If you are looking for an acne treatment that will not put a damper on your fun in the sun, phototherapy is where it is at. Considered one of the safest treatments for acne, especially in the summertime when sun exposure is at an all-time high, this in-office treatment is an excellent way to nip acne in the bud without the potential sun damage that could follow with other treatments like benzoyl peroxide or topical retinoids.
“Acne phototherapy is among the safest acne treatments, as it uses only UV-free violet/blue light. It is suitable for the treatment of people of any age, including pregnant and breastfeeding women with adult acne,” says Yoram Harth, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, medical director of MDacne, and one of the inventors of the first UV-free blue light system that received FDA clearance for the treatment of acne. “It does not cause any burns, redness or other side effects [and] there is no need for special sun protection or any other post-treatment products.” That said, he does note that using certain products before treatment could help boost the effects of photodynamic therapy. “Acne phototherapy is synergistic with other topical and oral acne treatments and is an excellent addition for people that use anti-acne topical medications [and products] such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid,” he explains.
Acne phototherapy is among the safest acne treatments, suitable for the treatment of people of any age.
Thanks to technology and the ever-growing demand for non-invasive treatments, light therapy has risen through the ranks as one of beauty’s biggest trends with countless at-home light therapy devices on the market and in-office treatments becoming more and more available to the masses. From infrared saunas to at-home devices, the uses for light therapy spread far and wide. But while many of us often associate these treatments as a means to reduce the look of wrinkles and fine lines, it can also be used to help ban breakouts and the bacteria that cause them in the first place. Case in point: Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a type of light treatment called phototherapy used to treat acne-prone complexions for a smoother, clearer complexion all around.
“Photodynamic therapy involves exposing the skin to a certain wavelength of light that absorbs in light-sensitive compounds in the skin and starts a chemical reaction,” explains Harth. “These light-sensitive compounds can be medications that are applied to the skin before the light treatment or compounds that already exist in the skin,” he adds, noting that it can be used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including acne.
If you have bought into the at-home light therapy devices trend — especially ones made for acne — you have probably seen “blue light” somewhere on the packaging or in your research. In a nutshell, blue light is used in light therapy to treat pimples and blemishes by targeting acne-causing bacteria. Photodynamic therapy for acne utilizes that same blue light to rid the complexion of breakout-causing aggressors such as bacteria. “Acne phototherapy is based on the fact that acne bacteria produce a large amount of a compound called porphyrin. When the skin is exposed to high-intensity violet/blue light, the porphyrins release active oxygen that kills the bacteria without damage to the surrounding skin cells,” says Harth. According to Harth, the at-home blue light therapy devices are not as intense and, therefore, not as effective as an in-office treatment. “Office-based blue light acne phototherapy is significantly more effective than home-based blue light treatment. Most blue light anti-acne home devices emit a low intensity of blue light that cannot penetrate deep enough into the skin and their effect are limited,” he explains.
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What is LED light therapy? For decades, dermatologists and med spas have used LED light therapy for skin. Technically known as photomodulation, it can treat acne, minimize fine lines and wrinkles, and reduce the visible signs of sun damage. As an added benefit, LED light therapy protects your skin-firming collagen, while stimulating production of more. LED light therapy uses specific wavelengths of light (most commonly blue and red) to help treat conditions on or just beneath your skin’s surface. 🙌🏾
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When you have a clogged pore — aka, a pimple — the bacteria in the blemish “proliferate and produce porphyrins that are chemical compounds sensitive to blue light,” notes Harth, adding that using a high-intensity blue light with a 425-nanometer wavelength can kill acne-causing bacteria that leads to breakouts and blemishes.
As far as the treatment goes, Harth says you can experience the entire session in just 20 minutes. “You sit or lie comfortably while the light is applied,” he says, noting how the treatment is actually quite relaxing and, most importantly, painless and safe. “Many [patients] sleep or listen to music during the treatment.” Depending on what your doctor recommends, Harth suggests making a weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) commitment to the treatment as “there is usually a need for included eight weekly sessions.” According to Harth, regular treatments help ensure the bacteria is being targeted at its “peak light sensitivity” and improvement is seen around four weeks after the start of regular treatments. As with most in-office treatments, photodynamic therapy can range in cost from $40 for a single treatment to about $1,000 to $1,500 “for a full treatment package of six to ten treatments,” says Harth. The price depends on how many treatments are recommended by the practitioner.
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