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What Is Light Therapy for Acne?

Learn how light therapy is used to treat acne from dermatologist Cybele Fishman, MD in this Howcast skin care video.


I love this topic. Light Therapy for acne is a therapy that uses either blue or red light to treat acne. Blue light kills bacteria. Red light is anti-inflammatory and can penetrate deeper into the skin. It can actually deactivate sebaceous glands similarly but less effectively than Accutane.

Even better than doing Light Therapy by itself, which takes several treatments, I like to do Photodynamic Therapy, also known as PDT. In this therapy, we put a medicine on you called Levulan. This is a medicine that makes you more sensitive to certain wavelengths of light. Then you sit and percolate for about an hour, and then you go under the blue light or the red light. You stay there for anywhere between 7 to 20 minutes, depending on what light we're using.

With Photodynamic Therapy, I can see very good results in just two treatments of inflammatory acne. The only downsides are that insurance doesn't cover it, and you do need several treatment, whether you do it with the light alone or with Photodynamic Therapy. The second con is that we still don't have long-term studies so I can guarantee you a certain amount of acne-free time, which I would very much like to do.

This is a wonderful treatment for people who don't want to go on Accutane or don't want to go on birth control pills. Also Light Therapy without the Levulan is safe in pregnancy, which is wonderful, because there are so few options for pregnant women who are getting acne.

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