For many young people, acne is more than a skin condition. It's also a stigma that negatively impacts confidence and social interactions, with consequences that can last a lifetime. Adults can suffer from acne too, and continue to experience many of the same daunting emotional effects. New technology-based therapies for acne are changing lives as well as complexions. Nowak Aesthetics in Chula Vista, CA is pleased to offer these treatments.
Acne is a condition where skin pores become blocked by oils, bacteria, and dead cells. The visible symptoms of these natural and often unavoidable blockages are clinically named "acne vulgaris." Pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and nodules are only a few of the results that are terrifyingly familiar to adolescents. They are the people most at risk for acne because their bodies are undergoing the broad hormonal changes that occur between puberty and adulthood.
A Long-Lasting Condition
For most people, the acne breakouts brought on by these hormonal changes subside as adulthood sets in. Many people, however, continue to live with acne outbreaks well into their 20s and 30s, and often even older. The emotional traumas that accompany teenaged acne can be felt even more severely by an adult.
Even after puberty is over and our hormones calm down, acne can still come back to haunt us. Certain over the counter and prescription medications can cause an outbreak. A diet that's out of balance can quickly express itself on the skin. Even the old hormone problem comes back for an encore during pregnancy when many women suffer acne breakouts.
The Latest in Acne Treatment
One of the most remarkable advances in acne treatments has been the introduction of phototherapy. As its name implies, this treatment works with light as the main ingredient. The therapy is a controlled application of visible light that's been concentrated in the blue wavelength section of the light spectrum. Unlike ultraviolet (UV) light that's both invisible and harmful to the skin, blue light is safe and does not damage the skin.
When the therapy is applied, the blue light waves reach into the surface of the skin to kill the pathogens known as "Propionibacterium acnes," or P. acnes for short. These bacteria live inside hair follicles. When skin pores get blocked with excess oil and dead skin, the bacteria are able to multiply and cause acne breakouts. Blue light therapy kills this bacteria, which reduces the effects of the current outbreak and helps prevent future ones.
How Light Therapy Is Different
Unlike topical treatments that people generally turn to for acne treatment, light therapy for acne works from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Conventional lotions and gels for acne are applied to the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). There they soak up excess oil and eventually sink deeper into the skin. Depending on the product used, some may also attack the P. acne bacteria.
Light therapy works in the opposite way. While some wavelengths directly destroy bacteria at the outer skin level, others travel past the epidermis and go to work eliminating P. acnes beneath the skin's surface. The phototherapy procedure is completely safe, comfortable and painless, and usually completed in under a half an hour.
How Quickly Does It Work?
Blue light therapy is administered over a period of several weeks in a dermatology office. The therapy sessions are usually spaced several days apart during this period to allow the skin time to adapt and recover from the effects of each treatment. The actual amount of time needed for each session depends on how large an area is being treated as well as the severity of the acne.
The first results from the treatment are usually noticeable within 2-4 weeks. Results sometime show up sooner in milder cases. While there's no "cure" for acne, significant improvement in visible lesions (in other words, successful acne treatment) is usually attained in about a month. Compared to topical treatments, which require months of diligent application to show results, this is remarkably fast.
Does My Complexion Matter?
While many light and laser-based skin technologies are only effective on certain types of complexions, blue light therapy is effective for all skin types and all ages. Acne vulgaris is a widespread condition, with similar root causes throughout the different population groups that experience it. The presence of P. acne bacteria, clogged pores, and excess oil buildup are universal triggers for acne outbreaks. Blue light destroys them for all types of patients.
Are There Side Effects?
Blue light therapy has proven itself through both clinical studies and patient satisfaction as an effective remedy for most types of acne lesions. Importantly, there are no side effects. While some patients report redness or sensitivity in the skin areas that have been treated with blue light, these are generally minor and disappear within hours or a day. There are no other recorded side effects to this safe, non-invasive therapy.
How Well Does It Work?
In a typical clinical trial, thirty patients with mild to moderate facial acne were given blue light therapy for acne treatment. The clinicians measured inflammation in follow-up visits over the next three months. While some patients reported visible reductions soon after the therapy began, by week five, the group's condition had been improved by 65%: a nearly 2/3 reduction. At eight weeks, the visible improvement was even more pronounced, and the maximum effect was observed by week twelve.
Why Light Therapy?
Light therapy is an easier, more powerful way of fighting acne. It's the professional way. Most people that suffer acne start by using one or more over-the-counter skin preparations for relief. These topical ointments and gels typically need to be applied twice a day, which demands a routine and adds up in cost. The most common ingredients in these products are benzoyl peroxide, which kills bacteria and reduces skin oil production, and salicylic acid, which fights inflammation.
Better Than Over-the-Counter
For many people, over-the-counter treatments are eventually effective. However, the length of time that they take to work can be frustrating. Topical treatments can also be hard on the skin, causing irritation and redness, which makes the problem look worse. Dermatologists recommend starting with lower-strengths of benzoyl peroxide, and if that doesn't work, moving up to stronger doses. It takes weeks to determine the right routine, and even in a best-case scenario, it takes several months for the treatment to work.
Better Than Antibiotics
For more stubborn or intense acne, some dermatologists may prescribe an antibiotic. While these medications can quickly help to bring acne flareups down, they may also induce side effects, particularly to the gastric system. Antibiotics frequently destroy the "good" bacteria that are found in the intestines. This can result in stomach problems and a later need for probiotic remedies.
Better Than Hormonal Medications
Other medications used for acne treatment include hormone-based solutions, such as birth control pills. These are used to change the body's hormonal balance. Depending on the patient, the acne may clear up. However, the potential side effects of these medications are obvious; hormonal balance is a serious business. Side effects can include wide mood alterations and desiccation (drying out) of delicate nose and lip tissues, which can cause new problems.
How Long Does Light Therapy Last?
Clinical observation and patient feedback show that the beneficial effects of blue light therapy continue to build for two to three months after the treatments. This is because the therapy not only treats already-present outbreaks of acne, it's also serving to pre-empt future breakouts.
Patients, especially teens, should understand that acne is a condition rather than an acute disease. There will still be breakouts even after the most effective treatments, and they may even continue into adulthood. These later (and usually lesser) outbreaks can be dealt with through additional visits for dermatology treatments or by applying light therapy at home on a regular basis.
Can I Treat Myself at Home?
The FDA has approved the use of blue light therapy devices for home use. A wide selection of personal devices are now available in different sizes and price points. On the whole, however, they are not as effective as the blue light acne treatment performed by a dermatologist.
The main reason for this is because the at-home wands are much lower-powered than professional blue light technology. This is a deliberate limitation, imposed for safety's sake. As a result, many more at-home treatments are necessary in order to produce the same cosmetic effect. A dermatologist can treat acne twice a week and in two months have solved the outbreak. At-home treatment requires work every day, sometimes twice per day.
Why Dermatologists Are the Right Choice
Dermatologists have dedicated their professional lives to understanding skin problems and the best solutions for them. In addition to having more effective equipment than what's available for in-home use, the dermatologist can help the patient come up with a sustainable plan to stave off acne problems going forward.
Better Results With a Pro
In addition to performing the phototherapy sessions with professional-level equipment, your dermatologist may also recommend or prescribe topical treatments to be applied between sessions. He or she may also use special medicating gels before the session to make the skin more sensitive to the blue light. These are not available over the counter to consumers. Finally, the dermatologist can help address all the different types of acne problems: even the ones that light therapies aren't designed to combat, such as deep-seated nodules and cysts.
Will This Work for Me?
The first step is knowing that acne is a long-running disease that takes time to play itself out completely. Puberty and adolescence are the triggers create the onset, and most acne problems don't resolve themselves until our early adult years. For most people, that means about a decade's worth of worry about acne. There is no magic bullet to stop acne from appearing.
There is also no "cure" for acne, so the job then is to manage it and pre-empt breakouts when possible. Diet, hygiene, and stress management all play a part in keeping acne under control. Blue light therapy can work wonders in reducing unsightly lesions and preventing new outbreaks. However, it can't eliminate all types of acne symptoms, and because acne conditions are present for so long, follow-up visits are usually in the cards.
How Can I Get Started?
The best way to start solving an acne problem is to first seek the expert advice of a dermatologist. Acne management is a process that takes years and having an expert beside you is something you won't regret. Contact Nowak Aesthetics in Chula Vista, CA for a consultation today!