Light and Laser Treatments for Active Acne

Light and Laser (L&L) Treatments use high-intensity light sources to treat active acne and ameliorate acne symptoms. Most of Light and Laser treatments are fairly non-invasive and can be combined with Pharmaceutical, Naturopathic and OTC acne treatments to create comprehensive acne treatment regimens.

Many L&L Treatments can improve acne symptoms, but the effects are often temporary. For many patients, treatments must be repeated on a regular basis to achieve the maximum benefit. These treatments also tend to be more expensive than many of the common Pharmaceutical treatments that are available. Nonetheless, Light and Laser treatments are excellent options for most people, especially when used in combination with other types of treatments. Below is our complete guide to the Light and Laser Treatments available for Active Acne.

Blue Light Phototherapy

LED Blue Light PhototherapyBlue Light Phototherapy is a treatment for acne that uses high intensity blue light (~415 nm) to directly kill acne-causing Propionibacterium acnes bacteria that are growing in the skin. P. acnes bacteria produce a molecule called porphyrin that produces free radicals when exposed to high intensity blue light. Blue Light Phototherapy works by causing porphyrin to produce enough free radicals to damage and kill P. acnes bacteria.

Blue Light Phototherapy is a safe, non-invasive treatmtent that complements most other acne treatments. Our discussion about Blue Light Phototherapy and acne can be found here.

Diode Lasers

Diode Laser Acne TreatmentDiode Lasers are becoming a popular laser treatment for inflammatory acne. Diode Lasers are used to selectively target and damage the sebaceous glands, reducing sebaceous hyperplasia, sebum secretion and acne symptoms. Diode Lasers are also commonly used in hair removal and scar treatment applications.

The long wavelength of Diode Lasers is capable of penetrating deeply enough into the cutaneous tissue (skin) to reach the sebaceous glands. The use of diode lasers to treat inflammatory acne is a relatively new procedure. However, there are an increasing number of studies that indicate that diode laser treatment can be an effective treatment for inflammatory acne. Diode Lasers can be used in combination with many other Pharmaceutical and Naturopathic Acne Treatments. Our discussion about Diode Lasers and acne can be found here.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatment of NeckIntense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy uses short bursts of high intensity light to treat a variety of skin conditions. IPL is most commonly used for photo-rejuvenation procedures and to treat mild skin discolorations caused by hyper-pigmentation. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy is also occasionally used to treat active acne symptoms and certain types of mild acne scars.

Although IPL is not a common treatment for active acne, several research studies have reported positive results that suggest IPL might be an effective acne treatment. IPL can be used commonly as part of Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), which uses a topical photo-sensitizer to increase the effectiveness of the treatment. Overall, clinical research studies have found that IPL alone was partially effective at improving acne symptoms. Very few patients experienced dramatic improvement of their acne symptoms in response to IPL treatment. However, the research does suggest that IPL can be partially helpful, and IPL may be a valuable addition to comprehensive acne treatment regimens. Our discussion about IPL and acne can be found here.

KTP Lasers

KTP Laser TreatmentsKTP Lasers are commonly used for minimally invasive ablation and coagulation treatments. KTP lasers have also been used to treat rosacea, spider veins, hyper-pigmented spots and acne, although it is an uncommon acne treatment.  KTP Lasers are occassionaly used for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) of active acne.

Low power KTP Lasers can theoretically be used for the treatment of active acne. In these application, KTP lasers can be used as a form of light therapy and/or Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) to directly target acne-causing Propionibacterium acnes bacteria living in follicles. The green light generated by KTP lasers can activate molecules in P. acnes bacteria called porphyrins. Activation of the bacterial porphyrin releases free radical molecules, which can kill the bacteria. Although green light is less effective at activating porphyrins then Blue Light Phototherapy, it is able to penetrate more deeply into the skin tissue. Our discussion about KTP Lasers and acne can be found here.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) Acne TreatmentPhotodynamic Therapy (PDT) is the generic name for a class of treatments that use specialized medications called photosensitizers to increase the effectiveness of a light-based treatment. PDT is used treat certain types of skin problems, including acne and some forms of cancer.

Numerous clinical research studies have reported that Photodynamic therapy (PDT) can decrease bacterial levels in the skin and help improve acne symptoms. PDT appears to be more effective for treating inflammatory acne lesions (Acne Types: 2-4) than non-inflammatory acne lesions (Acne Types: 1-2). PDT has also been reported to be more effective at improving acne symptoms than Blue Light Phototherapy or IPL alone. Our discussion about Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) and acne can be found here.

Ultraviolet Light (UV) and Tanning

UV Light Tanning BedUltraviolet (UV) light is electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths that are just shorter than visible light. UV light is most commonly found in sunlight and artificial UV sources, such as tanning beds and blacklights.
Exposure to ultraviolet light, particularly UV-B, can cause sunburns and trigger the production of the pigment melanin in a process commonly known as “tanning”.

Exposure to UV light causes significant changes in the affected skin tissue, and these changes can impact acne symptoms. Many people strongly believe that tanning improves their complexion. While there is certainly some truth to this, the scientific research indicates that exposure to UV Light, tanning and sunburns are a mixed bag when it comes to acne.
Overall, the research is inconclusive (and occasionally contradictory) regarding the relationship between UV Light exposure and acne. Our discussion about UV Light, Tanning and acne can be found here.