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Best Skincare Tools for Acne

In general acne skincare tools tend to focus on claims based around extracting clogged pores, assisting with exfoliation, reducing redness associated with acne, and addressing the bacteria associated with acne called Cutibacterium acnes. Read more...



acne tool

What is the best skincare tool for acne?

I do not tend to recommend tools for acne to patients simply because they have very limited benefits overall. In general acne skincare tools tend to focus on claims based around extracting clogged pores, assisting with exfoliation, reducing redness associated with acne, and addressing the bacteria associated with acne called Cutibacterium acnes. Out of these claims, it is important to understand what can be achieved to avoid wasting money on false expectations.

How can skincare tools for acne work to extract clogged pores?

Extracting clogged pores and exfoliation are possible with different types of acne skincare tools. They generally work through different mechanisms. Ultimately the goal of each product is to remove sebum from pores. This can be achieved via an adhesive, vacuum, and/or manual or mechanical pressure on the pores.

Nasal adhesive strips tend to work well, especially for the nose, chin, and forehead. By adhering to sebum, oil, dirt, and debris in the pores and physically extracting or pulling it out of the pores. Adhesive strips top my list as the best skincare tool for acne due to consistently reproducible results, low cost, and satisfying outcomes. The key to remember is that the extraction is temporary and the pores will ultimately re-clog. This is why it is a reasonable addendum to acne therapy and the use of acne medications is important to maintain results.

acne tool

In the category of extracting clogged pores via an element of adhesion and exfoliation would be clay masks. I find that these are another simple, affordable way to achieve exfoliation and extraction.

acne tool

The other extraction tools possible include pore vacuums. These extraction tools rely on vacuum devices to extract pores. These are pricey with the challenge being whether the vacuum pressure is strong enough to sufficiently pull out oil, dirt, and debris from the pores. The machines we use in Dermatology offices achieve substantial suction power to extract pores, to the point that bruising may even occur. It is difficult to say if over-the-counter devices can achieve this result, especially given the price tag. Cleaning these tools is also essential with use.

acne tool

How could an acne skincare tool address bacteria in the skin?

For acne tools to address the bacteria associated with acne, Cutibacterium acnes, and/or inflammation associated with acne, LED light therapy has been utilized. In medical studies evaluating blue, red, and red-blue LED lights for treating acne, these modalities can be effective given the sensitivities these bacteria have to these light sources and the ability of these light sources to reduce inflammation in the skin.

The challenge is whether an at-home LED device can actually achieve the benefits seen in medical-grade devices studied in the medical literature. Cosmetic-grade devices sold for over-the-counter use by consumers are not subjected to the same scrutiny as medical-grade devices and often rely on very small studies that are sponsored by the industries that make these devices. A review published looking at at-home devices for acne found that there are some studies looking at some available devices that found that the length of time that these devices would require to see a benefit would make them difficult to practically integrate into a daily routine to actually see a possible benefit.

Is red light therapy worth it?

Red light therapy performed with medical-grade devices at the Dermatologist’s office has the potential to reduce both the number of inflammatory lesions associated with acne as well as overall inflammation. Purchasing an over-the-counter device may or may not achieve the same benefits based on the power of the device and the length of time required for users to approach the benefits seen with medical devices. I personally do not recommend red light therapy for the average acne patient.

Medications, both topical and oral and both prescription and non-prescription, work, and the key to best outcomes, timely results, and sustained improvements in treating acne with the appropriate option. There is a niche of patients that cannot tolerate topicals and are not candidates for oral medications due to risks and side effects so I do need to consider alternative treatment modalities. This would be the category of patients that may see some benefits but with careful counseling and setting realistic expectations for outcomes.

Does Solawave help with acne scars or dark spots?

There are multiple devices made by Solawave. The device for acne referred to as “Bye Acne” uses both blue and red light sources. The time of application for each area treated by the applicator tip is 3 minutes. The website states that it is safe for daily use but does not indicate if it is intended to be used daily. I could not find any medical studies evaluating the effectiveness of this particular device. The size of the head of this device would require a significant amount of time to use over the entire face routinely.

Remember that blue light has been linked to hyperpigmentation in skin of color making it important to use caution if you have a tendency to tan easier than burning.

I have not had any patients indicate that this device was helpful in managing their acne or dark spots.

Does microcurrent tighten skin?

Microcurrent technology, in medical studies, is based on studies demonstrating that human skin is like a battery with electric potential. With wound healing or the bio flora on the skin, certain changes in the electric potential of the skin can be used to our advantage by using microcurrent to restore disruptions in the skin and help with wound healing. In medical studies, the use of this technology has seen benefits in wound healing and even teeth grinding. With the benefits noted in wound healing studies, stimulation of fibroblasts, the collagen-producing cells of the skin, have been noted. In this way, this technology may have the benefit to tighten skin however I could not find any studies evaluating at-home devices for this purpose.

What are your opinions on the rise in new at-home skincare tech products?

The challenge with at-home skincare tech products is that they utilize the same names as legitimate medical-grade products without the same medical evidence to support the same outcomes and confuse consumers. These companies rarely disclose the parameters of their devices and rarely have medical studies to support benefit claims. They rely on confusing consumers based on Google terms that will take an individual seeking hope in a product as simple as a device to find vague references to potential benefits. These are expensive products and difficult to justify use by the average consumer. I personally think there is a role for these devices and a potential benefit to be seen, however, there is simply not enough unbiased data available to truly evaluate benefits.

What are your tips for using light therapy and other similar tools at home?

The main thing to remember for LED light therapy with at-home devices is that they likely will require prolonged periods of time for us to achieve noticeable results. Choose devices that make this possible. Opt for full face masks that attach or paneled units that prop up. Choosing wands and handhelds will be really challenging to hold in place for 3 to 10 minutes in each area that needs to be treated. It’s a practical thing- your arms will get tired. You will not be able to find the time routinely to do this for every part of your face that you would like to use it. These products are too expensive to waste money on.

Do you have any thoughts on...

The Solawave skincare wand clearly has a lot of people talking about it. It seems to state that they use red LED light combined with microcurrent. The device’s website states to use it for 5 minutes by swiping across the face. It is difficult to say if the red LED light aspect could achieve any measurable results simply because even medical-grade devices require much more time than this. The microcurrent is likely responsible for producing the tingling sensation noted by users which, from a marketing and consumer psychology standpoint, is essential for giving the impression of benefits. There is something to microcurrent technology but I could not find any details on the specifics of how it is used in this product. The massage and therapeutic warmth noted as benefits of using this product may explain the self-care aspect of using it and the comfort that people may find in a routine 5-minute warm facial massage. As a product that is relatively cheaper than the rest, I think it is reasonable to try but difficult to say how effective it is in the long run.

This device appears to rely on facial massage and microcurrent used for 5-8 minutes daily. I have not used this product but it appears to have a more focused massage aspect to its use. This is an expensive product so it would be important to assess if it is practical for daily use in your skincare routine.

This device has a combination of red and blue LED lights with different settings. With a 3-minute use time as a facial mask, it may be more practical for daily use to see if you note a benefit. The price point is high, however. Also,, show caution in skin of color with the use of blue LED lights to avoid hyperpigmentation.

The fact that their website is filled with basic dermatologic inaccuracies makes it impossible for me to support any aspect of this line.

I could not find any specifics on how this product works.

What kind of products do you recommend? Why?

Treating and managing acne is basic to Dermatologic care. The therapeutics we recommend as MDs and Board Certified Dermatologists, both OTC and Rx, work and have reproducible predictable results. In 2 decades of seeing patients, I have rarely had an acne patient deal with acne beyond 6 to 8 weeks of their initial consultation. I have only recommended light and laser modalities for patients with acne is special circumstances making them not candidates for traditional acne regimens. In these cases, we often will use medical-grade devices and rarely switch to OTC units for maintenance if needed. See a Board Certified Dermatologist before considering any pricey purchases to make better decisions.

What kinds of products should people stay away from? Why?

The most important thing to remember is to get the advice of a Dermatologist before choosing products to avoid costly mistakes.

acne tools


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