Could Blue Light Therapy Be the Acne Fix You’ve Been Waiting for?

Photo: Abby Maker for Well+Good

Anyone ever wish they could just wave a magic wand and clear up their acne forever? Same. Alas, for now, the closest thing we have to this kind of skin abracadabra is LED blue light therapy: You can literally wave it over your face. But does it actually work?

Until quite recently, LED therapy was something that you could only really get at a dermatologist's or esthetician's office, but as LEDs have become easier to produce (they're in everything from TVs to overhead lightbulbs) they've also made their way into Storm Trooper-esque masks and handheld gadgets to address skin concerns as well.

Phototherapy, or light therapy, is used in different ways throughout skin care. Red LED frequency has been shown to stimulate collagen, while blue has been shown to kill acne-causing bacteria, called P. acnes, which helps you to better deal with bemoaned blemishes.

"Light machines are a great addition to other treatments."

"More and more patients are looking for natural treatments for acne, and the light machines are a great addition to other treatments," says Cybele Fishman, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist. "And they're safe to use everyday."

Equipped with fresh pimples on my face, I turned to a blue light therapy machine for at-home use, hoping it'd work like a light saber to fight my unwelcome breakout.

Keep reading to learn more about LED blue light therapy and what it did for my skin.

blue light therapy for acne
Photo: Abby Maker for Well+Good

Does your skin really respond to light?

I get my hands on Revive's Clinical Acne Treatment LED Blue Light, $129. As directed, I hold it over each area of my face for three minutes. The gadget's super easy to use—it's light and easy to hold (unlike, say, a bulky blow dryer). I just plug it in, press the power button, and the little LED bulbs light up really bright blue.

I proceed to hold it over different sections of my face and scroll through Insta as I make my skin glowier with this high-tech gadget. One note: The reason you can't simply hold your phone against your complexion to get the same benefit is because LEDs emit a very specific wavelength needed to be effective in skin. On skin, the LEDs feel slightly warm, which I take as a promising sign it's really getting in there and ensuring my acne's going to go away.

"I do light therapy for acne in my office, and I tell patients that the home devices are not as powerful as those that professionals use," notes Dr. Fishman. "But they have the advantage of being able to use them whenever it's convenient, and in the longer term, they're cheaper." So even though the dermatologist's tool might be a stronger, you're still likely to see results by virtue of using it day in and day out.

After using my newly procured gadget daily for two-weeks straight in my nighttime skin-care regimen, I've noticed some key things. First of all, my active breakouts rapidly went from inflamed red spots to smaller whiteheads overnight—which sped up their entire lifecycle overall. As for newer pimples: I've definitely still got a few. But they were smaller bumps that healed quicker than they did without using the light.

So even though the pimples didn't disappear completely off my face, I did see a marked reduction. And, anything that helps to squelch them is still a great tool to have in your arsenal. Consider it the light at the end of the acne-riddled tunnel.

To help clear things up, these are the best supplements to take for glowing skin. And these are the all-natural spot treatments you already have in your kitchen.

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