Best Practices: Light Therapy for moderate acne
October 31, 2016 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Do you use blue or red light therapy for acne? Does it work? A friend is looking to phase out the topical ointment she currently uses for acne treatment. She's going to ask her dermatologist, but wants to have some information prior to that meeting, and a lot of the information online is very obviously written by the manufactures of the devices.

The only other question I've been able to find on the green about light therapy for acne goes back to 2013, and I imagine there have been some improvements in solutions for home use since then.

If you use (or have used) one of these did you use it daily? Weekly? Did you use the full face mask device, or the spot treatment? Did you wear tanning goggles or take other precautions? Any anecdota you could share would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Svenny to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I tried a stupid expensive "cartridge" (artificial timeout) blue light system a few years ago and it did absolutely nothing for my facial acne. I also experimented with doing only half of my upper torso and there was only a very mild difference.

When I was looking at the literature, the success rate isn't great overall, but it might be effective for particular kinds/causes of acne. The theory behind the effectiveness of phototherapy is that P. acnes express porphyrins that absorb a certain wavelength of light and when they do, inconvenience the bacterium expressing them. Not all acne is "simple" colonization by P. acnes (other microbial species may also be involved) and in many instances there's an inappropriate immune response to a normally non-pathological microbial load inside pores.

re: vitamin D/sunlight. Most people in North America, outside of farmers/lifeguards have lower-than-optimal serum levels of vitamin D year-round, but especially in the winter months.

T-cells (one potential mediators of certain kinds of acne) begin to express receptors to vitamin D once they're activated. Vitamin D binding to those receptors can turn them off/attenuate their activity.

Hence, sunlight (to stimulate the production of vitamin D) and orally ingested vitamin D may contribute to the decline of certain types of acne.

Especially during non-summer months, especially at higher latitudes, a daily 1,000 IU oral supplement of vitamin D (Jameson's produces high quality supplements) for the vast majority of people isn't a bad idea. If you do, keep an eye out on the expiry date on the bottle as vitamin D does degrade over time even with proper packaging/storage.
posted by porpoise at 3:14 PM on October 31, 2016

I do BBL for brown age spots. I understand (possibly erroneously) that blue and red light are part of BBL and/or the terms are used interchangeably. For me, BBL clears up 100% of existing acne and prevents any new acne for a couple weeks afterwards. However, I question cost effectiveness of using laser treatments for acne - at about $400 per treatment it makes sense to do it twice a year to get rid of brown spots once and for all, but not every 3-4 weeks to temporarily improve acne, in my opinion.

I also understand (again, possibly erroneously) that consumer-operated lasers do not penetrate nearly as deeply as a professional device so you really have to shell out for professional treatment... I've done laser treatments both at a salon and at a doctor's office, and there is a huge difference in my experience, and I would expect consumer devices to be even weaker than salon devices.

FWIW, taking sulphur as a supplement clears my acne completely. I used to take it for just one month and it'd be gone for years. Nowadays I only get an occasional spot so I don't bother, but it used to be a true miracle when I had major/constant acne. Perhaps your friend could ask her doctor about it - although I did tell a dermatologist once and he looked at me as though I sprouted a second head and switched the subject as soon as possible, even though the first time around it was prescribed to me by a Russian dermatologist who said it was effective for the majority of her acne patients.
posted by rada at 3:38 PM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Late to this question, but the FDA tests specific devices and will clear them for certain indications (such as acne treatment) if they were able to prove the device was safe and effective. They're probably your best source for unbiased information about whether a given device can do what it says in the marketing material.

You can send me a message if you would like any help investigating a certain device -- checking out whether the FDA backs beauty device claims used to be part of my day job.
posted by space snail at 7:32 AM on December 23, 2016

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