Having dealt with acne since I was 14, I’ve learned to accept my defeat when I feel a deep, cystic pimple coming. I know the drill: it simmers beneath my skin for a day or two, comes to the surface a glaring red, painful spot, lives there for up to two weeks, then finally goes away. Unless I got a cortisone shot from my dermatologist, that was my fate. Then, I came across Neutrogena’s genius new Light Therapy Acne Spot Treatment.
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The $20 pen-like device is the portable little sister to the brand’s popular full-face LED mask. You place it on your troubled areas and allow both blue light and red light to blast directly onto skin for two minutes. As much as I wanted to be a skeptic about this, it’s technology that’s long been used in-office by aestheticians and dermatologists.
“Red [light] reduces inflammation and promotes circulation, improves wound healing and stimulates new collagen and blue [light] destroys acne-causing bacteria and decreases the oil gland production of sebum,” says New York City dermatologist Dr. Robin Gmyrek. Blue light, she explains, when absorbed by a chemical in the body called porphyrin, creates heat that kills P. acnes bacteria and “stuns” the oil gland so it produces less sebum. Meanwhile, red light decreases production of cytokines, which trigger inflammation in oil glands that make skin appear blotchy.
Joanna Vargas, facialist to Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, and other celebrities, adds that “LED light has been proven to increase the energy in living tissue, which is why it stimulates collagen production, reduces inflammation and speeds the healing of the body by 300 percent.” She incorporates light therapy into all her clients’ facials and body treatments, no matter their skin type, and claims it also helps encourage collagen and elastin production. “LED light is perfect for sensitive skin,” she says. “It can thicken the skin, strengthen capillary walls to reduce redness and is an anti-inflammatory, so it keeps the skin calm and healthy.”
When I experienced a hormonal chin breakout, I used the spot treatment three times in a day (suggested usage is twice a day): right when I woke up and washed my face, when I got home after work, and right before bed. It was the only new thing I added to my regimen. Like magic, it reduced my typical two-week pimple’s life down to a bearable two days (and I could already see reduction overnight). Even better, I skipped the unsightly part when the pimple becomes a whitehead and instead, the zit just swelled down. When I felt more breakouts starting, I used the light pen right away and saw my pimples visibly diminish.
Other spot treatments I’ve tried–salicylic acid stickers, tea tree oil, toothpaste, even–have all failed me. Now, I don’t need to let pimples just happen–I can fight back.