Light Therapy For Acne – Benefits And Side Effects

Medically reviewed by Dr.Jeff Jumaily, MD Dr.Jeff Jumaily Dr.Jeff JumailyMD facebook_icontwitter_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) Experience: 11 years

Technology has taken the beauty and cosmetic industry to whole new heights. Light therapy for acne is the latest thing all beauty junkies are obsessed about. Dermatologists are increasingly using this technique for treating skin inflammation and acne. Haven’t heard of it before? No worries! Know everything about light therapy right here. Keep reading.

Table Of Contents

What Is Light Therapy? How Does It Help Treat Acne?

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is an accepted way of treating acne. The American Academy of Dermatology found that light therapies show promising results in treating acne (1).

Phototherapy is a non-invasive process in which the doctor exposes your skin to lights of different wavelengths. A special light-emitting device is used to expose the affected area to the light for a prescribed amount of time.

You get acne when dirt, dead skin cells, and oil are trapped in the skin pores. The bacteria P. acnes get inside these pores, causing inflammation and acne. Lights of specific wavelengths can kill these bacteria. This is because the bacteria that thrive on your skin are sensitive to light. When you expose the bacteria or the affected area to the light, it kills them immediately. Moreover, light therapy also helps control excessive oil production. It shrinks the pores and makes your skin less oily.

However, not all lights can treat acne. Phototherapy involves two types of special lights. Let’s take a look at them.

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What Type Of Lights Can Treat Acne?

What Type Of Lights Can Treat Acne
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Two types of lights are mainly used for treating acne – blue and red lights. Doctors use them individually or combine them for treating your skin conditions. Both are painless procedures.

  • Blue Light Therapy For Acne

Blue light therapy is generally used to treat acne that is already present on your skin or just when you are about to get a breakout. Blue light can reach the surface beneath the skin and treat mild to moderate acne. However, when used continuously, it can clear the acne lesions and all types of skin inflammation, giving you clear skin.

A study involving people with mild to moderate acne found that acne lesions were reduced by 64% when the subjects were treated with blue light for five weeks (2).

Another study involved 10 Japanese patients with face and back acne, who were given blue light therapy twice a week. They found that the severity of acne was reduced significantly in 8 out of 10 patients. The remaining 2 patients discontinued the study (3).

  • Red Light Therapy For Acne

Compared to blue light, red light goes deep within your skin. In this therapy, doctors use visible light that penetrates your skin. While the blue light kills the acne-causing bacteria, the red light also reduces the production of molecules responsible for causing inflammation and acne (4).

Red light therapy is especially beneficial in reducing inflammation and swelling. It also improves your cell function, which reduces signs of aging and gives you clear skin. It also helps shrink your skin pores and regulates excess oil production.

Light therapy can be an amazing addition to your existing line of treatment for acne. There are a lot of reasons to turn to light therapy. It not only targets your acne but also addresses a lot of skin concerns. Let’s look at them in detail.

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Benefits Of Light Therapy For Acne

Benefits Of Light Therapy For Acne
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Both blue and red light therapies come with their sets of benefits. They are:

Red light therapy helps:

  • Reduce inflammation and painful swelling.
  • Boost cell metabolism, which, in turn, improves the cell function.
  • In collagen development, which keeps your skin elastic and plump and minimizes fine lines.
  • In boosting blood circulation to your face. This improves the flow of nutrients and oxygen to your face, helping the cells function better.Flush out toxins in a better way.
  • In healing acne scars. With regular sessions, you can see that the scars have reduced a lot.

Blue light therapy helps:

  • Mainly in treating cystic acne. The P. acnes bacteria is sensitive to blue light.
  • To treat sun damage. It is often used for treating precancerous sun spots.
  • In reducing blemishes caused by the acne.

Light therapy is 100% natural and doesn’t involve any chemicals. All you need to do is bask under the light. Here’s a brief glimpse of what you can expect during a session.

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What To Expect During The Procedure

What To Expect During The Procedure
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Light therapy is usually done in the doctor’s office under their supervision. You might need to undergo several sessions depending on your condition. Each session lasts no more than 15-30 minutes. The duration of the sessions depends on the severity of your acne.

Your face should be makeup-free and clean. The doctor will ask you to wear protective goggles to protect your eyes. You might be asked to lie or sit under the blue light for several minutes (depending on the duration of your treatment).

After the treatment, you might (or might not) notice a bit of redness and inflammation in the affected area. However, this goes away quickly. You will notice results by the second or third week of your treatment. In some cases, people start seeing results sooner. However, when you are undergoing treatment, avoid touching or picking your acne. Also, avoid using any products during the treatment without the dermatologist’s approval.

Light therapy is extremely safe and doesn’t have any long-term side effects. However, you might experience some minor side effects.

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Side Effects Of Light Therapy

Side Effects Of Light Therapy
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Some of you who have undergone light therapy might experience minor symptoms such as:

  • Redness
  • Dry skin
  • Swelling

Some might even experience

  • Rashes
  • Peeling
  • Crusting
  • Dark spots

Prolonged exposure to red light might cause blisters and burns. You can get blisters even if the device is faulty or broken. Always ensure that the device is in proper working condition.

Before considering light therapy, make sure if you are eligible to undergo this therapy. This will help in avoiding skin issues and side effects.

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Is Light Therapy Right For You? Who Should Avoid This Treatment?

Is Light Therapy Right For You Who Should Avoid This Treatment
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Light therapy is definitely not for you if you:

  • Are taking any antibiotics for other health issues
  • Are sensitive to light
  • Are pregnant or lactating
  • Are allergic to ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid) and MAL (Methyl Aminolevulinic) medications
  • Have epilepsy or are suffering from cancer

We all have different skin types, and they respond to treatments differently. Before you try light therapy, it is better to weigh the pros and cons, consider your condition, and consult a dermatologist.

If you want, you can also buy light therapy devices from the market. A lot of skin care brands offer light therapy devices. The do-at-home devices are definitely a cheaper option as compared to in-clinic procedures. But check with your dermatologist before using them.

If you are looking for a painless and quick-fix for your acne issues, you can turn to light therapy. If you have any more doubts, feel free to ask in the comments section below.

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  1. Lasers and lights..”, American Academy Of Dermatology Association
  2. Acne phototherapy with a high-intensity..”, Journal of Dermatological Science, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. A new targeted blue light phototherapy..”, Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, National Library of Medicine.
  4. Light-based therapies in acne treatment”, Indian Dermatology Online Journal, National Library of Medicine.

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Dr. Jeffrey Jumaily is a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Beverly Hills, California. He is the director of a boutique practice in Beverly Hills and Toronto, Canada and specializes in cosmetic surgery of the face
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