*Updated on 8/7/2020
You may know already that light therapy can enhance the appearance of your skin in many different ways, including improving skin tone and reducing wrinkles. Another, sometimes overlooked use for LED light therapy is the treatment of blackheads. Blackheads, the most common form of acne, are a skin concern for people of all ages.
When you understand what causes blackheads and how different colors of light can affect them, you will see why light therapy is a safe and effective way to effortlessly treat blackheads at home.
What are Blackheads and How Do They Form?
Blackheads are one of many symptoms of acne that form when dirt, oil and debris become trapped in the skin’s pores. Blackheads are classified as open comedones, because they’re open to the air — as opposed to whiteheads, which are “closed” by a thin layer of skin.
The oil that pores secrete is called sebum, as it comes from the sebaceous glands. Sebum keeps hair and skin from drying out. It also collects dead skin cells as it travels up a hair follicle and moves them toward the skin’s surface. The excess sebum binds the dead skin cells and clogs your pores. This is a natural, daily process.
Exposure to air oxidizes clogged pores, turning cells brown or black. The result is a visible blackhead. Production of sebum also increases during puberty, which is why teenagers tend to get more blackheads and acne, though adult acne can be a problem as well.
Treatment Options for Blackheads
Scrubbing, scratching, or picking at blackheads cannot entirely remove them, since they are inside the pores. Too much abrasion can actually lead to dry skin and inflammation. And by touching your face, you transfer even more dirt and oil from your hands to your pores.
One approach to remove blackheads is with pore strips or face masks, which adhere to the skin and then are peeled away, reportedly lifting away the blackheads. The Cleveland Clinic says to “tread lightly” when using pore strips and masks, however, as they can cause dryness and irritation with minimal benefit to your complexion.
A gentler approach to removing blackheads is with light therapy. Light therapy treatments are non-invasive with minimal to no side effects or risks from overuse. Using light therapy for blackheads is especially attractive for individuals with sensitive skin, who may experience adverse reactions to topical retinol creams or dermabrasion.
Using Blue Light Therapy for Blackheads
LED light therapy devices use different wavelengths of light producing colors ranging from violet and blue toward one end of the spectrum to infrared toward the other to treat various areas of the body. It can be administered in a clinical setting or at home with few, if any side effects.
Blue light therapy kills bacteria, which contribute to acne formation. A study published in the Journal of Aesthetic Dermatology monitored participants with mild to moderate acne as they self-treated with blue light for eight weeks. The researchers concluded, “the total number of open comedones on the face during the treatment period was reduced significantly.” Though blue light therapy is predominantly used for acne, it can also help with psoriasis and other skin conditions.
Incorporating Red Light Therapy Into Your Acne Treatments
Red and infrared light penetrate the skin more deeply than blue light, reaching the sebaceous glands. According to Acne.org, red light therapy can shrink oil glands and reduce the amount of sebum produced. In addition, red light reduces inflammation and supports cell regrowth, enhancing the overall appearance and health of the skin. Unlike laser therapy or abrasion, red light therapy doesn’t need to destroy skin tissue in order to rebuild it.
At-Home Light Therapy Devices vs. Clinical Treatment
It used to be that light therapy was only available at a dermatologist’s office. Many doctors continue to offer it, however some will only do so for patients with severe acne. Health insurance may not cover the procedure if it is considered cosmetic. One advantage of a clinical application is that a doctor may fine-tune the treatment by applying topical creams before or during light therapy.
At-home light therapy may take more sessions to show results, but you can use the device any time, multiple times a day if you wish. For a one-time investment in a light therapy device for blackheads, you can treat a whole range of skin conditions at your convenience.
Best Light Therapy Devices for Blackheads
The best way to treat blackheads at home is by using an LED device that combines blue and red light therapy, such as the dpl® IIa Panel. As the blue light destroys the acne-causing bacteria, the red light treats the sebaceous glands and reduces inflammation. The red light can also help prevent any scarring that might be left by the acne.
Another convenient option for blackhead treatment is to use a red and blue light cleansing device like the reVive Light Therapy® Soniqué™. Its sonic vibrations massage the skin and open the pores for a deeper clean.
How to Use Your Acne Light Therapy Device for the Best Results
Keep in mind light therapy is working from the inside out. For the best results, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, hold the device close enough to your skin to have its full effect, and allow your body at least a few weeks to notice a difference. Use light therapy regularly as part of your acne fighting regimen, and care for your device correctly so it can continue working for you for a long time.