When combined with pulsed light treatments, heat therapy (as administered by a dermatologist) can destroy the bacteria responsible for acne as well as reduce the size of sebaceous glands, which too often get clogged by the oil they produce. Once shrunken, the glands produce less oil, which normally means fewer breakouts.
The heat speeds along the bacteria-killing process of pulsed-light treatment by opening up pores, heating up the follicle and greatly increasing the chemical reaction the light treatment initiates among bacteria.
People undergoing heat therapy may experience redness in the treated areas, but normally it's temporary and clears up on its own. Treatments are ongoing (usually lasting a month or so in total), and results can be noticed in as few as two weeks.
Devices that make use of heat to battle acne are also available for home use, but they won't help once whiteheads have formed. The heat sources (generally handheld battery-powered devices) are pressed against blemishes for varying amounts of time, depending on the temperature reached. A treatment may last anywhere from a few seconds (for an applicator that reaches more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit, or 93 degrees Celsius) to a few minutes (for a device that operates around 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 degrees Celsius).
While they don't reach temperatures hot enough to kill bacteria, the heat wands can force the bacteria to shrink and retreat from the area of treatment. At higher temperatures, heat-stabilized proteins are stimulated, producing an anti-inflammatory effect.
Next: a more industrial approach to skin care.