Light Therapy for Acne and Wrinkles
Recommend Anti-Aging Skin Care
Blue Light Therapy for Acne
How it Works: Specific wavelengths of blue light target the strain of bacteria that plays a pivotal role in causing acne for many people. The light causes the development of oxygen radicals that kill P. acnes bacteria without damaging healthy skin.
- Why you should consider it: Demonstrated effective in destroying levels of acne-causing bacteria; best for mild to moderate inflammatory acne; reduced potential for side effects (such as dryness or peeling) that can occur with benzoyl peroxide products; a worthwhile option for those whose skin cannot tolerate topical disinfectants; pain-free, no downtime.
- Why you shouldn't consider it: Requires several treatments, as many as 4 per week; expensive (averaging $40 per treatment), with results comparable to what you can achieve at home using a product medicated with 5% benzoyl peroxide; LED treatments are not effective for cystic acne, blackheads, or whiteheads (milia); long-term results are unknown.
Device Names: ClearLight Acne Photoclearing System; Blu-U; Omnilux Blue.
Red Light Therapy for Wrinkles
How it Works: Wavelengths of red light that may help improve skin’s barrier function by improving its ability to retain key elements it needs to heal. Red light LEDs are also believed to stimulate healthy collagen production and target the skin’s oil glands to reduce cytokines, a class of pro-inflammatory substances believed to play a role in chronic acne.
- Why you should consider it: May help reduce signs of aging (though the results are subtle when successful) and possibly a better choice for those struggling with acne and wrinkles; minimal risk of side effects, especially when used without light-activating chemicals; no downtime.
- Why you shouldn't consider it: Requires multiple treatments; not as well researched as Blue Light Therapy; does not affect acne-causing bacteria; long-term results are unknown; costs can vary from $50–$200 or more per treatment, depending on the device and treatment protocol your dermatologist prefers.
Device Names: Acnelamp; Omnilux Revive, Omnilux Red.
If you are considering an at-home light-emitting device for anti-aging and/or clearing acne, we'd recommend reconsidering. For the most part, due to concerns over lawsuits, manufacturers of these devices are forced to limit their intensity, often to a much lower strength than the LED-emitting machines your dermatologist uses. In a sense, that’s good news because it is possible to overdo these treatments and consumers could end up damaging their skin, which is never the goal.
In addition, at-home devices require no training to use, a big risk for those LED devices sold to consumers that actually do match the strength of those used in the dermatologist's office. This is definitely an issue where caution is warranted!
Moreover, LED light-emitting devices require protective eye wear. The wavelengths they emit can damage unprotected eyes, and if you don’t remember to protect your eyes at home with the higher intensity output you would be risking your sight. No one should have to trade good eyesight for clearer, younger-looking skin!
As for at-home lasers, some mention they are "FDA approved" for what's known as "class 2 medical device", which means that the FDA approved the laser for safety, not effectiveness. Latex gloves are also a class 2 medical device, as are wheelchairs. This distinction is a key reason it’s important to look at the published research demonstrating results, not a blanket, potentially misleading claim of FDA approval.
TRIA Laser Hair Removal
Many (so many we lost count) of our readers have asked about TRIA laser hair removal. The TRIA is an 810-nanometer diode laser system with research showing it can reduce hair growth on the underarm, legs or elsewhere. It is tricky to use and the instructions must be followed exactly or the machine won't produce even minor results, but it is absolutely an option to consider if you are willing to make the time and financial commitment (and yes, it hurts). We do not recommend TRIA for any other purpose other than hair removal, and strongly advise you to follow the directions exactly, which includes not overdoing it (this isn’t a situation where more frequent treatments will produce better results).
The Bottom Line
As far as treating acne, in-office dermatologist administered LED treatments are worth considering if other topical medications haven’t worked. Just keep in mind that skin-care products with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and tretinoin (a prescription-only topical medication), along with other medical options are the first lines of defense. The Paula’s Choice Research Team feels strongly that given the expense and that many health insurance plans do not cover LED treatments, they are next to last in line for dealing with acne (with the absolute last resort options being oral hormone blockers or oral isotretinoin, formerly sold under the brand name
For anti-aging, LED therapy is an option when performed in-office, but just like when used for treating acne, light therapy will never replace a solid skin-care routine (and daily use of sunscreen, cloudy or sunny)! At best, they are a complement, and at worst you won’t see results and will feel as though you’ve wasted your time and money. Given the expense, consider saving up for treatments that actually have been shown to provide better anti-aging results, such as laser treatments like Fraxel or Ulthera or light-emitting treatments such as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL).
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