I remember uncomfortable days in school, asking fellow classmates how they got their perfect skin, researching special diets to make my acne clear up and trying every acne product and treatment under the sun (my mother can vouch for this).
The treatment, which helps eliminate acne-causing bacteria that can cause inflammation, basically gave my face a really bad, gross-looking sunburn for about ten days. It was extremely expensive (I only did one $500 treatment), but it helped keep my acne in check.
But how exactly does light therapy work?
There are two types of light therapy ― blue light and red light ― which are sometimes combined in certain treatments. Both kinds of light are useful in treating and preventing mild to moderate acne, though blue light is more helpful in destroying bacteria.
“Blue light has been shown to penetrate the skin’s hair follicles and pores which harbor bacteria and can cause inflammation, and therefore acne. Bacteria are very sensitive to the blue light spectrum—it shuts down their metabolism and kills them,” Marnie Nussbaum, M.D, told Shape magazine in January.
“Red light has traditionally been used for anti-aging purposes because it helps stimulate collagen,” Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai, told Shape magazine. At the same time it helps reduce inflammation, which is why it is useful alongside blue-light in treating acne.”
For anyone else looking for relief from breakouts at home, there are a few products currently on the market that treat acne using light therapy. They’re also a lot less expensive than the blue light treatment I underwent in high school. (Of course you should always consult your dermatologist before undergoing any skin treatments or trying out new products.)
While trying the product, I conveniently got two flare-ups the week before my period ― one small zit near my upper lip and one massive, painful zit on my cheek ― the likes of which I haven’t seen since high school.
I used the product three times a day, as instructed: once before work, once after work and once before I went to bed, for two minutes at a time. I didn’t mind using the product a few times a day, as it actually made me feel like I was doing something to help my zit go away. My small zit faded in about two-and-a-half days (the product says it can help zits going away in two days, as opposed to the usual four) and didn’t leave any scarring.
My larger zit didn’t fair so well. It took about six days to go away and there was still some redness around it. On the bright side, knowing I had the light therapy product made me less likely to pop my pimple, which probably would’ve made it way worse.
“Blue light is anti-bacterial and the red light can briefly reduce oil production in sebaceous glands,” she added. “Neither is very potent without the use of topical photosensitizers (photodynamic therapy), but it can be useful for breakthrough pimples for patients on most prescription or over-the-counter acne regimens or for isolated pimples like those that pop up around a woman’s period.”
“It will not get rid of a deep acne cyst – spot treatment of a cyst requires injection of dilute steroid by your dermatologist – but it might slow its development if started early enough,” Waldorf said. “It should also not be used during oral Isotretinoin (Accutane) therapy. The downside is the need to use it several times a day, but it is a far better alternative than trying to pick or pop a pimple, which aggravates acne and increases the risk of scarring.”