If adult acne is all up in your business, then you've probably tried every treatment going that promises to destroy your blemishes. From benzoyl peroxide to salicylic acid and treatments like the controversial Roaccutane, there's no shortage of fixes that promise to get you on track to clear skin.
But the latest, slightly scarily futuristic method of eliminating blemishes comes neither in the guise of a topical treatment, nor of a tablet. Enter stage right: LED light therapy.
LED light therapy for acne: what you need to know
What is LED light therapy?
LED light therapy involves targeting spots with LED light, in order to kill the bacteria that causes the pesky pimples. There are both masks, which cover your entire face and feel very Texas Chain Saw Massacre, as well as more compact, hand-held devices, which you use to nix a single blemish at a time.
Historically, you would have needed to head to a dermatologist's clinic for this sort of treatment, but a slew of at-home products have appeared over the latter end of 2018 and the first few months of 2019.
Blue LED light is for clearing acne, while research shows that red LED light can help out with anti-ageing, by boosting collagen production. Most LED light treatments will let you use a combination of the two, for extra bang for your buck, but you can just one or the other.
'When you get a spot, it doesn't just appear out of nowhere. It affects an entire area, therefore reproducing more acne in the same part of your face,' dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross, the brains behind LED light therapy mask the SpectraLite FaceWare Pro tells WH. 'The blue light kills pimple-breeding bacteria, at scale.'
Clever. But that's not all, folks. As well as clearing acne, the treatment can reduce the appearance of existing blemishes, making disguising them easier.
'LED light kills the acne before it can incite an immune response from your body. Red LED light also helps to reduce inflammation which brings down the acne bump. This ultimately allows you to better cover the blemish with make-up.'
How often do I need to use LED light therapy to see results?
Yeah, so this is a time investment. You need to be using a mask or treatment somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour three or four times a week on an on-going basis over a few months, at the very least. No doubt, this is not a quick fix.
Are there side effects when you use LED light therapy?
This is one major advantage. If you've been using medication such as Roaccutane, which can cause your skin to peel and mess with your moods, then you'll be glad to know that there's none of that, here.
Anything else LED light therapy do for your skin?
Using LED therapy is said to make your skin firmer and even out your skin tone – as well as preventing acne flare-ups.
How should I use a LED light therapy skincare tool at home?
After cleansing and exfoliating your face, you're ready to use your mask or tool. The only watch out is to ensure that any make-up has been removed from your skin.
I had professional LED light therapy for acne in the run-up to my wedding: here's what happened
Women's Health digital editor Amy Hopkinson tried out a form of LED light therapy using a machine called a TheraClear which both sucks out sebum from pores, as well as killing acne-causing bacteria, before she was set to get hitched. This was administered by a dermatologist in a professional, clinical setting. Here's her review.
If Henry Hoover and light therapy had a baby, then it would be called 'TheraClear.' Unlike other blue light treatments that simply radiate light all over your face, this machine goes one step further by combining light therapy with a vacuum to unblock pores, as well as killing acne bacteria.
This two-step process is what dermatologist Dr David Jack, one of the few skin experts in London to have this machine, believes is key to its results. ‘Many therapies aren’t strong enough to produce the results that clients are after – however, TheraClear is, thanks to the use of targeted heat and light on the problem areas,' he says.
In the run up to my winter wedding and stressed out by the adult acne that has plagued my jawline since my twenties, I booked in for a course. While I don't deal with especially terrible skin issues, as anyone with acne knows, it always feels ten times worse than it looks to outsiders when it's you sporting the spots.
So, how does TheraClear work its magic? By using suction to remove sebum (the oil the skin produces that ultimately causes acne) from your pores, and then destroying the bacteria that allows it to spread with broadlight, it can dramatically reduce the severity of your acne after a full course of treatment.
My appointments were relatively tight on time (each session took a maximum of 10 minutes and there was no recovery period) and all that was needed was a swab of my face to remove any make-up, before I was being blasted with the futuristic machine.
The process is neither unpleasant nor painful – in fact, I spent most sessions laughing at the hilarity of the sucking and beeping that was going on.
It’s advised that for best results you should have between six and eight treatments, spaced seven to ten days apart. I tried in earnest to find time in my diary to do this, but with so much to plan (we organised our wedding in eight weeks) there were some weeks when I had to attack my to do list, not my acne.
That said, I have still seen improvements in my ‘active acne’ – and this is the first month in I don't know how long that my skin hasn’t completely lost its shit on the run up to my period.
Eight weeks later and this is where I’m at. Dr Jack has recommended that I have two to four top up sessions in the next six months, to ensure I keep my acne bacteria under control – so, I’m not out of the woods yet. However, it’s a small price to pay (£145 per session) to reduce redness and reduce future breakouts – two things that really knock my confidence.