A reporter from the NY Times called me today to ask my opinion and experience on light and heat treatment devices for acne. I gave her an earful for about 40 minutes. I had a lot to say. Basically, science on both fronts is spotty at best and it’s buyer beware. Particularly with heat therapy devices, I find myself highly skeptical. It felt great to give her my opinion. The article should run either next Thursday or the Thursday after.

I’m also now inspired to write new pages on light treatment and laser treatment for acne.org, so I’ll get on it and let you know when those go live. Just in short so you know where I come down on them for now:

Light: Studies are showing moderate improvement, but not much above placebo, if at all. Red and blue light seems potentially slightly more effective than blue light alone. But no light therapy is likely to be enough, and is at best an adjunct to other acne therapy.

Heat: Heat therapy is based on extremely flimsy science. I hasten to call it science at all. Results I’ve seen in person and read about on ratings sites and here at acne.org are poor. Plus, heat therapy devices do not prevent acne. People end up chasing pimples around in a never ending cycle.

Bottom line: People with acne are often desperate and willing to try anything. Quick fix gadgets will continue to come along, and we need to remain extremely skeptical. If you decide to try such a gadget, keep your receipt, and if it doesn’t work for you, return the item for a refund.


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  • c'est la vigne

    Ooh la la! Even the New York times realizes that Dan’s the go-to man for acne treatment discussion! Congrats! : )

  • Voce

    Congrats, Dan! Please link us to the article when it appears online.

    For the cystic acne that we women sometimes get in conjunction w/our cycles, I’ve found the heat device does stop the zit from getting huge & “angry” as they say. It doesn’t happen overnight, but seems to nip it before it becomes a disaster. And then the remnant doesn’t stay around for months afterward like so many did in the past.

    I am female, over 40, on the Regimen, & only break out occasionally.

  • ^_^

    YAY DAN!!!! ^_^ 🙂

  • Andres

    How exciting!!

  • D

    1 local dermatologist who is on top of acne light treatments says that from his experience with several blue light systems, “Levulan” (?) blue light with an activating gel has produced good results for his patients with severe acne, and in some better than Accutane. The treatments are expensive though.

  • deadbeat

    the heat is supposed to kill of the acne bacteria on your skin, doesn’t it? the bacteria is supposed to be very weak against any form of strong heat and once its dead, in effect your skin is sterilized of the acne.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure if heat treatments actually generate enough heat to kill bacteria without burning skin? Even if they do , is this treatment temporary because the heat doesn’t effectively kill off every bacteria and does not prevent future bacterial growth?

  • Anonymous

    You’re right. There are a lot of other tried and true methods out there besides light therapy. My dermatologist recommended that I visit this site to get an idea of what my options for treating my acne are.

  • Microdermabrasion

    I have tried microdermabrasion (link removed) treatment to eliminate pore build up which is the cause of most severe acne. Not only that, my old scars were also eliminated after two treatments. It was a fairly cost effective treatment and non-invasive. I did not experience any skin soreness and irritation like when I had chemical peel.

  • L. Angie

    Well I bought the light therapy device and let me tell you it did work as far as my skin not being so oily, it fave me a little bit of peeling on the forhead and i will do it again because my face felt like it was bacteria free, very clean. I did it before at a dr’s office for about 150 and now i have my own device that has both red and blue light , i try to do my own therapy once a week.