Light Therapy and Acne
What is Acne?
Acne and Acne Vulgaris (meaning "common acne"), are distressing inflammatory skin conditions that causes various types of spots. It is often on the face, neck, back or chest, but can occur anywhere on the body. The severity of acne can vary, with some individuals only suffering mild spots and greasy skin and with others suffering severe spots, inflammation and sometimes even cysts or inflamed lesions.
What causes Acne?
During puberty both males and females produce more testosterone which is a male hormone. This hormone is responsible for the increase in sebum production in the skin which is probably why teenagers are more prone to acne than children or adults; however it is not unheard of for adults to develop acne too.
Excess sebum from the sebaceous glands cause greasier skin and this natural oil combined with dead skin cells can block the tiny hair follicles and pores in the skin which can cause an outbreak of spots such as black heads or white heads (often called open and closed comedones). A normal skin bacterium called P.Acnes (Propionibacterium Acnes) may start to multiply and clog the hair follicles - and in this process the bacteria produces substances that are irritants and can cause inflammation as well. If the follicle bursts and this inflammation is spread to the surrounding skin then this can cause acne skin lesions, and cysts.
Other hormonal changes can trigger acne, such as changes in female menstrual cycles, pregnancy or if you are taking a progesterone based contraceptive pill. If you suffer from polycystic ovaries or have a family history of acne you may also be more prone to developing acne or acne vulgaris.
Consequences of Acne
Acne may cause a number of issues, both physically and psychologically:
- Spots, blackheads, whiteheads
- Cysts, Lesions
- Low self esteem
- Fear of bullying / teasing
- Anger - feelings of "why me?"
- Difficulty concentrating - causing problems at school or work
- Social problems
- Relationship breakdowns
Treatment of Acne
If an individual believes they are suffering from acne, they should consult their GP or Health Professional for advice and various treatment alternatives. Typically, treatments are focused around preventing new spots from forming, reducing inflammation and preventing scarring.
It is still debated as to whether diet, stress and hygiene affect the likelihood of an individual's development of acne, and there is no conclusive research to support whether these are the case. However, it can't be denied that maintaining a healthy a life style and reducing stress is important and may support managing this condition and an individual's overall health and wellbeing.
Light therapy for acne vulgaris
Light therapy (or Phototherapy) has long been used as a short term treatment for acne. However, more recent research now shows that blue wavelength light exposure at 405 - 420nm (nanometres) has been successful in the treatment of mild to moderate acne due to its anti-bacterial benefits.
Even better are light treatments that include red wavelength light exposure at 633 to 660 nm which has anti-inflammatory benefits combined with blue wavelength light therapy. Some studies have shown that this type of light therapy skin care can be just as effective, if not more, than the use of benzoyl peroxide with the additional benefit of having few if any negative side effects.
This is the ideal option for those individuals seeking a more natural alternative to more common prescription drugs and creams.
- Keep skin clean to prevent new spots from forming - but not too much - twice a day should suffice
- Do not use harsh, abrasive or artificially perfumed cleansers as these may irritate the acne further
- Try and use natural or organic cleansers or moisturisers to help prevent irritation
- Follow a healthy, well-balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and omega 3,6 & 9 oils
- Try not to squeeze spots as this can cause infections and later scarring
- Speak to your GP or Health Professional and discuss your options based on the severity of the acne and your individual requirements - not everyone is the same!
- Whatever treatment you choose, don't expect an overnight miracle - acne takes time to reduce and disappear