Blue light therapy is a popular acne treatment for people of all ages. What many people don’t realize though is that dermatologists have been providing blue light therapy to patients for a number of years now to help prevent or remove skin cancer and achieve other important skincare goals. As the uses for blue light therapy (BLT) expand, light therapy devices have become more available and affordable for home use.
Learn what blue light therapy is and its applications and benefits for your skincare.
What is Blue Light Therapy?
Blue light therapy uses natural violet or blue light, within a specific wavelength range, to treat the skin. Therapy devices use light from an LED (light emitting diode) bulb to target highly specific areas. The light penetrates pores and hair follicles to reach the sources of skin problems, particularly acne and discoloration. It can be used for conditions on the skin’s surface or just underneath.
Blue light therapy is sometimes used in combination with red light therapy, which has its own applications. Light treatments are especially attractive for those with sensitive skin, who may experience adverse reactions to topical retinol creams or dermabrasion, for example. However, many people with all skin types find LED light therapy effective, affordable, and convenient. (Read: How does LED therapy work)
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Blue Light Therapy for Acne
Blue light therapy can be used to treat and prevent acne. The short wavelength of blue light (400-480 nanometers) directs it close to the surface of the skin (unlike red light, which penetrates deeper). It works in two ways:
- By killing the bacteria in and around the sebaceous glands, which generate oil
- By making the sebaceous glands produce less oil overall
The light actually destroys the DNA in Propionibacterium acnes, the bacterium that causes acne and its accompanying inflammation. By stopping bacteria at its source, the blue light can reduce acne and prevent future acne from forming. Preventing acne leads to less scarring in the future. Reducing oil and stabilizing oil glands keep the skin looking healthier overall.
Acne treatment is one of the fastest-acting results of blue light therapy. After just a few regular treatments, many users report less acne. Small, handheld blue light devices allow the user to precisely target acne-prone areas.
Blue Light Therapy for Psoriasis
Blue light therapy has other applications for certain skin conditions such as psoriasis. Psoriasis essentially causes skin cells to reproduce out of control, causing scaling patches on the skin surface. There is no cure, so patients must focus on managing symptoms. Some sufferers find relief from exposure to ultraviolet radiation, such as sunlight. But, since sunlight carries the risk of skin cancer, blue light therapies can offer an alternative.
A 2015 study published in the journal Dermatology showed the results of blue light on psoriasis, based on two clinical studies. It works, the researchers said, because blue light reduces the proliferation of keratinocytes—the skin cells that produce keratin.
Blue Light Therapy at Home vs. the Dermatologist’s Office
Some people visit a dermatologist or clinic for blue light therapy, but most portable home devices use the same medical-grade LEDs, making it easy to administer anywhere.
Blue light treatment sessions administered by a dermatologist can be anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes long. A doctor typically recommends four to six treatments for acne, followed by maintenance appointments every six months. With home treatment, you can choose the amount of time per session and the frequency—within the recommended range. Home treatment for blue light therapy can take more time, but since you can complete your sessions on your schedule, you could potentially see a difference sooner. Plus, you can save on costs.
As another bonus of home treatment, you can choose an LED device that combines red and blue lights, allowing you to target acne and signs of aging, like wrinkles, at the same time!
In addition to blue light for acne, LED light therapy can treat a number of other skin conditions.
Are There Any Side Effects or Risks of Blue Light Therapy?
Blue light therapy is not recommended for patients who are on Accutane, a prescription medication for acne. People with lupus or porphyria should also avoid LED light therapies.
If you don’t fall into any of these categories, the main concern with blue light therapy is eye safety. It is important to protect your eyes when using blue light therapy. Excessive exposure may lead to age-related macular degeneration and other vision problems. Many home devices come with eye protection and, if you use the light near your eyes you should wear protection, and never shine the light directly into the eyes.
Does Blue Light Therapy Really Work?
Blue light therapy is highly effective in treating certain skin conditions. Research studies demonstrate its effectiveness in reducing acne. And, dermatologists have used blue light therapies in their practices to treat a number of conditions for many years.
The best way to see how blue light therapy reduces acne and improves your skin’s appearance is to see for yourself. Safe, affordable, and convenient home blue light therapy devices provide a simple way to discover the potential of this powerful treatment.
Read more about all the scientific studies supporting the benefits of LED light therapy for skin care here.