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Are light therapies effective for treating acne?

There is no clinical evidence to prove the effectiveness of light therapies for the treatment of acne, according to a review published in JAMA Dermatology Clinical Evidence Synopsis.

The American Medical Association journal found that although a wide range of light therapies of different wavelengths, doses and active substances are purported to safely and effectively treat acne, the evidence for all of them “remains weak and inconclusive”.

The review looked at 71 studies on the effectiveness of light therapies in acne treatment, including 4,211 patients from 1946 to 2015. It found that light therapies are not effective enough to warrant changes to clinical care.

Published online last week, the review noted that red-light methyl aminolevulinate-photodynamic therapy is the only treatment associated with a small reduction in the number of inflamed lesions in moderate to severe acne. However, this reduction was found to be clinically insignificant.

The review was conducted across 17 different countries, and concluded that there is insufficient evidence for the clinical effectiveness of light therapies such as “red, yellow, green, blue, blue-red, infrared, broad-spectrum light, intense pulsed light, aminolevulinic acid-PDT, pulsed-dye lasers, 1450-nm lasers, or blue light-emitting diodes” in the treatment of acne.

The journal was unable to recommend any light therapy as a treatment option for people with moderate to severe acne. Furthermore, “owing to inadequate reporting of adverse effects such as scarring or blistering, the safety of all light therapies remains uncertain”.

Read more recent research on acne.


Posadzki P & Car J. (14 March 2018.) Light Therapies for Acne. JAMA Dermatology. DOI: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.0110

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