Do You Need to Try Phototherapy for Acne?
Acne is an inflammatory skin disease caused by a decrease in the bactericidal function of the skin and the activation of pathogenic microflora. Sebaceous glands that moisturize and soften the skin begin to produce an increased amount of secretion under the influence of adverse factors. As a result:
- acne emerges;
- the skin looks untidy and causes pain;
- the dilated pores become potential incubators for anaerobic and other infections.
Facts About Acne
- Acne is thought to be the most widespread skin disease in the USA affecting almost 50 million Americans each year.
- Over 90 percent of people worldwide experience acne symptoms at some stage of their life.
- Even though acne can appear at any point in the individual’s life and may continue up to 30s and 40s, the majority of people experience acne between the ages of 12 and 24.
- There are cases when acne occurs in older age or affects small children; in this case, it may indicate a concomitant disease.
The Nature of Acne Skin Disease
The most common reason for acne appearing on the skin of the face and body is hormonal imbalance. Of course, the teenage is the most striking example. This is the period when both boys and girls experience changes in appearance, body shape, and self-perception, however, these hormonal changes may also result in rashes.
Even if the maturation takes place within normal limits and the skin is quite thin and problem-free, it’s impossible to pass the puberty period without a single pimple.
Active hormone changes also happen in women during pregnancy and a certain phase of the menstrual cycle or may be associated with endocrine disorders in adults. Other factors causing acne involve:
- use of steroids;
- improper nutrition;
- vitamin deficiency;
- hereditary factors;
- reduced immunity;
- stressful conditions;
- diseases of internal organs;
- poor hygiene;
- applying too much decorative cosmetics;
- other reasons to take into account.
Depending on the causes of acne, it may have different localization or active rash. This should be taken into consideration by a specialist when prescribing a treatment. Let’s take a look at the main types of this skin condition.
What are the main types of acne?
Doctors distinguish the following types of acne:
Comedo – a greasy plug, clogged pore that can cause further inflammation. A comedo can be a blackhead or whitehead. If the cork forms in the upper part of the pores, it is an open comedo, this type of comedo has a black color. Closed comedones are located more deeply in the pores. They appear as dense white, fatty balls on the skin. If such a comedo gets infected, it develops in a papula.
Papula – a dense, painful to palpate knot on the skin formed by skin irritations and diseases. When pressed, it becomes pale and then pours blood again. Papula color can vary from red to blue.
Pustule – forms when the walls around the patient’s pores break down. This skin formation is filled with pus. Pustules are typically red in color and have yellow or white heads on top.
Cysts – the heavy form of pustules that are no longer isolated but form conglomerates that penetrate deep into the derm. This is the most severe form of acne disease accompanied not only by extensive areas of acne lesions but also by hyperthermia, and muscle, and bone pain. Cysts require immediate medical intervention.
Classification to Consider
Doctors also differentiate acne by severity:
The first degree (I) – only one area of the face is affected (e.g. the forehead or chin). The rash is mostly in the form of the comedo, occasionally papules and pustules.
The second degree (II) – is different from the first degree in the number of rashes: a large surface of the body is affected. The second degree of acne also involves comedones and single papules or pustules.
The third-degree (III) – comedones are accompanied by a large number of papules and pustules and inflammatory processes. There is a possibility of skin hyperemia (redness, itching). The post-acne scars are visible.
The fourth degree (IV) – comes in the form of ball-shaped pimples of large size (more than five millimeters) and blue-red color. These pimples penetrate deep into the layers of the dermis and leave big atrophic scars.
How to Diagnose and Treat Acne
To examine patients with acne comprehensively, doctors conduct several blood tests including biochemical blood counts, general blood analysis, and more specific ones. For the most effective treatment of acne, it’s necessary to determine its major cause. A dermatologist finds the optimal method of acne treatment considering the test results, patient complaints, the form of the disease, and its severity.
The treatment of acne is an extensive process that requires full dedication from the patient side. A patient should give up smoking and drinking alcohol, and maintain a diet. Modern methods of acne treatment involve:
- local and systemic antibiotics;
- a variety of cosmetics.
Nevertheless, there are certain groups of patients who are resistant to any type of acne treatment mentioned above. Here is where acne light therapy is essential. Experts name this kind of treatment one of the safest and the most efficient ones.
How Does Phototherapy for Acne Work?
Phototherapy is a worldly recognized treatment used for acne and other skin conditions. Dermatologists prescribe light therapy for curing acne on any area of the body and for any type from closed and open comedones to nodules and cysts. Acne light therapy is also used to fight against:
- stagnant inflammatory processes;
- post-acne scars;
UV lights penetrate deep into the dermis, suppress hypersecretion of sebum, and destroy bacterial cells, thus eliminating the causes of the disease. Generally, light therapy for acne provides several effects:
- antibacterial (destruction of pathogenic microflora);
- anti-inflammatory (stopping the inflammatory process);
- stimulation of recovery (activation of collagen production and faster healing).
Among different types of acne light therapy, the narrow-band UVB light therapy with wavelengths of 311nm is the most efficient and the safest one. With narrow-band phototherapy for acne, patients can now forget about antibiotics and retinoids that can negatively influence their health and emotional state if a patient uses them for a long time.
Advantages of Phototherapy
In fact, several studies have confirmed that acne has a negative impact on a person’s quality of life, self-esteem, and mood, and even may provoke the symptoms of depression and anxiety. So you need to be extremely careful with your treatment. Among the main advantages of narrow-band light therapy for acne one can distinguish:
- high efficiency of sessions;
- an absolutely non-traumatic method;
- comfort and painlessness of treatment;
- possibility to perform the procedure on any part of the body;
- no period of rehabilitation required;
- the additional cosmetic effect of the procedure lightening of pigment spots.
Can Phototherapy for Acne Be Used Home-Based?
If earlier patients had to visit clinics to undergo phototherapy in special cabins with fluorescent lamps, today the newly-designed lamps allow performing light therapy at home.
The high-level comfort and the possibility to use the lamp at any convenient location make it the #1 solution for your issues. Besides, using home-designed UVB lamps, patients can now treat the separate parts of their bodies instead of irradiating the whole body.
UVB lamps save patients time and money. Only in America, costs associated with acne treatment exceeds $1.2 billion a year. One session of phototherapy for acne in a clinic costs about $150. At the same time, patients can pay around $400 once for home-designed lamps and use them countless times.
What Dose of the UV Light Should You Start With?
Even though narrow-band phototherapy is generally safe, your body needs time to get used to radiation. This is why patients start with a small dose of ultraviolet light and increase it gradually. The initial dose of the acne light therapy is calculated based on the individual sensitivity to the UV light and the patient’s skin type (according to the Fitzpatrick skin classification).
The first session of light therapy for acne usually takes less than a minute. It is prohibited to use a high dose of UV light at the very beginning! Instead of positive effects, you can face awful experiences. The large and uncontrolled amount of ultraviolet light can cause burns or irritation on your skin.
How to Prepare Yourself for the Phototherapy Procedure
1. Two weeks before the procedure you shouldn’t:
- sunbathe or visit the tanning salon;
- perform chemical peelings;
- take medicines that make your skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light.
2. Three days before the procedure:
- don’t wipe the skin area you will irradiate with alcohol-containing products;
- don’t visit saunas, baths, and swimming pools.
3. Right before the procedure:
- you shouldn’t put on lotion or moisturizer 24 hours prior to the procedure;
- you should cover the parts of your body on which you’re not applying phototherapy with sunscreen;
- you should wear safety glasses keeping them on during the whole procedure (each reliable phototherapy company provides customers with glasses);
- you should keep your eyes closed during the entire session when you’re treating eyelids.
What to Do After the Phototherapy
Acne light therapy is one of the safest treatments for various face and body diseases. Despite it doesn’t cause tissue destruction and there’s no recovery period, you still need to follow some safety measures after each procedure. To prevent the complications and achieve good results, you should:
- apply a scentless moisturizer such as Eucerin, Aquaphor, or Cetaphil at least once a day;
- use sunscreen with the SPF – no less than 35;
- avoid sunbathing and sauna during the treatment course and 2 weeks after sessions are finished;
- avoid scrubbing / peeling your skin for 14 days (2 weeks).
How Many Procedures Do You Need to Take?
The length and frequency of phototherapy for acne are prescribed in each case individually. It’s based on the treatment area and severity of the disease. Procedures can be performed once every day or once every 2 days. The course consists of 5-15 procedures on average. Most patients see the first noticeable effect after 2-3 sessions.
However, it may take longer for the third and fourth degrees of acne. It’s because phototherapy has an accumulative result. Patients might need to undergo one procedure a week to maintain the obtained results after remission.
To wrap up, acne light therapy is an effective treatment that can help you overcome the unpleasant symptoms of acne and improve the overall quality of your life while saving your budget. Stop wasting your precious time, start your treatment today!