Acne : UV Light treatment


Acne : UV Light treatment

Light therapy against acne is a way to treat your skin issues, and Ultraviolet / UV light used to be one of them. Used to, because UV light therapy is no longer recommended by dermatologists as risks are higher than benefits. Instead, they recommend Blue light therapy.
Here are the 3 best articles from the net about UV light therapy, what it is, why it may be dangerous even if, at first, you may get results :

UV Light for Acne Treatment

UV light acneAcne is one of the most common skin problems that people face. Although the skin disorder plagues teenagers, many adults struggle with it as well. Through the years, physicians have developed a variety of treatments in an attempt to control and cure acne. Ultraviolet light (UV light) is one such treatment.


For decades, people have thought that exposure to light reduced acne. When dermatologists started providing UV light acne treatments, the public received it well. But over time, the side effects became evident. Researchers discovered that frequent exposure to UV light increases the risk of skin cancer. Eventually, physicians stopped using UV light in treating acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “UV light can damage the skin and is no longer used to treat acne.


In acne-afflicted skin, bacteria that live on the surface of healthy skin, Propionobacterium acnes or P. acnes, infect the follicle. Once the bacteria become trapped beneath a layer of dead skin and oil, they produce inflammation and the condition known as acne. The acne bacteria release substances called porphyrins. A UV acne treatment releases a wavelength of light, which passes through the infected follicle. Porphyrins absorb the light and produce a free radical that kills the P. acnes bacteria.


UV light dermatologistThe free radicals generated by UV light also eliminate healthy vitamin C and vitamin A from the skin. These vitamins promote healthy skin by building collagen, which keeps skin looking young, supple and wrinkle-free. UV treatments also can cause sleep disorders, headaches and nausea. In addition, regular exposure to certain wavelengths of UV light can lead to cancer. Other methods have been developed that use light therapy to treat acne but do not use harmful UV light.


As an alternative to using UV light to treat acne, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of another form of light therapy: blue light therapy. The blue light therapy used today does not contain the harmful UV rays that light therapy previously used. Another procedure involving light, pulsed light and heat energy therapy, combines light and heat to target the principal causes of acne. These light therapies, when done in junction with certain medications, prove more effective against acne. Some people mistakenly refer to these treatments as UV light treatments.


Typical light-based treatment sessions for acne take a minimal amount of time, perhaps 15 minutes, three times a week, over the course of several weeks. Your doctor may instruct you to apply a topical medicine to increase your skin’s sensitivity to the light. Depending on the treatment, a doctor or technician may use a wand attached to a machine to deliver pulses of light to the skin. Or he may have you sit in front of a light box that delivers the rays of light.


In Depth: Ultraviolet Light and Tanning

What is ultraviolet (UV) light ?

ultraviolet light acneUV light includes the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation that is shorter than that of visible light. UV light is most commonly found in sunlight and artificial UV sources, such as tanning beds. Blacklights also produce light in the UV spectrum, with wavelengths just shorter than visible blue light. UV light is classified into 3 general groups:

UV-A (315-400 nm) – e.g. blacklights
UV-B (285-315 nm) – e.g. tanning beds
UV-C (100-285 nm) – e.g. germicidal UV light systems

Sunlight contains a full spectrum of colors, including the UV spectrum. However, shorter wavelength electromagnetic radiation is largely absorbed by the atmosphere. As a result only low levels of UV-B, and minute levels of UV-C reach the earth’s surface. UV-B and UV-C light are both capable of causing damage to DNA and the collagen matrix that supports the skin. Because of this, excessive exposure to sunlight and/or tanning booths can lead to accelerated aging of the skin and possibly skin cancer.

What does UV light exposure do ?

Exposure to ultraviolet light, particularly UV-B, can cause sunburns and trigger the production of the pigment melanin in a process commonly known as “tanning”. Exposure to ultraviolet light is important for the natural production of vitamin D in the skin. Ultraviolet light can also directly damage DNA, potentially causing genetic mutations. Ultraviolet light, particularly in the shorter wavelengths, is toxic to bacteria. Longer wavelength UV light can efficiently excite the porphyrins in Propionibacterium acnes bacteria, killing the bacteria in the same fashion as blue light phototherapy.

Is UV light therapy an effective treatment for acne ?

UV exposure and sunburns produce large changes in the affected skin tissue, and these changes can impact acne symptoms. Lots of people strongly believe that tanning improves their complexion. While there is certainly some truth to this, the scientific research indicates that UV exposure, tanning and sunburns are a mixed bag when it comes to acne. On the positive side, a tan (or a sunburn) can even out one’s complexion, decreasing the appearance of acne. In addition, research indicates that UV light is toxic to the bacteria that cause acne, although it is unclear whether UV light penetrates the skin deeply enough to have much benefit in this respect. It is possible that the increase in skin temperature during an acute sunburn may make sebum less viscous (less sticky), aiding in clearance of sebum plugs. Finally, UV exposure appears to modulate the immune response in the skin, inhibiting or depleting certain classes of white blood cells called Mast Cells and Langerhans Cells, which are involved in immune activation and inflammation. Depletion of these cells could potentially result in short term improvements in inflammatory acne. On the negative side, UV light can change some non-comedogenic molecules into comedogenic molecules, potentially aggravating acne in the long term. The research is indeed quite mixed on the relationship between UV exposure and acne.

How and where is UV light therapy administered ?

uv light therapyThe most common source of UV light exposure is the sun. The second most common source are the UV bulbs used for tanning. Tanning beds usually employ fluorescent bulbs that emit UV-A and UV-B light. Ultraviolet light therapy is also administered in many dermatology clinics, primarily for the treatment of psoriasis and eczema. For these treatments, a specialized source of UV-B light (310-315 nm) is commonly used.

How much does UV light therapy/tanning cost ?

The cost of UV light therapy varies from free (the sun) up to ~$100 per treatment (dermatologist). The cost of a tanning session (the most common source) often ranges between $5 and $25 per session. There are no established guidelines on the amount of exposure or treatment frequency for treating acne.


Acne Myths Exposed – The Truth About Sunshine

In the years before now, one of the most common acne and skin care treatments suggested by doctors was the exposure of one’s skin to the sun. This was thought to clear up acne, and the immediate improvements immediately following sun exposure seemed proof that the treatment worked. However, today’s dermatologists, doctors, and skin care specialists are all in agreement – sun is not good for the skin, whether acne-prone or not. So why is the sun so harmful?

acne treatment uv lightThe basic story is this. The sun emits electromagnetic radiation, energy that reaches the earth in a variety of wavelengths. Certain wavelengths are visible to the human eye; others seem completely invisible. Ultraviolet (UV) rays are one wavelength category of electromagnetic energy that can’t be seen by humans. UV rays have three general groupings, namely UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. All these rays can damage the skin, although UVA rays are the main concern. This is because 99% of the ultraviolet radiation that makes it through the ozone layer are of that wavelength group. Also, since UVA rays don’t cause sunburn, it is very difficult to measure the amount of exposure an individual may receive.

Skin damage occurs when ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin, causing changes in the cells and potentially even mutating their DNA, a problem which can lead to cancer. People often think of suntans as indicative of controlled exposure, while believing that only sunburns (technically called erythema) are negative for their health. Many don’t realize, however, that a suntan, like a sunburn, also indicates an injury to the skin. In fact, suntans can not be acquired without first damaging the epidermis. When UVB rays penetrate the epidermis, the skin reacts by stimulating melanin production to limit the depth of future radiation exposure. A suntan, therefore, is the skin’s reaction to injury.

While the sun may be a temporary help for acne, the long-term picture is not so good. The sun is thought to kill acne-causing skin bacteria, and to blend in new acne scars and blemishes, however continued UV ray exposure actually increases the likelihood of clogged pores as a result of increased oil production and dead skin cell retention. For those with skin prone to acne, sun exposure can be a double-edged sword; they may be reluctant to use sunscreen to avoid adding grease to their face, but the unprotected exposure actually leads to more skin damage and likely more oil, so more clogged pores and acne.

best acne treatment uv lightFortunately, several products have recently been developed that promise non-comedogenic effects, meaning that they have been proven to not cause acne. In addition to sunscreens, these include several moisturizers and even makeup products like foundation that include protection of up to SPF 15. SPF, of course, stands for Sun Protection Factor, and is a measure of how long a product protects the skin against sunburn when compared to how quickly the skin would burn without that protection. SPF 15 means that a person can stay in the sun for 15 times longer than they could without that protection, and without burning. So, for instance, if a person can spend only 10 minutes in the sun without burning, SPF 15 would extend that to 150 minutes, and SPF 30 would protect the skin for up to 300 minutes. This estimate, of course, depends on physical exertion and product exposure to water, both of which could mean that sunscreen needs to be re-applied more quickly.

For those with acne problems, sun exposure is not the idealized treatment it was thought to be. In addition to aging the skin and potentially causing skin cancer, the ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun can actually increase sebum production and sun-damaged skin cells can block pores. Temporary acne relief may last for the first few days after sun exposure, but acne generally returns quickly, and sometimes more severely. Acne-prone skin, just like any skin, should be protected from UV damage by using oil-free products containing a good SPF of at least 15. Covering the skin with loose-fitting clothing, and shading the face with a hat can also protect the skin. The sun is wonderful, but enjoy it responsibly and be well-aware of the risks.


Hope you’ll find these articles about UV light therapy useful, and that it will help you to search for Blue light therapy instead.