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Seeing the Light: Red and Blue Light Therapies for Acne

Acne can range in severity from the occasional breakout to the ongoing eruption of painful, swollen cysts—and as any sufferer of severe acne knows, it can be debilitating. Fortunately, advanced light-based technologies are making the battle against blemishes easier for those who have not seen results from conventional therapies.

Whether caused by hormonal shifts, excess oil production or multiple factors, the best way to fight stubborn forms of acne is to attack it at the source. An acne lesion forms when bacteria (called p. acnes) and sebum mix with dead skin cells, resulting in a “plug” in the hair follicle. Accordingly, the most effective acne treatments target bacteria and the painful swelling it causes.

Until recent years, prescription antibiotics and the oral medication, isotretinoin, have been considered the best options for treating inflammatory acne (also known as pustules, papules or cysts). However, concerns over these medicines’ long-term effects have prompted many patients to pursue other courses of treatment, like light-based therapy. Similar to their laser predecessors, professional light-based therapies work to target both bacteria and resulting inflammation.

A combination of blue and red light therapies has been proven effective at treating acne without the high price tag of laser treatments or the side effects of oral medications. The distribution of blue light over the skin’s surface targets acne bacteria, while short wavelengths of red light work to reduce inflammation inside the pore. Red light may also offer the additional benefits of reducing redness in rosacea patients and decreasing fine lines and wrinkles.

Light-based therapies can reduce acne blemishes in a series of several treatments. You may experience slight redness or swelling after treatment, though downtime is typically minimal.

In addition, a dual-action, in-office procedure called Isolaz merges broadband light and gentle vacuuming action to extract blockages from the pores. This treatment is a great alternative for those patients looking to reduce minor breakouts, clogged pores or blackheads.

At-home light-based devices offer an affordable alternative to the blue and red light therapies available in doctors’ offices. However, less research exists on their effectiveness and the results may be unpredictable. It’s best to seek acne treatment from a qualified dermatologist or skin care specialist equipped with the knowledge and skill to best care for your condition.