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Q&A with NYC Dermatologist, Judith Hellman, MD
In recent years, blue light therapy technology has gained increased popularity for the treatment of acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), this innovation is the best-known, proven treatment to decrease acne-causing bacteria. Recommended by leading industry professionals, including board-certified dermatologist, Judith Hellman, MD, blue light therapy can be used both in-office and at-home, and effectively helps alleviate this common skin condition affecting 50 million Americans and 94% of all females.
Hellman, a NYC-based dermatologist who practices medical dermatology and specializes in dermatological surgery, laser surgery and anti-aging skin treatments, explains how blue light works, its uses and her experience with the technology in an exclusive and informative Q&A.
Blue light kills the acne-causing bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes, (P. acnes), which can cause inflammation. P. acnes is sensitive to blue light. Using the blue light eliminates the bacteria found in the oil glands in the skin. The added presence of infrared light (heat) in the home device causes the oil glands to shrink in size. The result is less oil in the skin and less bacteria, leading to the resolution of acne in the treated areas.
Eliminating the bacteria from the skin with help from blue light decreases the inflammation associated with red pimples (papules) seen in acne. After a number of treatments, the blemishes disappear and skin regains its normal appearance.
I recommend the blue light treatment to my acne clients with red pimples (inflammatory acne). All clients with concerns over unwanted acne are candidates for treatment, regardless of their skin tone or severity of acne. I do not recommend this treatment to clients who are on Accutane (an oral medication), but blue light is a great alternative for those who wish to avoid prescription medication.
Blue LED technologies have been used in medical acne treatments for many years. Often they are utilized in photodynamic therapy, where a chemical is applied to enhance the effect on the skin. These treatments result in redness and flaking for several days, unlike with home devices, which are effective without the use of chemicals. At the end of the day, both blue light in-office and at-home are FDA cleared, since they use the same acne-fighting light wavelengths and are safe to use.
In-office treatments are more aggressive, and due to the size of the technology used, can treat larger areas in a shorter time. On the other hand, home devices can be used at the convenience of the client, any time of the day or night and lead to similar improvements. The incredible advancements in at-home tools allow for consumers to achieve efficacy on their own, whether they are challenged to squeeze doctor appointments into their busy schedules or just prefer to affordably, safely treat their skin in the comfort of their home. It’s also possible to combine the use of the home device with in-office treatments, to enhance their effects. Clients who undergo in-office treatment benefit greatly from maintenance with the home product, to keep the bacteria from recurring and the acne from flaring up.
My clients have experienced a very significant decrease in the number of acne lesions, both pimples and cysts, with the home device. Not only have they achieved better skin, but there has been a huge improvement in their self-confidence. Since most sufferers are young, the success of the treatment and reduction of their acne also helped their social life and interactions with others, both in a personal and a professional setting. I consider this a very big treatment success beyond just improving the condition itself.