Blue light therapy, also called photodynamic therapy (PDT), at Colorado Springs Dermatology Clinic can be an effective laser skin treatment for killing acne-causing bacteria and treating active lesions.
For years, people with acne have struggled to control the embarrassing condition with prescription medications and messy creams, many of which had limited effectiveness. Dermatologists are even finding that acne has been starting to develop resistance to antibiotic treatment. Now, there is a safe, non-invasive and effective method of treating acne that leaves your skin smoother, clearer and brighter. Photodynamic therapy (PDT), commonly called blue light therapy, has become a highly recommended alternative to traditional acne treatments. The procedure has the unique ability to minimize pores and reduce oil glands at the same time it is treating the stubborn lesions of acne vulgaris and improving the appearance of acne scars.
How does blue light therapy work?
An effective treatment for treating active acne lesions and destroying the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes, blue light therapy works by using visible blue wavelengths of light in tandem with a photosensitizing agent to penetrate pores and kill the bacteria that cause acne. Blue light therapy can treat active acne lesions and also helps prevents future outbreaks. Once P. acnes is destroyed, inflammation diminishes and the acne clears up.
What is the procedure?
Blue light treatment consists of a series of exposures to high-intensity blue light. Although frequency and level of treatments varies with each individual case, most treatments are scheduled about a week apart.
Blue light treatment may be used on its own. But usually a topical application of Levulan® (ALA or aminolevulinic acid), a photosensitizing agent, is used with blue light treatments for better penetration. After the solution is applied, it is left on under an occlusive dressing for a time period ranging from 30 minutes to three hours. This allows the Levulan® a sufficient amount of time to become absorbed into the skin and into the acne-causing sebaceous (oil) glands to help increase photosensitivity. Once the ALA has been on for a prescribed period of time, dressings are removed and blue light is delivered for about six to 15 minutes. For some procedures, red light or a combination of red and blue light may be used.
What is the difference between using red light and blue light?
Red light and blue light photosensitizing treatments may be used on different types and severity of acne. Red light has a longer wavelength, enabling it to penetrate deeper into the skin than blue light. Some studies have shown that red light is more effective for the treatment of deeper targets like the sebaceous glands. A substance called MAL-PDT is used instead of Levulan® with red light therapy, as it may work better in fatty environments like skin oil and the sebaceous glands.
How many treatments will I need?
Photodynamic blue light treatment is normally administered in a series of three to five appointments spaced at two to four week intervals.
What can I expect afterwards?
Because several days of downtime is involved, this treatment is normally reserved for moderate to severe acne. There may be some pain during treatment, and side effects include redness, swelling, peeling, itching and/or crusting for around a week. People with darker skin may experience some hyperpigmentation (skin darkening) that may last as long as a month. As skin will be temporarily hypersensitive to light, it’s important to stay completely out of the sun for two days after treatment.
What results should I expect?
After three treatments, most patients notice an average reduction of 75 percent in inflammatory acne, with a marked decrease in new outbreaks. These results are semi-permanent, but tend to last for between one and two years. As this is a relatively new treatment, further studies will give more definitive results.
How much does it cost?
The average blue light therapy treatment costs about $400 and normally is not covered by health insurance.