Acne Care with Aesthetic LED Therapy
Acne, a typical concern of most problematic skin, stands out from other skin troubles as it is immediately visible to the eye and the uneven skin texture is also quite obvious to the touch. This not only has a negative psychological and emotional impact, but also often leads to one’s sense of discouragement and self-esteem issues. While hormonal influences are significant during adolescence, causing acne to be dubbed the "flower of youth," the causes of adult acne are not as simple as hormones or excessive sebum production.
With that being said, while managing sebum production may help control acne as a primary step, in most cases, acne tends to reoccur because the root causes that are not properly treated. Additionally, the residual red or dark marks and deeply indented scars left by acne can persist for a lifetime without proper care, causing further stress and concern.
Sometimes when acne doesn't improve through skincare alone many would turn to seeking professional medical help, which often include prescriptions. Oral antibiotics prescribed for acne improvement have potent and therefore effective effects, but they can also lead to extremely dry skin and mucous membranes, and carry the risk of causing birth defects. Topical agents can also induce resistance in acne-causing bacteria when viewed in long term.
Laser treatments create wounds in the epidermis, resulting in pain and requiring prolonged time for recovery and healing. Consequently, such treatments are often avoided. On the other hand, in aesthetics, a combined approach using skincare solutions for acne-prone skin and various beauty devices for inflammation-related skin recovery has gained popularity. Particularly, LED therapy, which can synergistically enhance acne care in a comfortable state without causing pain during management, is highly favoured.
Typical Triggers of Acne Formation
To really tackle acne at its root, it's important to understand the causes behind its development. While the precise mechanism behind acne can vary individually and lacks a singular explanation, it can generally be condensed into three common factors: the development of sebaceous glands due to hormonal changes, abnormal keratinization of the epidermal layer, and inflammation caused by the proliferation of acne-causing bacteria, specifically C. acnes bacteria.
1. Sebaceous Gland Development Due to Hormones
When androgens, the “male hormone”, develop, they stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce excessive sebum. The excess sebum can irritate the inner walls of the hair follicles in the skin layer, causing the cells lining the follicle to shed. When these shed cells combine with sebum and block the follicle's entrance, a buildup occurs within the pore, transforming it into a hardened bump known as acne.
2. Epidermal Layer's Follicular Hyperkeratinization
Excessive sebum secretion due to androgens and other factors leads to changes in the lipid composition of sebum. Cholesterol decreases alongside ceramides and linoleic acid, while squalene and free fatty acids increase. Reduced cholesterol disrupts the balance between cholesterol and cholesterol sulfate in the follicle, inducing the binding of keratinocytes between the follicle's inner lining. Increased free fatty acids stimulate the follicular entrance, leading to hyperkeratinization of the follicular wall. This process results in blocked pores, allowing the anaerobic bacterium Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) to proliferate, forming comedones and triggering inflammation.
3. Inflammation Caused by P. acnes Bacteria Proliferation
P. acnes bacteria secrete chemical mediators, including lipases that aid in the movement of cells. These lipases break down sebum into free fatty acids, contributing to the aforementioned hyperkeratinization. Additionally, chemotactic factors from neutrophils attract inflammatory cells around the follicle, stimulating and damaging the follicular wall. As a result, the follicular contents flow into the dermis, triggering an inflammatory response. This ongoing inflammatory reaction eventually leads to the formation of scars and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Specific LED Wavelengths that Maximize the Acne Improvement
LED light sources are categorized by their wavelengths, and the depth of penetration into the skin varies according to these wavelengths. Wavelengths of 400nm penetrate up to 1mm or less, 514nm penetrates to a depth of 0.5-2mm, 630nm reaches 1-6mm, and wavelengths of 700-900nm can penetrate even deeper. Especially, blue light at 415nm has been found to effectively eliminate acne-causing bacteria, and research results indicate that red light at 600-650nm can alleviate inflammation and induce rapid regeneration of inflammation-damaged skin.
BLUE LED LIGHT (380-500nm)
When the acne-causing bacterium C. acnes is exposed to blue light, it generates endogenous porphyrins. These endogenous porphyrins are sensitive to light and produce reactive oxygen species upon activation, which destroys the lipids composing the bacterial cell wall and disrupts the chemical metabolism of the bacteria, effectively eliminating them.
Additionally, it can inhibit the activity of sebaceous glands that cause excessive sebum secretion, thus reducing the occurrence of acne caused by excess sebum production. Applying blue light after topically applying substances with light-absorbing properties to the skin can activate epidermal keratinocytes, positively impacting skin tone improvement.
RED LED LIGHT (625-720nm)
Exposing fibroblasts to red light with a wavelength of 635nm can inhibit the synthesis of inflammatory mediator PGE2 (prostaglandin E2), thereby suppressing the exacerbation of inflammation. Furthermore, it has been reported that red light can inhibit the enzyme MMP responsible for collagen degradation, increasing skin collagen content. This helps reduce cells and tissues with inflammation while simultaneously aiding in skin regeneration.
Therefore, by concurrently utilizing blue and red LED light, it is possible to eliminate the causes of acne and effectively address post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and scars resulting from inflammation.
The Mechanism of How LED Therapy Improves the Skin
So, how does LED light source actually influence the skin? The answer can be found in plants that thrive under sunlight. Just as chlorophyll in plants converts solar energy into chemical energy to facilitate growth, LED light photons are absorbed by chromophores or photoreceptors within cellular tissues, promoting cellular metabolism to enhance the skin.
Cells exposed to light generate reactive oxygen species (ROS), adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and nitric oxide (NO) within the cell. The produced ROS, when absorbed by photoreceptors like Cytochrome C Oxidase, triggers the release of the immune factor NF-KB, initiating a positive feedback loop that enhances mitochondrial metabolism and ATP synthesis.
Due to this mechanism, when LED light is applied to the skin, it aids cellular metabolism, leading to increased production of collagen and elastin. This, in turn, can boost skin moisture and collagen synthesis in the dermal layer.
Unlike lasers that focus high-intensity light on localized areas, LED therapy treats broader areas effectively with the appropriate intensity of light. Furthermore, LED light emissions are specific to certain wavelengths, reducing harmful ultraviolet or unnecessary infrared emissions, resulting in fewer side effects and a lower risk of tissue or eye damage.
Hence, utilizing LED therapy as a boost for acne care can capitalize on its ability to enhance cellular metabolism, stimulate collagen and elastin production, and provide the advantages of its safe and targeted light emissions.