Acne can range in severity from the occasional breakout to the ongoing eruption of painful, swollen nodules or cysts—and as any sufferer of severe acne knows, it can be debilitating. Fortunately, advanced light-based technologies are making the battle against blemishes easier for those who have not seen results from conventional therapies.
Whether caused by genetics, hormonal shifts, excess oil production or other factors, the best way to fight stubborn forms of acne is to attack it at the source. An acne lesion forms when bacteria (called P. acnes) and sebum mix with dead skin cells, resulting in a “plug” in the hair follicle and inflammation. Accordingly, the most effective acne treatments target bacteria and the painful swelling it causes.
Until recently, prescription antibiotics and the oral medication, isotretinoin (“Accutane”), have been considered the best options for treating inflammatory acne (also known as pustules, papules or cysts). However, concerns over these medicines’ long-term effects have prompted some patients to pursue other courses of treatment, like light-based therapy. Similar to their laser predecessors, professional light-based therapies work to target both bacteria and resulting inflammation.
A combination of blue and red light therapies has been proven effective at treating acne without the high price tag of laser treatments or the side effects of oral medications. The distribution of blue light over the skin’s surface targets acne bacteria, while short wavelengths of red light work to reduce inflammation inside the pore. Red light may also offer the additional benefits of reducing redness in rosacea patients and decreasing fine lines and wrinkles.
Light-based therapies can reduce acne blemishes in a series of several treatments. You may experience slight redness or swelling after treatment, though downtime is typically minimal.
Applications include a Broadband light combo done 7-10 days apart for 4-6 sessions, Laser Genesis, a 1064nm wavelength, which also stimulates collagen, reduces scars and has virtually no down time, and Photodynamic therapy (PDT) with Metvix. PDT is used in conjunction with a topical medicine that is applied and left on the skin for up to 3 hours prior to light application. The skin may appear red for a few days following the treatment, but generally only 2-3 treatments are required and results are substantial.
If you have tried other methods without resolve, or simply don’t want to use medical products to relieve the skin of acne, then light based therapies may be best for you. To consider your options, consult your dermatologist or medical esthetician at Toronto Dermatology Centre.
~ Sheri Roselle, Medical Esthetician at Toronto Dermatology Centre