Could the key to clear skin be just 30 minutes away? We found out

By Diana Pearl
Updated October 28, 2016 05:04 PM

What Is It: Acne Light Therapy is a treatment that involves sitting under a light for thirty minutes in hopes of clearer and less inflamed skin.

Who Tried It: Diana Pearl, features writer/reporter

Level of Discomfort (on a scale of 1-10): 2. Yes, all you’re doing is lying there, but that red light is really bright, which takes a little getting used to.

As anyone who has seen the box of skincare products I have sitting in my room can tell you, I’m always down to try something new, be it a serum, a cream, or a procedure, in the name of better skin. Call it residual trauma left over from my teenage years, where I battled with both acne and a lack of knowledge on how to properly cover it with makeup, plus an obsession for free samples.

However, I’ve usually stuck to products you can pick up at the drug or department store to combat any skin issues, combined with the occasional prescription from my high school dermatologist. So the concept of trying an actual treatment — besides your standard facial — was new to me.

Dermatologist Eric Schweiger of Schweiger Dermatology Group, where I had the treatment done, says that the acne light therapy is most common for patients dealing with adult acne, who are looking for something besides medication to treat their skin. This can include laser treatment, chemical peels, or yes, acne light therapy — also known as blue red light therapy.

During my visit, I did the latter. The whole thing was super easy: You just lie back in a reclining chair and the light is placed directly in front of your face. It’s not a circular lamp, but rather a square with one missing side — that’s where your face goes. For 15 minutes, you get the blue light, which has a directly combats the bacteria that causes acne. This bacteria creates molecules that are sensitive to light — when the blue light attacks those, they attack themselves. After 15 minutes of the blue, it’s switched off and the the red — used to reduce inflammation as well as unclog pores — is turned on.

“It’s a great one-two punch for acne,” Dr. Schweiger told me.

It was possibly the most relaxing experience I’ve ever had in a doctor’s office. You simply lay down for 30 minutes and let the light do its thing. In today’s tech-obsessed world, it was nice to have a little time where I was unplugged and did not look at my iPhone screen. You put plastic covers on to protect your eyes from the light, but it still manages to seep in. For the blue light, it’s not a big deal — it’s even calming! The red light, on the other hand, is much brighter and hurt my eyes slightly.

Even with the bright light, you adjust and the whole experience feels very zen. You have to lie fairly still, as the light’s only a few feet away from your skin. That wasn’t a problem for me: In fact, I ended up nearly falling asleep on the table.

Diana Pearl

There’s no recovery time whatsoever: Within an hour I was grabbing drinks with friends (probably not the best activity for my complexion!). As for results, it’s been a week and I haven’t noticed any major changes. Admittedly, my struggles with acne were much worse in my teenage years than my adulthood. As I’ve gotten older, my skin has cleared up, so perhaps something like this would have been more beneficial ten years ago than it is today. To boot, Schweiger recommends having the treatment done weekly for one to two months to see optimal results: A few more trips might really make the difference!

However, the subtle changes are noticeable. I had a budding pimple when I went to Schweiger’s office that’s now complete gone, there’s less redness and my face looks more clear and even — so much so that I went without foundation multiple days in a row, something I rarely do.

Getting light therapy treatment may be quick and painless, but it isn’t free: The cost of the treatment varies by dermatologist, but can cost as much as $250 per session. That’s an expensive habit, particularly if you’re getting the recommended number of sessions. If you can’t get to a dermatologist’s office, Neutrogena’s Light Therapy Acne Mask, which costs under $40 and is equipped with 30 sessions, offers a less-pricey, at-home option.

The Verdict: While I didn’t magically develop that red carpet-worthy dewy glow, the treatment definitely boosted my skin’s clear factor. I can only imagine that it would have an even greater effect on your skin if you’re really struggling with acne.