We help you feel confident in your own skin
We help you feel confident in your own skin
The Blemish Clinic is a centre of excellence for the treatment of dermatological skin conditions and acne in adults and young people, specialising in the use of light therapy using a combination of red, blue, and infrared LED lights (Light Emitting Diodes) for phototherapy treatment, and LED lights in combination with specialised, light-activated skin serums for photodynamic therapy (PDT).
PDT can be used for anti-ageing treatments to correct sun damage and rejuvenate skin, for wound healing, and in the management of moderate to severe acne. It can be used for the treatment of abnormal skin cells ‘including precancerous and cancerous lesions, such as actinic keratosis. In Medicine, we can use photons (light energy) to alter biological activity.
Photobiomodulation is a stimulatory effect on cells but it is not a photodynamic response.
Light therapy for skin rejuvenation and acne treatment
In medicine, we can use light and the photons from light to alter biological activity within the body – this is the science of phototherapy. If light is also attracted to photo-sensitive elements (natural or applied) then we can increase the effect – this is the science of photodynamic therapy (PDT). PDT is widely used in mainstream medicine for the treatment of eye and skin conditions and certain types of cancer and has many applications in aesthetic medicine and dermatology.
Owner of Blemish Clinic, Jan Birch is a specialist consultant nurse and pioneer in the field of phototherapy and photodynamic therapy with over twenty years’ experience in photobiology, alongside forty years of nursing. She has published clinical papers in medical journals and presented at medical conferences on the use of LED light in medical aesthetics, including the Omnilux system to treat acne, and the use of 5-Aminolevulinic Acid (5-ALA) for PDT.
With the use of topically applied photosensitisers, such as 5-ALA, we can make the light work even more effectively at treating skin damage and skin conditions like acne. At the Blemish Clinic, we have pioneered the use of a product called GlycoAla, developing the optimal protocols for its use in photodynamic therapy so we can achieve outstanding results for our patients.
*Data gathered via our post-treatment survey
Conditions treated with Photodynamic Therapy
Mild, moderate, and severe acne including cystic, nodular, and pustular acne. Rejuvenating skin damaged by ageing, photodamage, and pigmented skin, including precancerous lesions like actinic keratoses. Wound healing.
"Excellent service made me feel very welcome as soon as I walked through the door. The treatment and care I received was faultless, everybody was amazing. I really did leave feeling like a new man, and would definitely use the Blemish Clinic again."
The use of the word photo in this context refers to light so phototherapy is essentially light therapy.
Phototherapy treatments generally refer to light-only therapies including the use of different coloured LED or Light Emitting Diodes, mainly red, infrared, and blue which is commonly used in the treatment of acne.
By applying the light, we can create a cascade of biochemical reactions within the skin. This can be used to energise skin cells, stimulate new collagen production to rejuvenate skin, reduce inflammation and aid with wound healing. This type of phototherapy is sometimes called photobiomodulation, and we use LED light treatment in combination with many of the treatments that we offer in clinic as light is such a useful tool when it comes to treating both medical skin conditions and ageing.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) uses light to activate naturally occurring photosensitisers that are present on the skin such as the coproporphyrin III that is produced by the C.acnes bacteria in cases of acne. We can also activate other photosensitisers that are applied to the skin before using the light. One of these active products that has been studied for well over twenty years is an amino acid called 5-Aminolevulinic Acid (5-ALA).
PDT can be used for anti-ageing treatments – treating sun damage and rejuvenating skin, and for treating non-melanoma skin cancers, and moderate to severe forms of acne.
Acne is a common skin problem for both men and women. It affects most teenagers, meaning that it is predominantly viewed as an adolescent problem, however, it can persist into adulthood.
Acne is identified by blackheads (open clogged pores with no inflammation) and whiteheads (closed clogged pores with no inflammation) that are collectively called comedones caused by overstimulation of the sebaceous glands which produce excess oils or sebum. By adding a proliferation of acne causing bacteria to the mix, suffers can have red, raised, pus-filled spots known as pustules – the typical acne spot – or small, raised bumps under the skin called papules.
Acne-causing bacteria known as Cutibacterium acnes or C.acnes (these used to be known as Propionibacterium acnes or P.acnes) live on everyone’s skin and usually cause no problems. But for those with acne, the build-up of sebum is an ideal environment for the bacteria to multiply causing inflammation which leads to the formation of red, swollen, or pus-filled spots.
More severe types of acne develop cysts or nodules that have a risk of causing permanent acne scarring. Acne most commonly occurs on the face, typically on the cheeks and forehead, but in many cases also occurs on the neck, chest, and back.
There is much science behind the interaction of acne and light. The acne-causing bacteria, C.acnes naturally produce porphyrins (coproporphryn III) which make the bacteria visible under ultraviolet light. These porphyrins are naturally sensitive to light so by using blue LED light we can cause a natural photodynamic response creating protoporphyrins which results in destruction of the C.acnes and an overall reduction in their presence, without damage to the skin. The light also reduces inflammation caused by the acne helping to heal the skin.
The addition of photo-sensitive agents like 5-ALA can increase the photodynamic effect and has been proven using clinical trials to be an effective treatment for inflammatory acne.
GlycoAla is the world’s only photodynamic or light-activated gel that combines 5-Aminolevulinic Acid (5-ALA) with hyaluronic acid inside nanoparticles called glycospheres making it easier to deliver stable, high concentrations of 5-ALA into the skin more quickly and safely. The hyaluronic acid also has a hydrating effect on the skin.
Designed to be used in PDT treatments for the improvement of ageing and sun-damaged skin, rejuvenation, and skin conditioning, and to reduce the size of pores in the skin and improve oily skin types and acne formation.
Jan Birch, dermatology specialist consultant nurse and founder of the Blemish Clinic is not only a pioneer in the use of PDT, with over twenty years’ experience, but she has also been at the forefront of the clinical studies and use of GlycoAla in clinical practice, training UK medical practitioners in its use.
Photodynamic therapy is performed across several treatment sessions, usually a series of 3 that are spaced 4 weeks apart, but it will depend on the underlying skin condition that we are aiming to treat. A bespoke treatment programme of light therapy will be created for you, and PDT may be recommended in combination with other treatments.
Phototherapy and photodynamic therapy (PDT) treatment is suitable for both men and women of all skin types and colours.
During your consultation with our dermatology specialist consultant nurse, Jan Birch who has a specialist interest in photobiology and decades of experience in the study and use phototherapy and photodynamic therapy, a full medical history will be taken to determine your suitability for light therapies. We will check for any underlying health concerns, medications, or allergies that may contraindicate treatment.
If you have a sensitivity to light, such as epilepsy, porphyria, albinism, or are taking medicine that causes photosensitivity (e.g., the antibiotic Tetracycline or certain steroids) then you will not be suitable for light therapy, and we will suggest alternative treatments. If you are allergic to hyaluronic acid, you will not be a candidate for the use of GlycoAla for PDT therapy, but phototherapy may still be an option.
Similarly, we will check if you have been using any vitamin A skincare products such as retinol, as we must leave a gap between the use of vitamin A and the commencement of PDT.
If you have an area of active skin infection – bacterial, viral, fungal, etc. – or broken skin in the area to be treated, you will not be suitable for PDT treatment and will be required to wait until that is resolved and healed.
If you are currently pregnant or breast feeding, you will not be suitable for light therapy treatments including PDT and will be advised to wait.
The use of light therapy with LED (Light Emitting Diodes) is reported to be very relaxing with a warm sensation; some patients do fall asleep during treatment.
It is not painful because no heat is generated from the procedure so it cannot burn. With the application of photosensitising serums, such as GlycoAla, you will notice a tingling sensation when the light is first applied, but this quickly fades.
Light therapy using LED lights has been used for many decades and is a very safe procedure. You will be asked to wear special protective eyewear during treatment to protect your eyes from the bright light.
PDT treatment involves the use of additional photosensitisers such as 5-ALA in GlycoAla that are applied to the skin. This increases the photosensitivity of your skin, therefore the main risk from treatment comes from after treatment as your skin will still be sensitive to light which predominantly risks the sun. You will be advised to avoid sun exposure and going outdoors for 48 hours following treatment, and to wear a high strength SPF sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat to cover your face and neck should you have to venture out.
After treatment you can expect redness to persist on the skin for 24-48 hours. There may also be some mild skin peeling. We will advise on appropriate aftercare for your skin for you to use at home.
The results from photodynamic therapy treatments are not immediate as we must wait for the biochemical changes that have been stimulated within the skin to happen and for the cells to remodel, renew and heal.
It can take a month for changes to become noticeable, and therefore we wait 4 weeks in between treatment sessions to access your response and the effect on your underlying skin condition, be that sun damaged or pigmented skin, or acne severity and breakouts.
Results from photodynamic therapy can be long-lasting, depending on the skin condition being treated, however, they are not regarded as permanent, and future maintenance treatments are recommended.
We have achieved some remarkable results for our patients from using PDT with GlycoAla. This can have a life-changing effects for people in terms of increased self-confidence and less skin discomfort that truly makes a difference. We are thrilled to be able to share that journey to better skin health with our patients.
Although you can expect significant improvements to sun damaged and ageing skin, the natural effects of future sun exposure and ongoing ageing will mean that maintenance treatments will be recommended at least once per year.
Similarly, those affected by acne, particularly more severe types will usually require an ongoing programme of repeat PDT sessions depending on the type and severity of acne and how well breakouts can be managed with a programme of medical, topical, and light-based acne treatments.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a phototherapy or light-based treatment that combines the use of light-sensitive (photo-sensitive) agents and light sources such as LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) to create a clinical and biological change in the skin to repair and correct dermatological skin conditions including sun damage, acne, and abnormal skin disorders that may lead to skin cancers.