Skin Deep - Clinical & Cosmetic Dermatology Blog

Skin Deep is a blog for dermatologists and skin care professionals with focus on theoretical, cosmetic and aesthetic dermatology. This blog is associated with ‘Dermatologists Sans Borders’ one of the largest curated groups of skin care professionals on facebook. If you are looking for non-technical information, please visit

How Chlorophyll Cuts Acne

Acne is a common teenage problem that leads to severe psychological morbidity. Isotretinoin is an effective treatment but has several serious side-effects making it a final resort in recalcitrant cases. Several anecdotal remedies exist with many websites claiming successful magic-bullets to lure gullible teenage girls to shell out their pocket money.
Image Credit Meghan @ Flikr (Image altered and text added)
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is another treatment modality that makes use of photosensitizers such as 5-Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) and Methyl Aminolevulinate (MAL). These chemicals get converted to porphyrin that can release reactive oxygen species on exposure to certain wavelengths of light. However, they can remain on the skin for a prolonged period leading to photosensitivity and is not suitable for dark skinned patients. The quest for a better photosensitizer has been a priority for quite some time.

A recent study published in JAAD* proposes Chlorophyll-a as the superior photosensitizer that we were waiting for. Chlorophyll-a is apparently much safer that ALA and MAL and has the following advantages:

Chlorophyll-a has intrinsic photosensitizer characteristics and does not need prior activation. Hence, the onset of action is fast.
Chlorophyll-a undergoes spontaneous permanent degradation with no risk of prolonged photosensitivity.
Chlorophyll-a is cheaper than ALA and MAL

Please share/like below to read the fourth advantage:

 The histological changes following PDT showed a sustained decrease in pilosebaceous units. Hence Chlorophyll-a PDT may be as sustainable as isotretinoin in preventing recurrence.  The combination of blue and red lights are used for activation. The study shows good promise for Chlorophyll-a PDT to emerge as a sustainable and effective treatment for recalcitrant acne.


*Byong Han Song, Dong Hun Lee, Byung Chul Kim, Sang Hyeon Ku, Eun Joo Park, In Ho Kwon, Kwang Ho Kim, Kwang Joong Kim, Photodynamic therapy using chlorophyll-a in the treatment of acne vulgaris: A randomized, single-blind, split-face study, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 71, Issue 4, October 2014, Pages 764-771, ISSN 0190-9622.
Keywords: acne vulgaris; chlorophyll-a; light-emitting diode; photodynamic therapy; photosensitizer; treatment

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About Me

As a Dermatologist and Informatician my research mainly involves application of bioinformatics techniques and tools in dermatological conditions. However my research interests are varied and I have publications in areas ranging from artificial intelligence, sequence analysis, systems biology, ontology development, microarray analysis, immunology, computational biology and clinical dermatology. I am also interested in eHealth, Health Informatics and Health Policy.


Bell Raj Eapen
Hamilton, ON