If you've ever dealt with acne, even if it's super mild –– you can probably list the most common blemish-busting ingredients by heart. Creams, spot-treatments, even apple cider vinegar... you've probably tried it all. But sometimes, acne is an unwelcome guest that refuses to leave, no matter how hard you try to get rid of it. But if you've been on the internet lately, chances are you've come across sci-fi-esque LED masks that kinda look like Iron Man's, but it's celebs like the Kardashians sporting it. Hate to break it to you, but this isn't a dystopian TV show in the making. It's the latest skincare trend that's being touted as the next ‘it’ therapy by dermatologists and aestheticians alike –– it's LED light therapy.
A skincare treatment used to minimise wrinkles, acne, dark spots, and scars, the treatment works by using an LED light to target specific areas of the face. If you have the moolah, that means you can literally get a custom LED light therapy mask tailored to the needs of your face specifically. In more technical terms, though, this process is called phototherapy –– and in case you were wondering, yes, light therapy can be used to treat mild to moderate acne outbreaks.
- What is light therapy
- Does light therapy work on acne
- How to treat acne using light therapy
- Difference between red and blue light for acne
- Benefits of light therapy
- Light therapy session
- FAQs about light therapy for acne
What is light therapy
We reached out to celebrity dermatologist and founder of Ambrosia Aesthetics, Mumbai, Dr. Niketa Sonavane, to shed a little more light (no pun intended!) on light therapy for acne. She said, “Light therapy is a non-invasive beauty treatment that employs various wavelengths of light energy. When you expose your skin to LED light, it is absorbed at different depths and stimulates cell repair. It also promotes cell growth, giving you a healthy, youthful appearance.”
Does light therapy work on acne
According to Dr. Sonavane, “In order to repair acne prone skin, different wavelengths of light are used in the treatment to activate the skin's natural healing response. To achieve the best results, the treatments are repeated once a week or more frequently.” Basically, how acne forms in your pores is when oil, dirt, and dead skin cells get trapped in them and clog them.
A certain bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (hence the name!) that live on your skin can also get inside these blocked pores. P. acnes make the clogged pores swell up into bumps called acne. While that is gross, the bacteria is sensitive to certain types of light –– and when you shine these lights on your skin, certain substances form and kill the bacteria. Added bonus? Light therapy also shrinks the oil glands in your skin, so your skin makes less pore-clogging oil –– resulting in fewer breakouts.
How to treat acne using light therapy
Yes, you heard that right! So if you think a quick fix to curing acne is to stand in the sun for long hours, be our guest –– in fact, doctors actually used to treat acne with UV light. You know, the radiation that comes from the sun. Here's the catch, though –– UV light may clear up acne, but it can also damage the skin and cause cancer. But thankfully, doctors don't use it to treat acne anymore. (And neither should you!) Instead, light therapy or phototherapy –– which includes certain wavelengths of blue or red lights –– is now used to clear up acne.
These light therapies manage to kill all the acne-causing bacteria without damaging the skin. Plus, they make for a really good selfie-op, if you're feeling up to it!
Sounds good so far! But does it have any advantages apart from simple acne treatment?
Difference between red and blue light for acne
Dr. Sonavane further explained the use of different colours of light. She elucidates, “Different wavelengths of light, including Blue and red light penetrate the skin at different depths. This penetration may trigger biological processes that aid in skin rejuvenation and healing.” When it comes to red light, she states, “Red light stimulates fibroblast cells in the skin, resulting in collagen synthesis.
Collagen protein is found in large amounts in connective tissue and aids in the healing of scars and damaged skin. As a result, Red LED light may aid in the reduction of acne scarring as well as signs of ageing, such as wrinkles. Red light also aids in the reduction of skin inflammation.”
And as for blue light? “Blue light reduces the activity of the sebaceous glands, which are small oil-producing glands in the skin. Because of the decrease in activity, the glands produce less oil, potentially alleviating acne symptoms such as skin congestion,” she elaborates, further mentioning that, “Blue light may also be effective in killing the C, Acnes bacteria that causes inflammation and contributes to acne.”
Benefits of light therapy
1. It's Painless
If you're someone who shies away from the idea of pain, and the sight of a needle makes you faint, this might be the acne treatment for you! Light therapy is a quick, gentle, painless way to get rid of acne –– with none of the pain or sensitivity afterwards.
2. It Works For All Areas Of The Body
Got bacne? No problem. Back of your arms has acne? No worries. Apart from being an excellent spot treatment for your face, phototherapy works for all areas of the body when it comes to getting rid of acne.
3. It's Drug-free
But that was already a given! With only LED light as the source, you know exactly what your skin's being put through in the treatment, so you can be assured that the treatment is safe and baddie-free.
4. It's Used To Treat Other Conditions As Well
From acne scarring to getting rid of free radicals that age your skin, to even being used as a treatment for skin cancer and mood disorders –– light therapy is a versatile procedure.
5. It Works Alongside Other Acne Therapies
Whether you just can't seem to let go of your spot-treatment creams, or your dermatologist-recommended treatments for your acne –– light therapy works alongside other acne therapies. Total win!
6. It's Suitable For All Skin Types
Yup, you heard that right –– even you, people with sensitive skin! Light therapy for acne is pretty side-effect-free and is safe for most people to use. If you're a little uncertain, you can always consult a medical professional about it, but more or less, if you're planning to try it –– take a leap of faith and just do it!
Light therapy session
Now that you're almost willing to check out light therapy for acne, let's talk about what actually goes on in a session. Here's what goes on in a phototherapy session.
Prior to the procedure, you'll definitely have to consult a dermatologist, who'll be able to confirm if you're a good candidate for treatment, what kind of light they'll use, what to expect, and how many treatments you'll need. Plus, you may need to avoid retinoids prior to a light therapy session, along with anti-inflammatory drugs as well. Your best bet is to be completely transparent about the products and drugs you're using, and consult your dermatologist regarding the next steps.
2. During The Procedure
Once you've got all the nitty-gritties sorted out, you're ready! A phototherapy session will last around 15 - 30 minutes. A trained professional will apply pulses from a light therapy device to different parts of your face in a circular manner, and keep repeating it. It'll almost be like a super fancy facial massage –– and it'll have the results to boot too!
While you don't need to expect any drastic after-effects post a light therapy session for acne, your skin may turn slightly pink or red, and there might be some mild peeling in the treated area. Your skin may also be more sensitive, and you'll definitely need to up your sunscreen game and be more vigilant with sunblock while your skin recovers. But this will clear away soon, and you’ll for sure have acne-free skin in no time!
FAQs about light therapy for acne
Q. Are there any risks involved with light therapy?
A. Well, the good news is that the light isn't ultraviolet, so it doesn't carry the risks of skin damage and radiation. Dr. Niketa Sonavane explains, “Despite the fact that LED lights do not emit harmful UV rays like the sun, light therapy can still cause retinol reactions. That doesn't mean you can't use retinol and your LED light therapy device at the same time, just that you should do so at different times.”
Q. Can I do light therapy at home?
A. Yes, you can! “When using an at-home device, it is essential to follow the manufacturer's instructions. These devices are typically in the form of a mask that is worn for a few minutes on the face,” says Dr. Niketa Sonavane. When performing the procedure at home, she mentions, “Wash your face before beginning light therapy treatments. Remove your makeup because the pigments and mica in beauty products can scatter light, rendering your treatment ineffective and increasing the possibility of reactions. SPF in foundation and other products can also help to block light waves.”
Q. While it has scientific research backing it up, does it really work?
A. Studies have linked LED light therapy to helping wounds heal faster and acne reduction, suggesting the therapy can aid in natural cell turnover that's similar to using retinol on your skin. The US Food and Drug Administration has even approved LED therapy as a treatment for herpes and shingles. However, it will take a few sittings to fully solve the acne issue –– and if you've got an at-home tool, you may have to use it every single day.
Q. Are there any side effects to light therapy for acne?
A. As with any procedure, there are pros and cons to light therapy for acne too. Fortunately, the pros outweigh the side effects in this case, as explained by Dr. Sonavane. “LED therapy can be expensive, you require more sessions, and it’s not necessarily safe if you’re taking certain medications or have a skin condition that requires treatment,” she says. “While you may believe that multiple daily LED light therapy treatments will be more beneficial, this may be counterproductive, just as moderate sun exposure of 10-15 minutes per day is not only beneficial but also an important component of optimal health,” cautions Dr. Nikera Sonavane.
Main image courtesy: @kourtneykardash