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Does LED Light Therapy Really Treat Acne? What Studies Say

led light therapy for acne
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LED therapy face-masks turned many heads in the last decade, and more and more women started using these devices at home.

Light-emitting diode therapy was commonly used by aestheticians and dermatologists as an in-office treatment to help minimize breakouts, to reduce inflammation after facials, and to give an overall boost.

Lately, many brands launched LED devices that can be used at home, designed to treat different skin’s affections, such as acne, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, or to maintain a healthy complexion.

LED Light Therapy

This kind of therapy became incredibly popular among celebs too — we see you, Kate Hudson!

Unlike the topical treatments that work only on the skin’s surface, light therapy eliminates the acne-causing bacteria in the skin, before it starts to feed on the oil glands.

However, you ought to know that not all of them are effective — this article gives you the best options on the market.

Many scientific studies support the use of LED light therapy masks for acne and blackheads. More about that later on.

LED Light Therapy: Is it safe?

First of all, the American Academy of Dermatology considers this kind of procedure safe. 

Secondly, 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 patient satisfaction levels.

Since this method is noninvasive, it is safe without the need for recovery. Also, the LEDs used in this kind of devices do not contain UV rays, making it a safe procedure, that won’t cause damage to the skin.

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.”

More than that, he proves that the therapy is safe with no adverse events or risks associated, affirming “There are no adverse events associated with the use of these devices and little to no downtime for the patient. When LED phototherapy is used alone, patients do not experience redness, peeling, blistering, swelling, or pain.”

When you should not use LED Therapy

Obviously, there are some don’ts when it comes to LED therapy.

Therefore you should avoid LED therapy:

  • if you apply any topical treatments that cause sensitivity to light
  • avoid it if you have an active rash or psoriasis
  • if your skin is super sensitive
  • if you take certain medications, such as Accutane

If one of the above is your case, you may want to talk to your doctor before you start the LED 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 decollete are also areas that need more attention, especially in women. For this reason, many masks feature neck coverage — 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 recommended that you apply an oil or serum before you start the therapy so that the light can penetrate better the skin tissue.

Another important aspect before you start the procedure is to protect your eyes from the lights. 


However, most devices come with protection goggles, but if the one you pick doesn’t include a pair, ensure you buy eye protection.

Is at-home LED therapy effective for acne?

Helped by varying LED wavelengths, this skincare technique was proven to help kill acne-causing bacteria, treat acne scars, hyperpigmentation, and promote anti-aging effects.

If you face any of these skin concerns, you may be the perfect candidate for LED light therapy.

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.

The results represented the basis for using light therapy masks and devices to treat acne and other skin issues by regular people at home.

However, one important factor is represented by the LED’s color. It has been proved that the most effective for treating acne is blue light.

Many studies strengthen the therapy efficacy

In 2002, this study tested the efficacy of blue light in treating bacteria that cause acne, and the results showed that acne was reduced by 64% in all patients.

In conclusion, the study states that “phototherapy using this blue light source was effective and well-tolerated in acne patients and had an ability to decrease numbers of P. acnes in vitro, suggesting that this phototherapy may be a new modality for the treatment of acne.”

Furthermore, in 2009, The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology published a study which concluded that daily blue light therapy home treatment for acne “reduced the number of acne lesions significantly.” Also, it showed an overall improvement in the complexion.

Twenty-one subjects took part in the study — 18/21 were female, and 3/21 were male with a mean age of 31 years.

Subjects expressed confidence in the use of LED therapy for self-treatment of acne without the supervision of a doctor or clinician.

Blue light-emitting diodes were applied to the affected area on patients once daily for 6 minutes on a period of eight weeks.

The present study evaluated the performance of self-applied, blue light therapy in the treatment of mild-to-moderate acne on the face, concerning the following:

  • time to the improvement of the number of blemishes and lesions on the face
  • quality of skin condition 
  • the occurrence of new blemishes and lesions
  • ease of product use
  • patient satisfaction, wellbeing, and comfort during the treatment period
  • treatment’s safety level

What did they discover? 

The study showed that following the treatment, using the device daily, can reduce the number of inflammatory acne lesions significantly.

The total number of papules within-subjects during treatment had reduced, and was significant, with a 41.03% reduction.

The signs of inflammation had reduced during the therapy period from 10.6% of subjects to 9.5% with no signs of allergic reactions observed during the period of the study.

All subjects reported little or no pain at all or a slight warm sensation that reduced within minutes after the LED therapy.

Further, there was little or no irritation reported during the procedure.

Most of the treated subjects claimed that their skin looked better after the blue light therapy period had been completed.

In terms of physical experience-reported during light-emitting diode treatment, all of the subjects reported that the blue light treatment was natural to perform.

They felt confident in administering self-treatment once daily, and they thought therapy with the device was safe.

led therapy for acne

During the study period with the self-applied blue light procedure, the total number of comedones on the face had significantly reduced for the assessment on Day 7.

The total number of open comedones on the face during the treatment period was reduced significantly for assessment at treatment Day 15, and the closed comedones on the face during the treatment period were reduced significantly for the assessment on Day 28.

Thus, like any other therapy, the blue LED light procedure requires time to show results and must always be performed along with a correct skincare routine.

What to expect after LED therapy

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

Concluding, LED light devices are able to kill acne-causing bacteria and are safe for home use, though they don’t substitute the usual skincare regimen. Also, make sure you perform a safe procedure by taking all the precautionary measures and protecting your eyes.

However, dermatologists recommend having a suitable skincare regimen for your skin type to work with light therapy. LED treatment is not a useful monotherapy, but they help as long as it used with topicals or in-office procedures.

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To our readers

The information from this article is not entirely medical-grade level and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. No one will know you, your medical history, the meds you’ve taken or are taking, your sensitivities and drug interactions, allergic reactions, and your lifestyle, but your doctor does.

Amanda Blake
Amanda Blake
Amanda Blake is a passionate woman sharing experience as a beauty advisor and content writer for over 5 years. Merging all the passion with much work, she established Women's Concept community, a place where women can seek and share everything about beauty and personal care.
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