, staying active, and establishing a good skincare regimen (cleanse, tone, treat, moisturize!) should be your first steps toward clear skin.
Get in touch with the skincare experts at Brentwood Dermatology today to discuss which treatments may work best for your skin type.
Learn More About Brentwood Dermatology.
The trusted physicians at Brentwood Dermatology can assist you with all of your general, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology needs. If you would like to learn more about our services or schedule an appointment, visit our website or give us a call at (615) 377-3448.