Blue light therapy is making waves in the world of dermatology.
The unique properties of blue wavelengths make this natural therapy an effective remedy for a variety of skin conditions, including acne and eczema.
If your main concern is reversing signs of aging, you can benefit from blue light treatment.
What is Blue Light Therapy?
For millennia, healers have used sunlight exposure to treat various skin conditions. Today, we know that specific wavelengths of visible and invisible light have unique therapeutic effects. These can help avoid the risk of damage from UV rays found in sunlight.
Blue LED light therapy is a natural healing modality that uses a light-emitting diode device to shine specific blue light onto the bare skin. This creates beneficial biological changes in the body, supporting the body’s own healing mechanisms.
Light therapy is non-invasive, natural, and effective, and also comes with very few side effects.
Blue Light Therapy Treatment for Skin
Blue light therapy is best known as an alternative to conventional ways to treat acne and the skin.
Does Blue Light Therapy Treat Aging?
Red light therapy is well known for its ability to stimulate collagen production and this makes it a popular anti-aging therapy. A 2021 study shows that blue light has anti-aging effects as well.
Blue light penetrates the top layer of skin to stimulate collagen synthesis when combined with a photosensitizer derived from riboflavin (Vitamin B2). The resulting collagen density increase improves skin tone and elasticity.
The anti-inflammatory properties of blue light are useful in skincare, as skin cells can be negatively affected by chronic inflammation.
Treatment of Sun Damage
When it comes to photodamage, blue light therapy in combination with photosensitizing agents can remove sun spots (actinic keratoses). Actinic keratoses are considered to be potential precursors to a variety of skin cancers.
Not all actinic keratoses turn malignant, but a higher concentration of them can signal potential trouble down the road, so it often makes sense to proactively remove them.
As compared to surgery, tissue scraping, or freezing, photodynamic therapy, which combines light with photosensitizing drugs, is a much gentler non-invasive method to remove actinic keratoses.
Blue Light Therapy for Acne
Even though blue light penetrates only the outer layer of skin, this is where bacteria colonize. Removing bacteria is the first offense against acne.
Acne-causing bacteria are highly sensitive to blue light. Exposure to blue light kills bacteria on the skin. This in turn reduces the inflammatory response that we see as pimples, swelling, and redness.
Blue light can also improve skin texture in cases of acne pitting and scarring. It can also be used to reduce production of sebum (oil) and reduce sebaceous hyperplasia (enlarged oil glands).
In combination with excellent hygiene and a healthy diet, ongoing blue LED light therapy maintenance sessions may help prevent future acne flare-ups by stopping acne-causing bacteria from colonizing.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association states that light therapy shows promise as an acne therapy. In cases of mild to moderate acne, blue light therapy alone may be enough to clear up acne.
Not every case of acne responds to LED Light therapy. Some will experience significant improvement using LED light therapy, while others will need to combine the treatment with conventional acne medications such as dermatologist-prescribed creams or corticosteroids.
Panels that include both blue and red wavelengths can be particularly effective for acne treatment.
Research on Blue Light Therapy for Acne
A 2019 review of 14 trials involving 698 participants found that both investigator-assessed and patient-reported results were favorable. Here’s a sampling of some of the studies in this review:
- In 2004, 28 study participants were treated 8 times with blue light over 4 weeks, with a nearly 65% reduction in acne lesions.
- In 2007, 10 people with facial and back acne used blue light therapy once or twice a week, with a significant reduction in acne severity in 8 out of 10 participants.
- In 2009, 21 patients with mild to moderate acne self-administered blue light therapy two times a week for five weeks, with a 64% reduction in acne.
- In 2011, 30 people used blue light therapy devices or sham devices twice a day until acne lesions disappeared. The acne cleared up significantly faster in the blue treatment group.
- In 2011, 33 patients with mild to moderate acne on the face self-administered blue light therapy using an LED light therapy device twice a day for 8 weeks. They also used certain skin care products commonly used in acne treatment. At the conclusion of the study, more than 90% of the participants reported improvements in the overall appearance of their skin with improvements in skin tone, clarity, smoothness, and texture. 82% of the patients were satisfied with the outcome and 86% said that the treatment was gentler than other methods to treat acne.
- In 2013, researchers studied the effects of a combination of red and blue light for treating acne. 35 people were divided into a blue/red light group and a placebo group. Both groups received twice-daily sessions for 4 weeks. The participants were evaluated again after 12 weeks. The light treatment group experienced a 77% improvement in inflammatory acne as well as a 54% improvement in noninflammatory acne.
Blue Light Therapy for Cancer
Blue light therapy can be taken a step further as skin cancer prevention and treatment. It is often used to treat actinic keratoses, or the premalignant skin lesions that appear as rough, scaly patches on the skin.
In the treatment of precancerous and cancerous areas on the skin, blue light therapy is called photodynamic therapy (PDT) to differentiate it from ordinary blue light treatments that involve only light.
PDT treatment involves combining high-intensity blue light with topical photosynthesizing drugs. The reaction between the light and the photosensitizer leads to the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) which cause severe cell damage and cell death in the treated precancerous and cancerous lesions.
The FDA has approved PDT for the treatment of:
- Actinic keratosis
- Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous skin cancinoma (stage 0)
It may take one to four treatment sessions to remove actinic keratoses, and treatment for other types of skin cancer may involve many treatments. PDT is administered by a doctor as an outpatient procedure.
How does Blue Light Treat Skin Cancer?
- Skin cancer cells are already photosensitive, especially to blue light. Adding a medication amplifies this effect. The photosensitizing medication reacts with oxygen, resulting in a chemical reaction that causes severe oxidative stress in cancer cells, effectively killing them.
- Blue light therapy may damage blood vessels in a tumor, which can significantly slow its growth.
- Blue light may trigger a strong immune response in the body.
Can blue light alone kill malignant cells? To date, no studies to date show that the light alone will kill them, although blue light may be used to slow their growth.
A 2002 study showed that 470nm blue light may inhibit cell growth; while the size of B16 melanoma colonies decreased after 20 minutes of exposure, the number of dead cancer cells was negligible. The study’s authors conclude that blue light may have cytostatic effects. It may slow the growth of cancer cells but not cytocidal effects, resulting in cancer cell death in B16 melanoma.
Thus, the use of a photosensitizing agent is required to permanently damage premalignant and malignant cells.
Blue Light Therapy for Chronic Skin Disorders
Blue light has powerful anti-inflammatory properties which makes it a useful treatment for eczema, psoriasis, and other chronic inflammatory skin conditions. Blue light may also reduce itching, offering relief as the condition heals.
Blue Light Therapy for Skin Wound Healing
Promising research indicates that blue light therapy may be useful in accelerating skin wound healing. By day 7 of treatment, skin wound sizes were significantly smaller than in the control group.
Another study found that superficial skin wounds treated with blue light showed reduced inflammation and higher collagen content.
How Blue Light Therapy Works
Recently, blue light therapy is increasingly seen as a safer alternative to UV therapy. Even though its absorption depth is very shallow (0.07-1mm), blue light affects the skin in several ways:
Blue light may affect mitochondrial function. The mitochondria are tiny organelles within each cell that produce the cell’s energy. Blue light has been shown to reactivate mitochondrial function in cases of sepsis, or severe widespread inflammation.
Antiproliferative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Blue light has antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory properties. This natural treatment can have therapeutic benefit in chronic hyperproliferative inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis where inflammation contributes to the over-production of skin cells.
Six clinical studies observed the use of blue light therapy in psoriasis treatment. Of the six, only one did not show improvement using blue light. The rest showed statistically significant improvement, with two patients experiencing complete resolution of psoriatic lesions. Since heavy scaling can inhibit light absorption, one study used salicylic acid to remove the scales and followed that with blue light treatment, with excellent results after 4 weeks of treatment.
Encouraging results were also observed in treating atopic dermatitis and eczema with blue light. Some studies used blue light alone while others used light in conjunction with topical corticosteroids.
Patients in one study reported reduced itching, as well as a 29% decrease in symptom severity after 15 days, 41% reduction after 3 months, and 54% reduction after 6 months.
Blue Light Therapy Treatment Results
With advances in light-emitting diode technology, blue light therapy is now accessible to anyone. You can self-administer the treatment at home as part of your skincare routine.
How to Get the Best Results
Like any light-based therapy, there are a few tips for achieving the best results.
A Powerful Device
You’ll get the best results from using a powerful medical-grade light-emitting diode light therapy device as opposed to a small handheld device. This is not only because a larger light therapy device such as a panel can treat a larger area at once, but also because panels deliver much more intense light than small devices. The larger and more powerful the devices, the better the results.
Blue light therapy effectively treats skin conditions when it is used consistently. Many chronic conditions such as psoriasis often require ongoing maintenance treatments once the symptoms have cleared up.
LED light therapy supports the body's healing processes. As such, it needs time to work.
Acne may take four to six treatments to clear up symptoms, and maintenance treatments will help prevent future acne flare-ups.
Other chronic skin disorders and anti-aging may require longer treatments, of course this depends on the individual.
The Safety of Blue Light Therapy
When used as directed, blue light therapy treatment is safe, although it should never be used along with photosensitizing drugs. Research shows that most people experience beneficial outcomes with little or no side effects.
Always get medical advice before treating any skin condition and administer the therapy under your doctor's guidance.
Combining Blue and Red Light Therapy
Blue light therapy can also be combined with red light therapy for an even more potent approach to treating chronic skin conditions. Using the different wavelengths of blue and red light together has a therapeutic effect that treats every layer of the skin.
This combination could be useful in treating fine lines and wrinkles and sun spots to restore youthful skin tone.
The Future of Blue Light Therapy for Skincare
A large body of research is growing rapidly in the exciting field of LED light therapy. New data is constantly emerging that supports the use of blue light therapy for skin health.
Take a look at Platinum Therapy Lights BIOMAX panels, which combine blue and red light therapy for optimal results.
Discover more about blue light therapy in the Learning Center.