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Can Light Therapy Clear Acne?


The sun
has been a subject of worship and study for thousands of years.  Sunlight can
lift your mood and make you feel happy. And
light can have antibacterial effect.
It was discovered
that some of the blue light present in sunlight (415–430 nm) can eliminate
acne bacteria from the inside out. When blue light
reaches the sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin, it activates porphyrins, which
are compounds inside the acne bacteria. These excited porphyrins release
singlet oxygen, resulting in self-destruction of the bacteria.
Being
anaerobic, acne bacteria cannot survive the presence of oxygen.
The USFDA approved
for the first time in 2004 the use of blue light as a medical device for the
treatment of mild to moderate acne. The first blue light system was based on
metal halide lamps custom made to emit most of its energy at 405-420nm. Now,
blue light systems use LEDs, with very minimal level of UV light.
The USFDA approval
was based on a peer reviewed clinical study on effect of blue light on acne
lesions done in Israel on 2003. Current literature
points toward blue + red light therapy showing slightly better results than
blue light alone. Red light (620-660nm) has been shown to effectively reduce
inflammation. A combination of blue and red light provides both antibacterial
and anti-inflammatory action. This is the best light therapy option for
inflammatory acne breakouts.
Overall improvements
of an average 76% for 80% of patients occur over three months. Some studies
show that it performs better than
benzoyl
peroxide
and the treatment is far
better tolerated. However, approximately 10% of users see no improvement.
At-home
light therapy devices require much patience to use: 30 minutes to 1 hour twice
daily. With medical grade equipment, 15-minute treatment done 2 – 3 times
weekly is recommended. Eye goggles should be used to protect the eyes. No short-term
significant adverse side effects have been reported except for redness and
irritation for light sensitive individuals, especially those on Roaccutane.
One positive
side effect is the
significant decrease in melanin levels during the course of treatment,
with brightened skin tone and improved skin texture reported by patients in one
study.
Conclusion: Light
therapy is a safe and effective option for acne clearance. It is most
especially useful when patients want to avoid antibiotic medication or are
pregnant or breastfeeding.
For
the first three months it is necessary to have the 15-minute treatment done 2 –
3 times a week.  After that, the frequency of treatment can be reduced.
____________________________________________________________________This column was published in the Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Section on April 24, 2012. The
author is the CEO of SkinStation. He received the 2011 Outstanding Chemist
Award from Professional Regulations Commission for his achievements in the
field of cosmetic chemistry. He can be reached at
fred.reyes@skinstation.ph
.

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