Treating acne is a passion and a chosen specialty for some estheticians. But whether they chose to specialize in acne or not, most estheticians have clients who are dealing with varying degrees of this condition.
To treat acne, an esthetician will start by using salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or retinols. Sometimes, though, clients are nonresponsive, develop a tolerance to home care and acne treatment, or don’t get results fast enough. Fortunately, there are many light-based esthetic acne treatments on the market today that help reduce inflammation, pigmentation, and scarring to diminish the severity of acne vulgaris by targeting the Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) bacteria that leads to this condition.
LED LIGHT THERAPY
LED light therapy is an acne treatment that emits photons of light that are absorbed by the skin and trigger cellular activity.1 Depending on the color of light and its wavelength, the benefits of light therapy vary from rest and rejuvenation to increased circulation, collagen, and elastin.
Blue LED light therapy is an FDA-approved, noninvasive light energy procedure that has been a staple in both the beauty industry and the medical industry for treating a variety of skin conditions. For acne, it is used to kill the C. acnes bacteria within the hair follicle.2 Red LED light therapy is not as effective in targeting C. acnes bacteria but can travel to deeper depths within the skin and reduce inflammation in the sebaceous gland.3 When combined, these two wavelengths are very successful in reducing the number of inflammatory lesions on the skin. For those who suffer noninflammatory grade-one acne, light therapy may not be as effective.4
Unlike more aggressive light energy procedures, LED light therapy has no downtime and no adverse reactions on the skin. It is important to note that blue light therapy on its own is likely not enough to eliminate acne, so multiple sessions combined with additional therapies and proper home care are needed. Although several studies can be found that support the use of blue light therapy and indicate an improvement of 65 percent or more in mild to moderate acne,5 many of these studies are based on self-reported outcomes that may result in a bias. LED light therapy is within scope for most estheticians. Some states may require additional training, or certain wavelengths of color may be out of scope. For example, Virginia allows LED light therapy for master estheticians only.6
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment combining light energy with a photosensitive topical drug and the presence of oxygen. The topical drug becomes active in the presence of light and leads to the destruction of abnormal cells. The most common light energy sources used are blue and red light therapy or intense pulsed light (IPL); however, other light energy sources can be used to activate the photosensitizer, including pulsed dye laser, infrared light, or even sunlight.7 Traditionally, this treatment has been used to kill pre-cancer and cancer cells on the surface of the skin, but recently Photodynamic therapy has become a popular off -label treatment for acne and acne rosacea.8
Article by Maggie Staszcuk
This article appears in the November | December 2021 issue of ASCP Skin Deep magazine.
The award-winning ASCP Skin Deep magazine is the premier estheticians' source for the latest trends, techniques, products, and news from the biggest names in the industry. In this issue:
• Make the Man: Men want healthy skin and seek professional care. Don't have enough male clients? Four esties tell you how to get more
• Drop the Mic: Want to be an awesome podcast guest? Get tips and advice for becoming a formidable, sought-after speaker
• Spread Some Cheer: Gear up for the holiday rush with fun ( and profitable) ways to make the holidays bright - for you and your clients
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1. EstheticianEDU.org, “Everything You Need to Know about Off ering LED Light Treatment in your Esthetics Practice,” accessed August 10, 2021, www.estheticianedu.org/ led-light-treatment.
2. Jayne Leonard, “The Benefi ts and Side Eff ects of Blue Light Treatment for Acne,” Medical News Today, September 3, 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319254.
3. Randie H. Kim and April W. Armstrong, “Current State of Acne Treatment: Highlighting Lasers, Photodynamic Therapy, and Chemical Peels,” Dermatology Online Journal 17, no. 3: 2, https://doi.org/10.5070/D30t40h9px.
4. Randie H. Kim and April W. Armstrong, “Current State of Acne Treatment: Highlighting Lasers, Photodynamic Therapy, and Chemical Peels.”
5. Jayne Leonard, “The Benefi ts and Side Eff ects of Blue Light Treatment for Acne.”
6. EstheticianEDU.org, “Everything You Need to Know about Off ering LED Light Treatment in your Esthetics Practice.”
7. Marilyn T. Wan and Jennifer Y. Lin, “Current Evidence and Applications of Photodynamic Therapy in Dermatology,” Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology 7: 145–63, https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S35334.
8. Marilyn T. Wan and Jennifer Y. Lin, “Current Evidence and Applications of Photodynamic Therapy in Dermatology.”