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Acne light therapy

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In this article

Benefits of light therapy for acne
How does light therapy work for acne?
Red and blue light therapy for acne
Intense pulsed light therapy 
Types of light therapy devices
Top acne light therapy devices
The best light therapy for acne

There are many medical and topical treatments for acne but another type of acne treatment that some people turn to is light therapy. Light therapy for acne is a type of ‘photodynamic light therapy’ or PDT, that involves targeting light at the skin to improve its appearance.

But does light therapy help acne spots? Here we give an independent view on using light therapy for acne and if it can actually work.

Benefits of light therapy for acne

Acne light therapy can help to improve your symptoms and slow down the recurrence of acne spots. It can also help the skin to heal deep below the surface to significantly improve acne prone skin.

Light therapy for acne can be particularly useful if you’ve tried many other acne treatments to no avail.

How does light therapy work for acne?

Acne light therapy works by using blue and red wavelengths of light. When these lights are shone onto the skin, they produce a substances called porphyrins that are toxic to the bacteria that are responsible for acne spots.

They also help to reduce the size of the glands in the skin that produce sebum. An excess of sebum, an oily substance naturally produced by the skin, can also contribute to acne spots. Acne light therapy spot treatment can be given by a specialist doctor or therapist and requires a few sessions of around 15 minutes each over a number of weeks or months – how many treatments you need will depend on your skin and the severity of your acne.

This type of acne treatment can make your skin more sensitive to the sun so you will need to wear sun protection. It may also cause your skin feel swollen, red, dry or flaky.

There are effective masks and hand held devices that you can use at home too and we look at some of the bestsellers later on in this post.

Red and blue light therapy for acne

White light travels at one speed – the speed of light – but within this white light, there are different colours of light. If we look at a rainbow, we can see these different colours. Each colour travels at a different wavelength and frequency.

Blue and red lights are the lights used to help treat acne – blue light travels at a high frequency and short wavelength and red light travels at a low frequency and long wavelength. You may see blue and red light therapies for acne referred to as LED light therapy.

Blue light causes the toxic porphyrins to become excited which kills the acne causing bacteria. Red light is very similar to infrared light. Infrared light therapy for acne works by gently heating the skin, removing excess sebum. Red light can penetrate deeper into the skin than blue light can, meaning that it can target the sebaceous glands that produce sebum.

You may require red or blue light treatment for your acne, or a combination of both. Blue light tends to be better for dry or flaky skin as red light can cause the skin to become drier. Oily or combination skin tends to react better to red light acne treatment or a combination of red and blue.

Intense pulsed light therapy

Intense Pulsed Light, or IPL therapy is another light therapy used for acne. IPL works by penetrating the skin and damaging the blood vessels that supply blood to the sebaceous glands meaning that the skin produces less sebum. It also helps to reduce inflammation in the skin.

Types of light therapy devices

If you’re looking to have light therapy either from a professional or by doing it yourself at home, there are various options.

Light therapy acne mask

A light therapy acne mask is a solid facemask that you fit over your face before turning on and wearing for the recommended time. It emits red or blue light or a combination of the two. It’s ideal if the majority of your facial skin is affected by acne.

Alternatively, a light therapy lamp for acne is a device that you sit in front of whilst it emits red or blue light or a combination of the two. This might be better suited to you if you don’t like the idea of wearing a mask. Hand held lamps are also available, and are well suited to travelling.

For targeted acne spot treatment using light, an acne light therapy pen helps you direct red or blue light onto specific problem areas such as your chin or cheeks.

Top acne light therapy devices

Whilst we haven’t personally tried any of these devices for treating acne at home, we have researched them and we’re able to share our findings with you to help you make your choice.

Neutrogena visibly clear light therapy mask 

Designed to be worn for ten minutes every day, this mask is lightweight and comfortable and covers the whole face. It is reported to take two to three months for your skin to be visibly clearer and will help to reduce inflamed, red skin as well as spots and scarring. Some users report that it doesn’t fit their face perfectly.

Revive light therapy acne treatment

Available as a hand held device or a larger panel that you sit in front of, reVive claims the device can be used to kill acne causing bacteria and reduce sebum levels as well as offering an anti-ageing treatment at the same time.

Illumask anti acne light therapy mask 

This mask uses a combination of red and blue light to reduce the spots, sebum and pain associated with acne prone skin. Whilst other masks may have to be held onto the face during treatment, this mask is completely hands free.

Lumi clear light therapy for acne

Musing both red and blue light, this mask aims to achieve results within four weeks when used daily.using both red and blue light, this mask aims to achieve results within four weeks when used daily.

Omnilux light therapy for acne

Ideal for mild acne, the Omnilux Light Treatment System uses two different wavelengths of light to help kill acne causing bacteria, unblock pores, decrease sebum production and reduce inflammation.

Trophy skin bluemd blue LED acne light therapy device 

This device looks like a desk lamp allowing you to relax and lie down whilst you use it. Many users report seeing an improvement in their skin after using it for 20 minutes a day, three times a week for four weeks.

Tanda clear acne light 

Combining blue light, gentle vibrations and warmth, this hand held, portable device is simple to use and targets specific areas of the face. The vibration element helps to reduce inflammation and expose more bacteria to the light. The gentle warming helps to open the pores allowing the bacteria within the pores to also be exposed.

Hangsun light therapy acne treatment LED mask 

this full facemask is lightweight and comfortable. It uses both blue and red light and also has an orange light option to also help revive dull skin.

Bioptron light therapy for acne

With equal amounts of blue and red light, this light therapy is clinically proven to help acne prone skin. It can also help to treat acne scarring. Bioptron is usually administered in salons rather than by yourself at home.

Jolee LED acne light therapy mask 

Using a combination of red and blue light, this mask is designed to be used for eight minutes a day for visible results within 30 days. Some users report that this mask is more uncomfortable than others and doesn’t fit their face well.

The best light therapy for acne 

Whether you’re treating back acne, cystic acne or hormonal acne, how light therapy may work for you will depend on your skin. But many people, up to as many as 70%, can benefit from light therapy for acne so we would say that it’s well worth adding to a good skincare regime.

Before starting treatment with acne light therapies, make sure you research either the professional offering light therapy or the hand held device or mask so that you know it has the best chance of working for your skin.


Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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