In 2002, the ClearLight was the first device to get clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of acne. This system uses high-intensity, narrow-band light in the violet-blue portion of the light spectrum, not laser energy, for the treatment of moderate-to-severe inflammatory acne. The device works by targeting the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) by using high intensity light to excite specific elements, namely porphyrins, of P. acnes and in turn destroy them without harming the surrounding tissue.
The results of a multicenter study looking at 120 patients with treatments twice a week for 4 weeks showed that 80% of patients who had mild-to-moderate papulopustular acne experienced an approximately 60% improvement after treatment ended and a 70% improvement 2 weeks after the last treatment. There was no damage to surrounding tissue, and there were no reports of patient discomfort during the testing period. Ongoing studies are looking at different treatment parameters, such as once-a-week treatments for 6 weeks and other variations to get maximal results with minimal intrusion on lifestyle. This type of treatment is only effective in the inflammatory types of acne since it is targeting the P. acnes bacterium.