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Does LED Light Therapy Really Treat Acne? What Studies Say

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LED therapy face-masks turned many heads lately, and more and more people are using them at home. It’s no surprise considering the many benefits these devices hold, such as helping to treat acne, diminish wrinkles, or hyperpigmentation. Guess what? Even if you’re not looking to treat specific skin issues, you can still use LED therapy to maintain a healthy skin condition.

LED Light Therapy

Light-emitting diode (LED) therapy was commonly used by aestheticians and dermatologists as an in-office treatment to help minimize breakouts, reduce inflammation after facials, and give an overall boost. It became incredibly popular among celebs too — hey, Kate Hudson! Today, millions of people use light-based therapies to treat acne-prone skin. Unlike the topical treatments that work only on the skin’s surface, light therapy helps eliminate the acne-causing bacteria in the skin before it starts to feed on the oil glands. However, you ought to know that not all devices are effective — this article gives you the best options on the market.

Is LED therapy effective for acne?

Definitely! Helped by varying LED wavelengths, this skincare technique was proven to help kill acne-causing bacteria and diminish acne scars. This study of The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology concluded that the phototherapy using LEDs is beneficial for a broad range of medical and aesthetic conditions encountered in the dermatology practice. If you face acne, you may be the perfect candidate for this. “Light therapy is a research-backed treatment that’s safe for most people and relatively free of side effects,” states Healthline. While LED masks can have up to 8 color spectrum with different effects, blue and red lights are believed to affect acne the most. 


Blue LED Light

Blue light is most commonly used to address acne breakouts. The reason why this works very well is that blue light has antimicrobial properties which have the ability to kill the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes. Blue light also helps to purify the skin and soothe inflammation, decreasing other acne symptoms, such as redness. In 2009, The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology published a study concluding that blue light therapy “reduced the number of acne lesions significantly.” Another research found that blue light reduced acne-causing bacteria in 77% of cases after 5 weeks of therapy. This study also confirmed that blue light phototherapy significantly reduced acne severity score without any side effects. 

Red LED Light

Even though red light does not have antibacterial effects, can reach down into all the skin layers, where it may promote healing proprieties and work to decrease acne scarring. A few studies compared the blue-red light treatment to conventional acne therapies. Results reported a mean improvement of 76% in inflammatory lesions treated with blue-red light compared with benzoyl peroxide or blue light alone. “We have found that phototherapy with mixed blue-red light, probably by combining antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action, is an effective means of treating acne vulgaris of mild to moderate severity, with no significant short-term adverse effects,” concluded P. Papageorgiou, the studys’ author.

Does light therapy really work for acne?

One study case done in May 2015 has summarized more than 20 clinical trials investigating blue light or blue-red light for acne treatment. All studies reached the same conclusion. Say what? Yes, they found that high-intensity light (405–420 nm) applied for 8–20 mins twice weekly for four weeks was stated to reduce inflammatory acne lesion count in the 60%–70% range. That’s how good light therapy is. Do you still have doubts? It’s relaxing, pain-free, without side effects, and affordable, probably the reason why it’s the first favorite choice for millions. 

What to expect after LED therapy

Check out the following before and after images if you want to see the gradual results achieved by using LED light therapy for acne.

LED light therapy: Is it safe?

First of all, the American Academy of Dermatology considers this kind of procedure safe. The treatment itself is a result of many experimental pieces of research that have tested the efficacity of these devices in treating comedones, acne, and blackheads — resulting in significant success and high satisfaction levels. Since this method is non-invasive, it’s safe without the need for recovery. Also, the LEDs do not contain UV rays, making it a safe procedure that won’t cause skin damage. Dr. Glynis Ablon at the Ablon Skin Institute in Manhattan explains, “one of the most important aspects of LED phototherapy devices is their safety. LEDs are nonablative and nonthermal, and when used, do not cause damage to the epidermis or dermal tissue. When LED phototherapy is used alone, patients do not experience redness, peeling, blistering, swelling, or pain,” says Dr. Glynis. 

When you should NOT use LED therapy

Obviously, there are some don’ts when it comes to LED therapy. You should avoid LED therapy:

  1. If you apply any topical treatments that cause sensitivity to light
  2. If you have an active rash or psoriasis
  3. If your skin is super sensitive
  4. If you take certain medications, such as Accutane

In case one of the above is your situation, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting the therapy. Also, we advise you to call your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms after the treatment: increased inflammation, redness, pain, hives, rash.

Where can I use LED therapy?

Technically, it can be used on any part of the body, but the most popular usage is over the face. Because the complexion is more exposed to environmental factors than other body parts, it’s more prone to develop acne, hyperpigmentation, and wrinkles. Neck and décolleté are also areas that need more attention. For this reason, many masks feature neck coverage too — good for them!

How do I prep my skin for LED therapy?

First thing first, your complexion has to be cleansed, without any makeup or dirt residues. It’s best if you apply an oil or serum before you start the therapy so that the light can penetrate better the skin tissue. Also, don’t forget to protect your eyes from the lights. Most devices come with protection goggles, but if the one you pick doesn’t include a pair, ensure you buy eye protection.


There’s no doubt, LED light devices can kill acne-causing bacteria and are safe for home use. However, they don’t substitute your usual skincare regimen. Dermatologists recommend having a suitable skincare regimen for your skin type to work up with light therapy. LED treatment is not a monotherapy, but it helps as long as it’s used with concern-related topicals or in-office procedures.


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