Four Extremely Successful Acne LED Light Therapy Treatments

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I have documented eleven LED light studies that achieved significant acne lesion reduction. These protocols reduced acne, inflammation, scarring, and redness. The good news about red light therapy is also good news about green and blue light therapy. Here are four studies that you can copy at home.

In one study, researchers used alternating blue and red light to reduce acne up to 78%. In another, they alternated between blue and red each week to achieve a 69% acne lesion decrease. In the third study, they found that differing red wavelengths both worked well to reduce acne up to 48%. In the fourth, they used a low power laser green light to reduce acne 67%.

So long as you get the wavelength and energy, it does not matter if that dose comes from a laser or an LED device. These studies give you a range of colors and energies you can use to treat your own acne. I will explain the study protocols, so that you can copy these treatments with your at-home LED therapy device.

Before you start, be sure to read the warnings below about using light to treat acne. Some of the warnings have workarounds, and some do not.

Four Warnings Before Buying an Acne Therapy Light

Read these warnings before deciding how you want to treat your acne with LED light.

Understand how red, infrared and blue light work (and do not work) before buying your therapy light.

Warning 1: Red Light Can Increase Pigmentation Problems

Red light can increase melanin production. Melanin can cause pigmentation issues. If you already have a pigmentation problem, consider avoiding red light on your face.

Here is the kicker of this warning: Red light can also decrease melanin production!

People with pigmentation problems should at best be careful with red light treatment.

You can try it, and if you see a problem, cut the therapy.

On the other hand, you could avoid it altogether.

If you do have a pigment reaction, you will probably not be happy using red light on your face.

Nevertheless, please do not give up hope, because blue light kills the bacteria that cause acne.

Warning 2: Don’t Rely on Only on Red Light

Red LED light can clear acne problems. However, red combined with blue light is better than red light alone.

When buying an LED light for acne treatment, red will work, and combining red with blue will work better.

Warning 3: Avoid Lamps that Shine Red and Infrared

So many of the lamps you can buy over the counter output a combination of red and infrared light.

Infrared is not going to hurt you, but it is not powerful at treating it either.

If you get a combination red-infrared light, you lose half the red energy to the infrared bulbs.

A pure red light without infrared will devote its power to the healing red frequency without diluting it on the infrared frequency.

Even on lamps that allow you to shine only red and leave the infrared off, the lamp is still giving you only half its power in the red range.

Warning 4: Avoid Light Therapy With Certain Acne Treatments

Dr. Sheila Malmanis cautions that some treatments and suppements do not combine while with light treatment.

Dr. Malmanis prescribes blue light therapy to kill the P. acne bacterium that cause clogs pores.

She says that red pimples do benefit from blue light therapy, but that blue light does not work with cystic acne.

She also specifically cautions against using blue light in combination with any of the following:

  • retinol
  • St. John’s Wort
  • any topical that makes skin sensitive to light
  • Lupus
  • Pregnant
  • Epilepsy
  • Accutane

Does Red Light Actually Work on Acne?

Red, blue and green work on acne.
Red, blue and green work on acne.

Yes, red light works on acne. Green and a red-blue combination treat acne as well.

These colors can reduce acne lesions in seriously dramatic ways.

Patients often see improvement after the first treatment, and continue to see improvements even after stopping LED therapy treatment.

Which LED Light Colors Reduce Acne?

Tissue penetration depths
Tissue penetration depths (Source Wellman Center)

Studies show the following wavelengths significantly reduced acne lesions:

  • red and blue combined
  • red
  • green

The combination of blue and red light appears to be the best acne reduction light therapy.

Red, red-blue, and green can all create significant treatment results.

Red and red-blue light reduced acne by over 50% in 8 weeks. Green reduced acne, swelling, redness, and acne scarring.

I also found many wavelengths that reduced acne, but these are from studies that you cannot copy at home. My opinion is that these wavelengths are probably applicable to LED light treatment. The problem is, these studies included acidic pre-treatments you would get only in the doctor’s office.

This is because researchers applied acidic agents to patients’ faces, and used lasers available only to professionals. The following wavelengths were successful in reducing mild to severe acne cases using acid pre-treatment and lasers:

  • 417 nm (blue)
  • 420 nm to 950 nm (the entire range of visible light)
  • 520 nm (green)
  • 530 nm to 750 nm (green to infrared)
  • 550 nm to 700 nm (green to infrared)
  • 580 nm to 1000 nm (green to infrared, combined with radio frequency (RF) treatment)
  • 635 nm (red)
  • 600 to 700 nm (orange to infrared)

References

  • Laser and light based treatments of acne

What are the Benefits of Red Light Therapy for Acne?

Red light therapy, blue light therapy, and blue-red light therapy are all effective at treating acne.

Study results include the following benefits to using these light treatments:

  • reduction of inflamatory lesions
    • clogged pores
    • infected with bacteria
    • erupt below surface
    • can cause scarring
  • reduction of non-inflammatory (non-bacterial) lesions
    • nodular acne
    • blackheads (open comedones)
    • whiteheads (closed comedones)
    • papules
  • decreased melanin (blue-right light)
  • kills P. acne bacteria (blue light)
  • improved skin texture
  • improve skin tone
  • decrease skin sebum excretion

What Types of Acne Respond to Red Light Therapy?

Resarch shows that hormonal and bacterial acne responds to light, but that cystic acne does not.

Hormonal acne is an inflammatory hormone response. The blue light kills the bacteria causing the inflammation. The red light smooths out the skin’s texture.

There’s little evidence that cystic acne responds to light therapy. However one study used a combination of topical treatment with intense pulsed light and blue light to to signfiicantly reduce pimples, inflammation , redness and scarring in cystic acne patients.

Cystic acne improved by photodynamic therapy with short-contact 5-aminolevulinic acid and sequential combination of intense pulsed light and blue light activation

Can I Do Red Light Therapy for Acne if I Have Hyperpigmentation Issues?

If you have hyperpigmentation and acne, you might avoid pure red light therapy to treat acne.

What has worked well in studies is blue and red light combined in some way.

One study alternated red and blue light during the treatments. Both acne lesions and melanin levels went down with this therapy.

This requires you have a device that can alternate colors, which is not available on the consumer market that I can see.

Can Red Light Therapy Can Make Pigment Issues Worse?

Yes, red light therapy can make pigment issues worse.

Red light can increase melanin at the target site.

Since melanin is the stuff of pigmentation, red light can increase the incidence or intensity of brown spots and hyperpigmentation.

References

  • Acne Blue and Red Light Dose
  • Blue and red light combination LED phototherapy for acne vulgaris in patients with skin phototype IV

Can Red Light Therapy Make Acne Worse?

No, it does not appear that red or blue light therapy can make acne worse.

There are no known recorded acne side effects of light therapy.

To be totally fair, the answer is probably better stated as “Red light therapy probably cannot make acne worse.”

A lack of side effects reported to date doesn’t prove there are no problems.

Is it Safe to Treat Acne with Blue and Red Light Therapy?

Yes, light therapy to treat acne is safe.

There are very few known side effects of any LED light treatment.

There are some cases in which it’s better not to do the treatment.

While it’s hard to get an overdose with LED light, there is such a thing as too much light.

This happens when the chromophore photoreceptors cannot accept any more light.

The good the light had done starts to reverse.

This effect has only ever been recorded with lasers, which are much more powerful than LED lamps.

To be fair, we should say that light therapy is probably safe.

Lack of evidence is not a basis for stating a fact.

In a 2018 review of the use of light to treat therapy, one study stated: “Owing to inadequate reporting of adverse effects such as scarring or blistering, the safety of all light therapies remains uncertain.”

Some people should avoid light therapy or at least consult with their doctor before proceeding.

These include the following people, but be aware that light therapy can be GOOD for the people below as well. It’s just a question of being cautious:

  • pregnant women
  • epileptics
  • people with light sensitivities
  • people on photosensitive drugs

How Long Does LED Light Therapy Take to Work for Acne?

Acne often starts to go down after one treatment.
Acne often starts to go down after one treatment.

LED light users often see results after the first session.

The light wavelengths and the energy doses, and your specific situation determine how long it takes for you to see results.

The good news is that these studies got great results with low power and high power. They got great results with red, red and blue, and green LED colors.

This means that you have multiple ways to approach your treatment that all have a scientific record of success.

Your home LED lamp might be less powerful than the lamps used in the studies. If you do not see results, add time to your treatment per session until you do.

In the studies I report on below, the patients saw results after the first treatment, at the end of the study, and after the end of the study.

They might have all had positive results during the study, but only one paper reported on that fact.

All had significant reduction at the end of the study, or at 8 weeks post study.

Therapeutic Light
During Study Results
Study Results
After Study Results
415 nm blue and  633 nm red, alternating colors each session, 8 treatments over 2 weeks
unknown
acne reduced by 34% and 78%
Unknown
blue and red, alternating colors weekly, 8 treatments over 8 weeks
improvement after 1st session
unknown
69% acne reduction 8 weeks after study
633 nm red and  670 nm red, either side of face, 16 treatments over 8 weeks
unknown
acne reduced by 48%
unknown
585 nm green, 3 treatments over 6 weeks
results after 2nd session
unknown
67%

How Often Should You Do Red/Blue Light Therapy for Acne?

Please take a look at the acne studies documented on EMF Channel here: Acne Studies (opens in new window).

I am documented the successful light therapy studies performed on humans so that people can copy the study protocols for themselves at home.

The four studies below are at that link.

You will find light therapists telling their patients to treat acne anywhere from twice a day to twice a week.

There are several reasons there is no firm protocol.

Over the counter LED light  devices are relatively new.

The scientific study protocols are based on what the researchers wanted to test.

The good news is that it appears to be difficult to overdo LED acne treatment if you do it no more than once a day.

You don’t want to overload the chromophore photoreceptors, on the one hand.

On the other hand, that’s pretty hard to do with LED light.

My personal approach to dosage schedules is to see what the successful studies did, and then copy their protocols.

Four Studies You Can Copy to Treat Your Acne with LED Light

These studies used red, red and blue combined, and green to get fantastic acne reduction results.

Acne Study 1: Automatic Switching Between Red and Blue Treatment Reduced Acne Up to 78%

Red and blue are powerful
Red and blue are powerful

Researchers assessed the acne lesions of 24 Korean patients who had mild to moderately severe acne.

The therapy light alternated shining blue (415 nm) and red (633 nm) at the subjects’ faces.

The subjects received eight treatments over two weeks.

Acne Reduced by 78%

The researchers re-graded and re-counted the acne lesions.

The red and blue light treatment reduced non-inflammatory lesions by 34%, and inflammatory lesions by 78%.

Pigment, Texture, and Tone Improved

Fourteen patients spontaneously reported that the treatment reduced melanin levels, brightened skin tone, and smoothed skin texture.

Side Effects

The treatment had no side effects.

Why the Red and Blue Light Worked

Blue 415 nm light destroys the P. acne bacteria.

Red 635 nm light reaches deeper into the skin than the blue light.

Researchers theorize that the red light destroyed P. acne bacteria in the sebaceous gland. The blue light would not be able to reach that far.

Do You Want to Try this Acne Treatment?

This study shows that a strong dose of alternating red and blue light can significantly reduce acne lesions. The energy dose was very high. Getting a high light therapy dose never means creating heat. Light therapy is a non-thermal treatment. If you have a low-powered device, use it for 30 min. to an hour to copy this study. That is just a general guideline. If you do not get at least some acne resolution after a treatment, do longer treatments.

References

  • Acne Blue and Red Light Dose
  • Blue and red light combination LED phototherapy for acne vulgaris in patients with skin phototype IV

Acne Study 2: Alternating Red and Blue Therapy Weekly Reduced Acne Lesions by 69%

Acne LED Therapy works well
Acne LED Therapy works well

Researchers gave subjects with mild to moderate acne both blue and red LED lights for self-treatment.

Subjects alternated between blue one week, and red the next. Blue sessions were 20 minutes, and red sessions were 30 minutes. They treated their acne with the light once per week for 8 weeks (four red and four blue sessions).

Unfortunately, the researchers did not report the wavelengths. We know from successful studies that 415 nm blue and 633 nm red are likely to have worked, but that is only an educated guess.

Researchers counted the subjects’ acne lesions before, during, and after the study period.

Acne Reduced by 69%

Subjects’ acne began to clear after the first session.

The researchers counted fewer lesions during the study, and then even fewer after the study.

Their faces continued to improve after they stopped using the lights.

At 8 weeks after the study (16 weeks after the study start), subjects’ lesions reduced an average of 69%.

Side Effects

Some patients responded to treatment with redness that resolved within a day.

Do You Want to Try this Treatment?

You need both a red and a blue light to copy this study. Use red one week, and blue the next.

We do not know the study’s energy dosage. Keep upping your time per treatment until you see results.

References

  • Acne Handheld Device Blue and Red Dose
  • Handheld LED array device in the treatment of acne vulgaris
  • Light-based therapies in acne treatment

Acne Study 3: Frequent Treatments with Low Power Dual Red Wavelengths Reduced Acne 48%

Researchers evaluated the acne on 28 test subjects. The study authors treated the subjects with both 635 nm and 670 nm red light. They treated only one half of each subject’s face.

The subjects received two treatments a day for 8 weeks (16 treatments). Each treatment lasted 15 minutes.

Acne Reduced by 48%

Observers blinded to treatment protocols evaluated the subjects’ facial acne.

Both 635 nm and 670 nm light significantly reduced the subjects’ acne.

The subjects had an average of 48% lesion reduction.

Acne Resolved with Either Red Light Wavelength

The good news is that people who want to use red light can use an underpowered device of either a lighter or a deeper red, and still get significant results.

Do You Want to Try This Acne Treatment?

This study gives us several pieces of good news about treating acne with light.

The acne lesions resolved even thought the device output only 1/20th of a joule per session.

Each subject had two treatments a day for 8 weeks. It took 15 minutes each to administer the tiny dose.

This tells us that a very low power red light device can significantly reduce acne lesions.

Both 635 nm and 670 nm light worked. This tells us that the wavelength can be at the low end or the high end of the red light range to treat acne.

  • Red light phototherapy alone is effective for acne vulgaris: randomized, single-blinded clinical trial
  • Acne Portable LED Red Light Dose

Red Light Acne Reduction by 23%, Infrared Reduction by 8%

Researchers treated twenty-eight patients with red and infrared light. They treated the right side with 635 nm (red), and the left side with 890 nm (infrared).

Subjects received two treatments a week for 6 weeks, or 12 sessions.

Red Light Treated Acne Reduced by 23%

The side of the face receiving 633 nm light lost about 23% of its acne lesions.

Infrared Light Acne Reduced by 8%

Subjects had uneven faces after the study. The infrared treatment side acne reduced only by 8%.

Split Face Study Design

This study failed to report the energy dose per session. On the bright side, a split face study removes many confounding variables from the conclusion. The diet, sunlight, hormones, and mood effects on acne should be the same on both sides of the face. Therefore, reductions in acne from red light at 23% and infrared at 8% should be trustworthy results.

Do You Want to Try this Acne Treatment?

Treat your face with 635 nm red light twice a week for 6 weeks. We do not know the study’s device’s power. If you do not see results from your device, up the treatment times until you do.

As you will see below, combining infrared with blue light is a great acne treatment. However, this study showed that, 890 nm infrared is only slightly useful in treating acne.

References

  • Comparison of Red and Infrared Low-level Laser Therapy in the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris
  • Acne Red but Not Infrared Light Therapy Dose

Acne Study 4: Green Light Reduced Acne by 67%

Researchers treated twenty-five patients with both acne and redness using a low power laser. Acne lesions faded during and after the study.

Subjects received three treatments over 6 weeks of 585 nm (green) light at an energy dose of 0.55 J/cm^2 (very low energy).

Green Light Treated Acne Reduced by 67%

The researchers were looking for reduced acne, reduced redness, and reduced swelling compared to higher power laser treatments.

Inflammation dropped by 58%. Redness dropped by 21%. Acne improvements started after the second session. Lesions were down 67% by the post-study 6-week follow up. Acne scars faded as well.

Do You Want to Try this Acne Treatment?

Vendors generally do not give out the power specifications of facial masks. That does not matter in this case, because the study used a low level of power to transfer the green light to the subjects’ skin.

You could get a therapy LED mask that emits green light to emulate this study.

References

  • Low-fluence 585 nm Q-switched Nd:YAG laser: a novel laser treatment for post-acne erythema

Explore Light Options

Here are some lights to consider. I know both vendors and highly recommend them.

Article References

  • Acne Blue and Red Light Dose
  • Acne Handheld Device Blue and Red Dose
  • Acne, Inflammatory and Non-Inflammatory Lesions Causes and Solutions
  • Acne Portable LED Red Light Dose
  • Blue and red light combination LED phototherapy for acne vulgaris in patients with skin phototype IV
  • Handheld LED array device in the treatment of acne vulgaris
  • Laser and light based treatments of acne
  • Lasers, Light, and the Treatment of Acne: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature
  • Light-based therapies in acne treatment
  • Low-fluence 585 nm Q-switched Nd:YAG laser: a novel laser treatment for post-acne erythema
  • Red light phototherapy alone is effective for acne vulgaris: randomized, single-blinded clinical trial

 

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