Acne is an inflammatory disease of the skin, caused by changes in the pilosebaceous units. These units consist of a sebaceous gland connected to a canal, called a follicle, which contains fine hair. Cells called keratinocytes line the follicle. The sebaceous glands produce sebum, the oil that lubricates and protects our skin. As our skin renews itself, the old cells die, mix with our skin’s natural oils, and are expelled onto the skin’s surface. Under normal circumstances, these cells are shed gradually, making room for new skin.
For the majority of acne sufferers, the trouble starts when the body begins to produce male sex hormones called androgens. These increase in both boys and girls during puberty and cause the enlargement of the sebaceous glands. (Androgens are also responsible for acne flare-ups associated with the menstrual cycle and, on occasion, pregnancy)
When the sebaceous gland is stimulated by androgens, it produces extra sebum. In its journey up the follicle towards the surface, the sebum mixes with common skin bacteria and dead skin cells that have been shed from the lining of the follicle. This is perfe
ctly normal. However, in people with overactive sebaceous glands, these cells are shed more rapidly. Mixed with a surplus of sebum, the dead cells form a ‘plug’ in the follicle, preventing the skin from finishing its natural process of renewal. Sometimes, these clogs can take the form of a white head or a black head.
The bacterium Propionibacterium acnes is a regular resident of all skin types. It lives at the skin’s surface and in the follicles and it is part of the skin’s natural sebum maintenance system. Since the bacteria feed on the sebum, excessive sebum production encourages their rapid multiplication. They then change the chemical composition of oils and secretions into extremely irritating fatty acid.
Unfortunately, the bad news continues. Contamination is the next step. These new substances created by the chemical reaction, have the ability to penetrate the follicle’s wall and contaminate other parts and other canals of the internal layer of the skin. As this happens, the sebaceous gland of the clogged follicle continues to produce sebum, bacteria continue to multiply and the contaminated areas continue to spread. In simple terms, there is now an inflammation in the follicle and the surrounding skin.
The body’s reaction to acne
When the body encounters unwanted bacterial, our white blood cells attack the intruders. This process, called the inflammatory response, is what causes pimples to become red, swollen and painful. During the process, many bacteria are destroyed and rejected as pus. If the general condition of the skin and the immunity defenses are good, and most importantly, if the skin is not touched or scratched, the pimple softens and disappears without leaving a trace.
Sometimes however, the inflammatory response can result in a somewhat messy repair site in the form of fibrous scar tissue, or eroded tissue, especially in people who are susceptible to scarring. The result: an acne scar.
Unfortunately, there is no miracle treatment that can erase scars. The best cure is PREVENTION. It is therefore crucial to treat acne early in its course, as soon as the first signs appear, since the more inflammation that can be prevented or moderated, the less likely it is that permanent damage to the skin will result. It is also important to continue treatment even after the pimples disappear in order to keep new blemishes from appearing.
How does blue light treat acne?
Acne phototherapy works by directing intense blue light to the treatment area to eliminate P.acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. The light causes the photo-destruction of the bacteria that causes acne without damaging the surrounding tissue.
“[Blue] Light gets at the core of what causes acne eruptions: P. acnes, the bacterial responsible for causing acne inflammation, pumps out tiny molecules called porphyrins. When those porphyrin are exposed to certain wavelengths of light, they produce free radicals that kill the bacteria. Without P. acnes around to cause inflammation, acne clears up.” American Academy of Dermatology 2002
In addition, the light energy delivered through your skin’s surface stimulates the production of collagen beneath the scars. The treatment works well on all skin types (colors) and can treat any area of the body.
Will it work for ME?
IPL Blue Light Acne treatment treats inflamed, mild to moderate acne blemishes. If you have pustules, it will be best to have an acne facial first, then proceed with the IPL sessions.
Almost everyone can be treated, apart from very dark skinned or tanned individuals. Pregnant women or anyone taking the acne treatment Accutane should not be treated.
How many treatments will I need?
In general, two to eight sessions will be required (one treatment every two weeks), depending on the severity of your acne problem. Prior to a treatment, it is strongly recommended that the face should be treated to remove impurities (such as blackheads) and dehydrated skin, since these can reduce the effectiveness of the light pulses.
It is essential to follow the treatments with a home regimen in order to maintain the results obtained by regulating the sebaceous secretions on a regular basis, and in order to prevent or minimize scarring a s much as possible.
What does the treatment feel like?
You will be asked to put on goggles to protect your eyes. A layer of chilled gel is applied to the area to cool the skin and guide the light. The light applicator is placed onto the skin and a short pulse of light is released. The applicator is then moved to the: neighboring area and the process is repeated until the whole area is treated. The gel is removed and the area is moisturized.
The light energy is absorbed by the skin, and heats it up very quickly, creating a sharp, short-lived pinprick sensation. No anesthesia is required, other than cooling the skin; most patients describe the discomfort as moderate and acceptable.
What should I expect after the treatment?
Redness and a slight warming sensation are normal after treatment. A cooling pack may be applied to the skin to ease these symptoms. It will be necessary to avoid sun exposure or use a high protection sunscreen for two weeks after the treatment.
What are the side effects?
The treated area can become quite red immediately after treatment. However, most patients experience no side effects and the redness usually disappears within a couple of hours. Very rarely the skin may become lighter or darker, or a small blister may form. If is possible that some hair loss will occur in the area treated, so men should consider this possibility before agreeing to treatment of their beard area.