Blue Light for Acne
Until last week.
In hopes of hastening my mission to fade a few stubborn sunspots and discolouration on my upper lip, I added La Roche-Posay’s Mela-D Pigment Control, a drugstore-grade serum, to my night time regime. This serum uses kojic acid, (a by-product of fermented Japanese sake) and glycolic acid (an exfoliating agent) as its key actives. While I’m well aware that few skin lightening ingredients have actually been proven to work, I’m still a sucker for dark spot correcting products. It’s an Asian thing.
After a month of use, I noticed no visible change in the dark spots, but I did acquire something shocking: four big zits. One above my left eye, two near my right eye, and one on my right cheek. Normally I get one or two pimples at a time that I can tame with my derm’s trusty benzoyl peroxide cream. But these suckers were uncharacteristically large! I’m prone to scarring every time I get a zit, so I was terrified when I saw so many big ones at once. I guess my skin didn’t like the La Roche-Posay serum—serves me right for straying from medical-grade products!
I had an event in two days, so I frantically called the team at DLK on Avenue for some skin help. “Have you tried blue light yet?” The front desk girl asked.
The words brought me back to a recent lunch I had with a cosmetic scientist, Louise Hidinger. She has a wonderful blog called Ingredients of Style where she covers cosmetic chemistry and fashion. Hidinger, who has similar skin type as mine, spoke about her experience with blue light therapy many years ago with Dr Kellett, when she worked at a different skin clinic in Toronto. Hidinger recalled, “I did a 10 session treatment package, once a week. It was very effective in preventing further flareups, and also good for speeding up recovery from active pimples.”
In addition to following Hidinger’s lead, I searched the site acne.org, an authority on acne. According to them, blue light therapy combined with benzoyl peroxide is an ideal treatment approach. Read their opinion here.
I was sold. I called DLK on Avenue back for an appointment.
How it works
You sit or lay down on the treatment bed so your face is directly under the light for a certain amount of time, as prescribed from the doctor. I went in for 30 minutes, following a microdermabrasion (to slough off dead skin cells so that my makeup could go on smoother for my event the next day). The blue light treatments may go on for five weeks or so. It’s safe, it’s not hot, and it’s not painful. You can sleep right through the session.
The machine is called the ”Blu-U Light System” and it consists of a high intensity, narrow-band Blue Light, which uses no ultra-violet (UV) light. When Blue Light is used to treat acne, p. acnes acne-causing bacteria is destroyed and overactive oil glands are suppressed. The blue-violet light penetrates just deep enough into the tissue to reach the acne target. It only affects the P. acnes bacteria, not the normal tissue.
After my treatment that night, I applied my normal blemish cream on the spots. In the morning, the pimples were no longer red and raised. I couldn’t believe it. The treatment exceeded my expectations. Lessons learned:
- When you’re seeing red, try blue. Cost per Blu Light treatment is $150.
- Introduce one new skincare product at a time to your routine. That way, if something goes wrong, you can pinpoint the culprit.
- Understand that acne is a multi-faceted problem and the solutions are very individual. What may work for you may not work for the other person, so it’s important to see a dermatologist for a management plan rather than self-diagnosing or trying kooky quick fixes (put down the toothpaste).