Photodynamic therapy for acne

Photodynamic therapy for acne also known as blue light therapy is a treatment that employs a light source and photosensitizing drugs. Usually such treatment is performed by a physicians.  

Photodynamic therapy has three steps:

Step 1.

Administration of photosensitizer molecules

The first step in photodynamic therapy is application of light-sensitizing cream, liquid, or intravenous drug. In some cases a photosensitizing molecule that is part of the body can be stimulated.

Step 2.

Incubation period

After the drug is administered, that person has to stay for minute or to days.

Step 3.

Activation of light

Activation of light is a final steps in this process. A specific light wave length has been used on the targeted skin part in order to activate photosensitizing molecule. Currently, dermatologist uses a range of different light sensitizing drugs and different incubation period depending on the severity of acne.

Drawbacks of Photodynamic therapy for acne

The number one limitation of this method is the depth of penetration of light in to the affected area. Usually it is effective within one centimeter of depth of penetration. As a result, only acne problem with in this range can be treated effectively.


 Since photodynamic therapy causes a short-term sensitivity to light, including natural sunlight and some indoor lights light avoidance is necessary for at least a minimum of six weeks depending on the drug type and dosage used.

Some drugs such as topically applied methyl aminolevulinate or aminolevulinic acid may result skin sensitivity for a short period of time around 24-72 hours. Discuss with your dermatologist regarding the period of light avoidance required after your treatment.

A typical photodynamic therapy session

  • You may read and sign a consent form before your first treatment.
  • In order to degrease the skin, a careful face cleansing is done using acetone and alcohol.
  • The photosensitizer topical cream or  liquid is applied to the area being treated.
  • Wait for an hour or a day for incubation based on the area being treated.
  • Following incubation, medication is activated using a specified wave length  light source.
  • After application of light sources, the treated area is cleaned and sunscreen applied.

How to take care of your skin after photodynamic treatment?

It is important to talk to your doctor regarding the skin care you should follow after photodynamic treatment. The followings are common lists of what to do after treatment:

  • Go home and stay indoors for the rest of the day.
  • Wash and rinse the area as often as you would like.
  • Gently wash the area with hydrogen peroxide or soap and water 2 - 3 times a day.
  • Use OTC antibiotic ointment as needed
  • Avoid any abrasive cleanser
  • Avoid scrubbing your skin
  • Unless the surface of your skin is fully healed, do not use makeup.
  • Before leaving dermatologist office after treatment, apply non irritating sunscreen. Continue using at least twice a day.
  • Since there is swelling and redness for the first two days after photodynamic procedure, apply ice every 10-15 minutes every hour.

Notify your doctor if you encounter unexpected reactions such as cold-sore outbreaks, extreme swelling etc. Under such circumstances, medication such as oral antibiotics, or tablets may be prescribed.

› Photodynamic therapy for acne


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