By Aliki Chatzilias, MSc.
Clinical Biochemist/Medical Researcher

Cystic acne is a severe form of acne that is characterized by painful, deep, and inflamed nodules and cysts. It can have a significant impact on an individual's self-esteem and quality of life. In recent years, LED light therapy has emerged as a potential treatment option for cystic acne. This article aims to explore the effectiveness of LED light therapy in treating cystic acne and its potential benefits compared to conventional treatments.


Understanding Cystic Acne

Cystic acne occurs when the pores in the skin become blocked, leading to the formation of painful cysts and nodules. Hormonal imbalances, excess sebum production, and bacteria are among the main causes of cystic acne. The symptoms can range from redness and inflammation to deep, pus-filled lesions. Conventional treatments for cystic acne include oral medications, topical creams, and procedures like extractions. However, these treatments often have limitations and side effects.


What is LED Light Therapy?

LED light therapy, also known as photodynamic therapy, involves the use of specific wavelengths of light to stimulate cellular activity in the skin. Different colors of LED light, such as blue, red, and near-infrared, have unique properties and can target various skin concerns. Blue light targets acne-causing bacteria, red light reduces inflammation, and near-infrared light promotes healing and collagen production. LED light therapy is non-invasive, painless, and does not require downtime.


Scientific Evidence on LED Light Therapy for Cystic Acne

Numerous studies have investigated the effectiveness of LED light therapy for cystic acne. One clinical trial involving participants with moderate to severe acne found that eight weeks of LED light therapy resulted in a significant reduction in lesion count and inflammation. Another study compared LED light therapy with a commonly used topical acne medication and found that LED light therapy was equally effective in reducing acne lesions but had fewer side effects. The mechanisms of action of LED light therapy for cystic acne include the destruction of bacteria, reduction of inflammation, and stimulation of cell regeneration.


Benefits and Advantages of LED Light Therapy for Cystic Acne

LED light therapy offers several benefits and advantages over conventional treatments for cystic acne. Firstly, it is a non-invasive and painless treatment option, making it more comfortable for individuals with sensitive or inflamed skin. Secondly, LED light therapy has minimal side effects, with only mild and temporary redness or dryness reported in some cases. Additionally, LED light therapy has the potential for long-term results, as it not only treats existing acne but also helps prevent future breakouts by addressing underlying causes and promoting skin health.


How to Use LED Light Therapy for Cystic Acne

LED light therapy can be administered professionally in dermatology clinics or performed at home using specialized devices. Professional treatments involve a series of sessions, typically spaced a few weeks apart, and are tailored to the individual's skin condition and needs. At-home LED light therapy devices are becoming increasingly popular, offering convenience and cost savings. It is important to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and to use appropriate safety precautions, such as wearing protective eyewear, to ensure the safe and effective use of LED light therapy.


Comparing LED Light Therapy with Other Treatments for Cystic Acne

When comparing LED light therapy with other treatments for cystic acne, several factors come into play. Oral medications, such as antibiotics or isotretinoin, are commonly prescribed for severe acne. However, these medications can have significant side effects and may require ongoing monitoring. Topical creams, including retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, can be effective but often cause skin dryness and irritation. In contrast, LED light therapy offers a non-invasive and pain-free alternative with minimal side effects. It can be used in conjunction with other treatments or as a standalone therapy, depending on the severity of the acne.

Invasive procedures like chemical peels or laser treatments are more aggressive options for cystic acne. While they can yield noticeable results, these procedures are associated with downtime and a higher risk of complications. LED light therapy, on the other hand, does not damage the skin's surface and does not require recovery time. It is a gentle and safe treatment option, suitable for individuals seeking a less invasive approach.

Moreover, cost-effectiveness and accessibility are important considerations. Professional LED light therapy treatments may require multiple sessions, which can add up in terms of cost. However, at-home LED light therapy devices have become increasingly affordable and accessible, allowing individuals to incorporate LED light therapy into their skincare routine at their convenience.


Possible Limitations and Risks

Although LED light therapy is generally safe and well-tolerated, there are some limitations and risks to be aware of. While it can be effective in reducing mild to moderate cystic acne, severe cases may require additional or alternative treatments. LED light therapy may not provide the same level of improvement for deep, inflamed cysts as more invasive procedures like corticosteroid injections. Additionally, LED light therapy may not be suitable for individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as limited research exists on its safety during these periods.

As with any skincare treatment, there is a small risk of side effects, although they are generally mild and temporary. Some individuals may experience temporary redness, dryness, or mild sensitivity following LED light therapy sessions. However, these side effects typically resolve on their own within a short period.



LED light therapy is emerging as an effective treatment option for cystic acne. Scientific evidence supports its ability to reduce acne lesions, inflammation, and promote skin healing. With its non-invasive nature, minimal side effects, and potential for long-term results, LED light therapy offers a promising alternative to conventional treatments for cystic acne. It can be used professionally or at home, providing convenience and cost savings for individuals seeking effective acne management.

As ongoing research continues to explore the benefits and mechanisms of LED light therapy, it is becoming increasingly recognized and endorsed by dermatologists and skincare experts. While it may not be suitable for all cases or individuals, LED light therapy represents a valuable addition to the range of treatment options available for cystic acne. With its ability to target acne-causing bacteria, reduce inflammation, and promote skin rejuvenation, LED light therapy offers hope for individuals struggling with the physical and emotional impact of cystic acne.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is LED light therapy safe for all skin types?

LED light therapy is generally safe for all skin types, including sensitive skin. It is a non-invasive and gentle treatment option that does not damage the skin's surface. However, as with any skincare treatment, it is always advisable to consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional before starting LED light therapy, especially if you have any specific skin concerns or conditions.

How long does it take to see results with LED light therapy for cystic acne?

The timeframe for seeing results with LED light therapy can vary depending on the individual and the severity of their cystic acne. Some people may notice improvements after just a few sessions, while others may require more prolonged treatment to achieve desired results. Consistency is key, and it is important to follow the recommended treatment schedule and guidelines to optimize the effectiveness of LED light therapy.

Can LED light therapy completely cure cystic acne?

LED light therapy can be an effective treatment for cystic acne, but it may not completely cure the condition in all cases. While it can significantly reduce acne lesions, inflammation, and bacterial growth, individual responses to treatment may vary. Factors such as underlying hormonal imbalances or genetic predispositions can influence the persistence of cystic acne. LED light therapy can be used as part of a comprehensive acne management plan, including lifestyle modifications and other treatments, to achieve long-term control.

Can I use LED light therapy alongside other skincare products or treatments?

LED light therapy can be used in conjunction with other skincare products and treatments. In fact, combining LED light therapy with topical acne treatments, such as retinoids or benzoyl peroxide, can enhance the overall results. However, it is essential to follow the recommendations of your dermatologist or skincare professional to ensure compatibility and avoid any potential interactions or adverse effects.

Are at-home LED light therapy devices as effective as professional treatments?

At-home LED light therapy devices can be an effective option for cystic acne treatment, but their efficacy may vary compared to professional treatments administered in a dermatology clinic. Professional treatments often utilize more powerful devices and can be customized to individual needs. However, at-home LED light therapy devices, when used correctly and consistently, can still provide significant benefits and improvements in cystic acne. It is crucial to choose reputable devices from trusted brands and follow the instructions provided for optimal results.