Acne is one of those problems that seem simple enough on the face (figuratively), that you would believe medical science really should have a cure for it by now. It’s a terrible problem that can be painful, disfiguring and debilitating. But science admittedly still doesn’t have a real cure for it. Some people have tried strong prescription drugs like Accutane for a way out – braving the tremendous side effects that they come with. The drug is so serious, doctors won’t even give it to women before menopause. They fear that if they become pregnant, the drug could cause birth defects. Researchers are always trying new ways to tackle the acne problem. Acne light therapy has been a recent development. People certainly seem to be taking to it really quickly – there are no side effects, and it’s pain-free. While those may be welcome qualities to acne light therapy, one does wish to know how effective it is.
How exactly does light therapy claim to work? The device sends out light of very specific wavelengths – something between 400 and 700 nm. The light is blue to look at, and it is supposed to form highly reactive oxygen that the bacteria that cause acne, propionbacteria, can’t stand. They get you to make the bacteria even more sensitive to this light; they make you use a chemical called aminolevulinic acid that you’re supposed to apply to the affected area before you use the light.
You get acme when your oil glands get clogged with an oily product that the skin produces, called sebum. Clogged, poorly ventilated oily follicles are a great place for bacteria – there is plenty of oil for them to eat (yuck!), it’s warm and it’s safe. With the bacteria flourishing, your white blood cells come in to fight the problem. When they are unsuccessfully trying to deal with the problem, they release chemicals into your follicles. And your follicles get inflamed with acne bruises and lesions. So there are bacteria, and whatever you can do to fight those bacteria and get rid of them would certainly help with your acne.
So does acne light therapy with blue light actually help destroy the bacteria? In studies that they publish in learned journals, doctors keep wondering about why people use acne light therapy even when there is no real evidence that it does anything. Of course, just the fact that there isn’t enough evidence yet doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. They aren’t sure yet. That’s all it indicates. Still, do you really wish to spend a couple of hundred dollars each time you experiment on an unproven treatment? The light happens to be pretty powerful – and it even makes you sensitive to the sun for a few days. Unless they have plenty of money to spare, you probably don’t want to turn to light therapy as your first option.