Acne light therapy is a specific type of phototherapy used to combat acne. Acne can be caused by a bacterium called P. acnes that bacterium typically resides the sebaceous glands of the skin and produces by-products known as porphyrins. These by-products can build up in the skin, producing acne. When light therapy is applied to the acne, the wavelength of the light kills the bacteria, often reducing the presence of acne for the patient. Acne light therapy utilizes light sources from the visible spectrum, or non-laser light, to provide a natural remedy for combating acne.
The specific mechanism of action that makes acne light therapy successful has not been clearly delineated. Results from treatment, however, suggest that when light is applied to the skin, porphyrins are activated to destroy the bacteria P. acnes. During this process, researchers believe that the sebaceous gland is impacted such that it does not produce as much P. acnes.
Patients undergoing this treatment should see a reduction in the amount of acne present with results lasting for several weeks. It is important to note that eventually the sebaceous glands will heal and produce more P. acnes. This will result in the need for additional acne light therapy to control the redevelopment of acne on the skin.
Patients receiving acne light therapy typically need to seek treatment from a licensed dermatologist. This is because light therapy involves more than just the use of concentrated light waves for treatment. In particular, treatment requires the use of aminolevulinic acid (LVA). This odorless, painless solution must first be applied to the skin before treatment.
LVA is a photosensitizing agent which increases the skin's sensitivity to light. Application of this chemical produces a reaction at the skin's surface that generates heat and helps to kill the acne bacterium. Treatment of the affected area commonly takes between eight and ten minutes to complete.
Generally speaking, acne light therapy can be effective for reducing acne. However, there are some important drawbacks to this treatment that should be noted. Patients undergoing treatment are typically be sensitive to sunlight for several days following treatment. Additionally minimal exposure to sunlight may result in burning or peeling of the skin. Following treatment, some patients may also experience swelling of the treated area, pigment changes in the skin and skin dryness. Patients choosing this treatment option should also be aware that several treatments may be needed before effective results are seen.