Skip to main content

BlissMark may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

What you need to know about ultraviolet light therapy for acne

There seems to be no end to the products on the market to treat whatever ails your skin — benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, salicylic acid, the list goes on. One of the newest acne treatments showing promise in the quest for clearer skin is ultraviolet light therapy.

Light therapy is said to help with acne, age spots, wrinkles, and fine lines. For now, we want to focus on how ultraviolet light therapy can help with your acne. What exactly is ultraviolet light therapy? Let’s dive in and find out.

A woman having a light therapy treatment done.

Quick clarification

You might read “ultraviolet light” and wonder why we are saying that’s a good thing to blast your skin with. Aren’t UV rays what you need to avoid? Yes.

Thankfully, UV light isn’t used anymore to treat acne. So when we say UV light, we mean a specific wavelength color. We don’t want you to think we want you to find a tanning bed or put your face to the sun. The light therapy treatment we are talking about uses specific colored LED lights. Now that we have that cleared up, let’s get into the specifics about this form of treatment.

The basics

Light therapy uses LED wavelengths to treat certain skin issues

From stimulating cells to speeding up the production of collagen to reducing inflammation to growing hair to calming acne – light therapy can work some wonders.

It’s basically a light facial. Depending on the wavelength of the mask, you could use it every day or once or twice a week.

Different colors of light give different results

  • Red is for antiaging
  • Blue for acne
  • Purple for acne scars
  • Green for hyperpigmentation

How it works

  • The bacteria on your face doesn’t like the light
  • The light has antimicrobial effects

The bacteria that is clogging up your pores and creating all of those bumps and blackheads are scared of blue light. The blue lights are toxic to the bacteria. Once they come in contact, the wavelength from the blue light kills a few of the kinds of bacteria hanging out on your face and in your pores.

When the blue light hits the oil-producing glands, those glands slow down oil production. The blue light slows down the production of sebum, which is a main culprit of acne.

Someone getting a blue light therapy treatment.

Pros

Convenient

Anything you can use from the comfort of your couch is always welcome. Though you can make an appointment at a dermatologist’s office, the FDA has approved some devices for you to use at home. They aren’t as powerful as the ones in a dermatologist’s office and will require more treatments. But that seems a fair trade to stay in your pajamas.

Safe for almost everyone

For most people, light therapy is safe with little to no side effects. The most common are redness and swelling after treatment.

Cost-effective

If you think about how many bottles of creams, serums, and lotions you’ve purchased to clear your acne, then the cost of light therapy isn’t bad. It could cost at least $40 a session, and you’ll need multiple sessions for results. That’s still not bad when you compare it to how much it would cost to get a facial.

Masks for home use are generally affordable. The NEWKEY Led Face Mask 1comes with seven different color treatment options.

Cons

There can be side effects. In general, light therapy is safe. But there is always a chance of something going sideways.

Common

  • Redness
  • Peeling
  • Bruises
  • Mild skin irritation

Less common, more severe

  • Burned skin
  • Blisters
  • Discoloration
  • Extreme pain

If any of these side effects worry you, see your dermatologist.

Who shouldn’t try this treatment

Don’t try it if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are on antibiotics
  • Have a sensitivity to light
  • Have epilepsy
  • Have any type of cancer
  • Are allergic to certain medicines

This form of light therapy can’t be used by everyone. As with any treatment, even if you don’t fall into one of these categories, you should check with a dermatologist before starting.

A dermatologist putting a light therapy treatment mask on a patient.

Will it cure your acne?

Unfortunately, no. Light therapy isn’t a permanent cure for your acne problems. If you have hormonal acne or cystic acne, it really isn’t going to help that much at all. But it can help calm moderate acne and even prevent future breakouts from being as bad as they could be.

If you combine light therapy with your other acne treatments, you’ll see better results. According to numerous studies over a decade, people who used blue light therapy for acne saw a reduction in the severity of their current acne, a reduced number of bumps and lesions, and overall better clarity and smoothness of the skin.

Should you use ultraviolet light for acne? As long as you don’t fall on the list of people who shouldn’t, don’t usually have reactions to acne treatments, and have tried pretty much everything else in the book — yes. It won’t work overnight, but after a few treatments, you’ll start to see smoother skin.

No matter what your skin color is, your age, or how bad your acne is (as long as it isn’t hormonal) you can see results from using ultraviolet blue light therapy. A conversation with your dermatologist on how this treatment might work for you may bring you one step closer to clearer skin.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

Editors' Recommendations