How these devices can banish spots with just a blast of light
We're often told to avoid the glare of phone screens at night because it keeps us awake. However, Katie Wright discovers that blue light can be a very effective treatment for acne
Like many people, I spent my teenage years plagued by spots and was relieved when my complexion cleared up just as I was heading off to university.
But then in my mid-20s, slowly but surely, acne started to reappear.
It was never severe but my quest for spot-free skin continued into my 30s - and I'm not the only one.
The Association of Dermatologists reports a 200% rise in adult acne in recent years, likely due to a limited number of skincare specialists in the NHS.
Referred by my doctor, I went to a dermatologist. After trying various antibiotics and topical creams, I was prescribed Roaccutane, the controversial super-strength drug that can cause side effects, such as low mood and extremely dry skin.
It really worked, though, and I had perfect skin ... but only for a year, after which the spots returned, albeit mildly.
Reluctant to go back for another six-month stint on Roaccutane, I decided to give a blue-light device a go, unconvinced that swiping a light-up gadget over my face twice a day would really help. I was wrong. Within a few weeks my skin was virtually spot-free (save for the odd PMS-induced blemish) and I had ditched all my other creams and pills.
So, how exactly does blue light eliminate acne?
"Blue light kills bacteria in the pores and over time this will slow down and reduce the acne cycle," explains Rebecca Bennett, a skincare expert at Johnson & Johnson. Some devices emit red light as well, because it "reduces inflammation caused by acne - the redness or the height of the spots, for example. Red light can also help shrink the sebaceous glands that produce the oil that clogs pores".
Tests on Neutrogena's new Visibly Clear Light Therapy Acne Mask have delivered impressive results. "In clinical trials, 80% of testers said they started to see the benefits after just one week, and after the 12-week trial period 94% experienced an improvement in their complexion," Bennett reports.
There is a variety of at-home devices on the market, and it can take only minutes a day to make a massive difference for mild to moderate acne sufferers.
Some are expensive, but compared with years of repeat prescriptions and over-the-counter creams, they may well work out cheaper. Here are six of the best:
Neutrogena Visibly Clear Light Therapy Acne Mask, £59.99, Boots (www.boots.com)
Pros: A truly passive treatment, you pop on the mask, hit the start button and relax for 10 minutes (there's an eyehole so you can carry on watching TV but moving around is a bit trickier).
Cons: The mask emits both red and blue light, but as there's a gap between the lights and your skin, it may take longer to penetrate the skin. You also have to buy a replacement Activator, which contains 30 charges and costs £14.99, every month, so it works out at almost £240 per year.
Talika Free Skin Anti-Blemish Device, £69, LookFantastic.com
Pros: The smallest of all the devices, the Talika is simple to use (and store), and is best if you need to target only small patches of acne with both red and blue light. It's also the cheapest over a year.
Cons: For the most effective treatment, you'll need to use it three times a day for two minutes at a time.
Silk'n Blue Anti Acne Device, £139 (www.facethe future.co.uk)
Pros: The Silk'n Blue is compact but the blue light-emitting surface is a decent size for the price, so you can treat targeted areas in four minutes or larger patches in 10 minutes.
Cons: It only emits blue light, not red.
Lumie Clear Acne Treatment Light, £149.99, Boots (www.boots.com)
Pros: Offering the largest surface area, the Lumie combines red and blue light in one cordless device that comes with a stand to allow you to target your body as well as your face.
Cons: Treatment takes anywhere from 15 minutes per area to 45 minutes, depending on how far away the light is.
Baby Quasar Clear Rayz for Acne, £203.15, CurrrentBody.com
Pros: The light surface area is large and the device has an in-built timer.
Cons: The blue and red lights are on opposite sides of the device and you have to follow a day-by-day regimen for three minutes in each area you're treating, remembering to alternate between blue and red, for eight weeks.
Lustre Pure Light Pro Acne Treatment, £269, CurrentBody.com
Pros: With disposable patches that stick the lights to your skin, the Lustre offers a hands-free approach and the ability to treat three areas at once.
Cons: Treatment takes 20 minutes, much longer than some devices, and it's the most expensive.