Morsani College of Medicine

Dermatology & Cutaneous Surgery


Tired of applying medicated topicals and/or taking medications for your acne without results, light treatment may help as an adjunct to your current treatment.  Many acne patients need a plan of care that has more than one treatment to keep their acne under control. Acne occurs as a result of one or more of the following: increased production of P. acnes, excessive sebum production, accelerated release of inflammatory substances, and rapid shedding of skin cells. Treatment is based on what is causing the acne. This is why acne treatments are individualized by the dermatologist because often multiple treatments are needed because there are usually multiple causes for the acne. Also, this is why acne can be very difficult to treat because it may be hard to figure out the cause in return making it difficult to find the correct treatment. Light treatments may be that additional treatment you need to control your acne, if the traditional treatments are failing. Light treatments still are not routinely being prescribed to treat acne because they are not covered by insurance. They are considered emerging technologies.  Also, some providers do not offer them because they may not have access to these treatments in their office. To shed some light on these treatments, I would like to explain how these nontraditional treatments may help some to battle their acne. If your acne is caused by P. acnes, then light treatment may help. Data from clinical trials are limited, but recent studies indicate that light treatments demonstrate much promise in treating acne. The FDA has approved narrow-band, high-intensity Blue-Light therapy to treat acne. Blue-Light works by killing the acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes. Blue-Light is best used to treat inflammatory acne vulgaris. Blue-Light treatment patients receive treatment in increments of approximately eight sessions given over a four-week period. Therefore, a Blue-Light session is performed twice a week on nonconsecutive days for four weeks with each session lasting 15 minutes under the light. Side effects tend to be mild. They may include temporary pigment changes, swelling of the treated areas, and dryness. Noticeable improvement is seen by 50% to 70% of patients. If you would like to be more aggressive and get even better results and some cosmetic result you may want to consider ALA with light therapy with either Blue-Light or IPL. Patients receiving this treatment undergo a two-step process. First, a solution of 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) medication is applied to the skin being treated to increase the skins sensitivity to light. The ALA is kept on the skin for a period of time ranging from 15 to 60 minutes depending on the severity of the acne. Then the ALA is removed and the skin is treated with the light therapy for 8-15 minutes. Because the ALA makes the skin more light sensitive, patients are instructed to use sun protection for 48 hours after treatment. Number of treatments are usually needed, but vary pending on severity of the acne and response to treatment. While the results from studies are promising, the use of light treatments to treat acne are still in the investigational stages and are not usually the first choice or only choice for treating acne. One must remember acne is usually caused by multiple problems and light treatment only targets one cause P. acne.  If other factors are present, blue-light treatment will not clear the acne alone. If you are considering light treatment to treat acne, you should see a dermatologist that offers these procedures and set up a consultation. Dermatologists are specifically trained in treating skin conditions such as acne, therefore they are your best choice in a provider to administer such a light treatment.