One of the biggest sensations in the home acne treatment world today is the introduction of “laser therapy” and “light therapy” tools and kits that allow people to perform treatments on themselves. These devices are advertised as tools you can use from home in order to get rid of acne, but do they really work? And are they safe to use? Keep reading to find out!
Laser Kits vs Light Therapy Tools for Acne
One of the biggest misconceptions about home laser and light therapy for acne is that there is actually a huge difference between the two and the only similarity is that the technology is based off of light. Laser therapies for skin problems make use of lasers, using the targeted destructive power of the laser to attempt to break up collagen fibers that cause scaring and discoloration.
Light therapies on the other hand use low-intensity LED light in an effort to reduce acne. The claim is that the light can destroy bacteria that cause acne that live on the surface of the skin. Makers of some products also promote other beauty claims but significant scientific evidence in support for or against has yet to be established.
Avoid Home-Based Laser Therapy
It is not recommended to use “laser therapy” on yourself. Lasers are high-powered beams of light. When misused, they can cause real, permanent damage, pain, skin discoloration, and more. Laser therapy tools should only be used by a licensed dermatologist or qualified physician’s assistant. In many locales you may find “beauty clinics’ or spas where a “technician” may perform laser therapy treatments, but personally I would never let someone who was not at least a physician’s assistant point a laser at my skin. If used improperly, scars and discoloration that result can be permanent!
The problem with only getting laser therapy for acne from a dermatologist is that it would be far too expensive for most of us mere mortals. As a result, laser therapy is actually not commonly used to treat acne, but rather for help clearing up acne scars and skin discoloration.
Some dermatologists do perform laser therapy for acne, but the treatment is cost-prohibitive for most of the population, at least in the USA. For acne, laser therapy is often used with a medical gel. The laser activates the ingredients in the gel that in turn fight acne in targeted spots. While many dermatologists and spas recommend this approach, I question (note: I am not a doctor, just a skeptic observer) whether these treatments are performed because they are actually more effective than traditional treatments or if it is because they make a lot of money for the business! Getting laser therapy once per week in perpetuity can cost tens of thousands of dollars when you add it up over the years. If you can afford it, go for it, but if you are not rich, I would at least initially pursue cheaper options before signing up for such an expensive therapy.
These laser treatments are indeed effective, but are they any more effective than simply using the much more affordable benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid? At the time of the time of this writing, I do not know of any large scale, head-to-head clinical trials that pit the long-term effectiveness of laser acne therapies versus the traditional benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Laser therapy trials tend to simply compare those who get nothing (the control) versus those that get treated. Large scale clinical trials are very expensive to operate, especially when you consider there are several forms of acne laser therapy all competing over which one is the best. Whether or not laser therapy is worth the high cost is still up in the air and will likely not be established any time soon.
Do not think about trying to perform laser therapy on yourself in an effort to save money. Here is a quick real-life story on the dangers of unlicensed use of laser therapy that involves two mutual friends. The first was a lady who sold medical equipment to dermatologist offices. In particular, one of her top products was the laser tool used for blemish and scar reduction. The saleswoman knew the tool inside and out from selling it so many times. She had a friend with bad acne scars and freckles that wanted improved skin but did not want to pay to visit a Dermatologist.
The saleswoman offered to illegally perform the treatment on her friend who had scars and freckles free of charge. After all, the saleswoman had access to the devices since she was selling them, and no one had to know since it was performed in their own homes.
Well, as you can imagine, it did not go well. Whether the saleswoman had the device turned up to too high of an intensity or continued the treatment for too long, the results were not good. All of the treated areas turned bright white! Rather than having natural looking freckles, bright white dots now occupy this poor woman’s face. While they have faded over time, it serves as a lesson for all of us: stay away from underground beauty clinics and treatments.
Using Light Therapy for Acne Relief
Home therapy tools are not laser therapy at all but rather light therapy. Rather than using a laser, these tools use gentle LED lights in an effort to treat acne. The claim is that the LED lighting is able to kill bacteria on the surface of the skin that cause acne.
Does Light Therapy Really Work?
Whether or not the claim that LED therapy can safely destroy bacteria is 100% accurate has yet to be established. It may help destroy bacteria and it may not – we just do not know. The user reviews on Amazon for the most popular kit are actually decent, with about 75% of people saying they liked the product and about 25% saying it did nothing for them. While I try to keep an open mind about alternative therapies (especially those with good anecdotal evidence), the claims do seem a bit far-fetched.
The biggest problem I have with such a tool is that cream and cleanser-based treatment kits like the one recommended in our Exposed Skin Care review have already been scientifically demonstrated with a known path of action to destroy bacteria that cause acne, so why bother with something that may or may not destroy acne? Additionally, the light therapy tools do not provide any means for clearing out blocked pores, which is essential in preventing new acne from forming.
The only reason I can think of for trying out a light therapy tool for acne is if benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid treatments did not work for you or if you found them to make your skin irritated and itchy. Some people also just do not like acne treatment creams from the convenience factor (although light therapy tools are not any more convenient in my opinion).
The Most Popular Acne Home Light Therapy Tool
If you still want to give one of these tools a try, one of the most popular LED therapy tool for acne is the Sirius SS-77 Aurora by Sirius. You can read customer reviews and pick one up with free shipping by ordering through Amazon.