Blue Light Therapy For Acne:
An In-Depth Guide to Treating Acne at Home
|Here is a summary of the key points from the article:
Acne is one of the most prevalent skin conditions worldwide, affecting around 85% of people in their teens and young adulthood. But even as we age, many still battle breakouts. Acne affects up to 12% of adult women and 3% of adult men.
While genetics and hormones play a significant role, one underlying factor in acne development is Propionibacterium acnes. This naturally occurring bacteria colonizes our skin and thrives within clogged follicles. As P. acnes multiples, it triggers inflammation and the visible eruption of pimples on the surface.
Dermatologists have turned to blue light therapy as an innovative way to combat acne by targeting and destroying this pesky bacteria. Studies show blue light applied at specific wavelengths has powerful antibacterial effects that can reduce acne lesions.
At the same time, red light is also emerging as a complementary therapy to decrease inflammation and promote healing. Combining these two wavelengths creates a more holistic approach to managing acne.
This comprehensive guide will explore how blue light destroys acne-causing bacteria, review clinical research on its effectiveness, provide tips for at-home use, and share the top devices available. Read on to see if blue light therapy could be a beneficial addition to your skincare regimen!
What Is Blue Light Therapy?
Blue light therapy, sometimes called photodynamic therapy (PDT), is a form of phototherapy that uses visible light to treat various skin conditions. Blue wavelengths ranging from 405-420 nanometers (nm) destroy acne bacteria residing deep within the oil glands.
Here’s a quick science refresher on how it works:
P. acnes bacteria produce porphyrins as part of their normal metabolism. When porphyrins absorb blue light, they act as photosensitizers, creating free radicals and single oxygen molecules that are toxic to the bacteria. This photodynamic reaction ultimately kills the P. acnes through phototoxicity.
Multiple studies have found that exposing P. acnes bacteria to wavelengths of blue light ranging from 407-420 nm reduces their counts. This antibacterial effect helps curb breakouts by limiting acne-provoking bacteria on the skin.
However, blue light applied directly to the skin cannot penetrate deep enough into the pores to target all P. acnes bacteria. Using a photosensitizing agent like aminolevulinic acid or methyl aminolevulinate will enhance penetration.
Once absorbed into the oil glands, this chemical enhances the light’s bactericidal effects at deeper depths. Additional heat is sometimes applied to open the pores, allowing better light permeation.
Groundbreaking research in the early 2000s first demonstrated blue light’s remarkable ability to suppress P. acnes. Since then, numerous clinical trials have examined in-office and at-home blue light for acne. Next, we’ll take a closer look at some of this crucial research.
The Clinical Evidence Behind Blue Light Therapy
While blue light therapy has limitations, multiple studies have found it can effectively reduce inflammatory acne lesions. Here’s a brief overview of some of the pivotal clinical trials on blue light over the past two decades:
● In a 2002 split-face study on 22 patients, blue light therapy for acne reduced inflammatory acne by approximately 76% on the treated side of the face after three weeks. Effects lasted up to 8 weeks before regressing, showing the importance of maintenance sessions.
● A 2003 study on 13 patients found that three sessions of blue light combined with topical 5-ALA over four weeks reduced inflammatory acne lesions by about 58%.
● A 2007 study looked at combining blue light with red light therapy over four weeks. The integrated light treatment decreased inflammatory lesions by 67% compared to only 18% clearance in the control group.
● A 2010 randomized controlled trial compared aminolevulinic acid blue light therapy (ALA-BL) to 5% benzoyl peroxide in 169 patients. After 12 weeks, ALA-BL reduced inflammatory lesions by 50%, while benzoyl peroxide reduced them by 53%.
● A 2014 randomized controlled study in Singapore examined the results of 20 ALA-PDT sessions over 16 weeks. On average, inflammatory acne lesions were reduced by about 79% on the whole face with minimal side effects.
● A 2019 literature review evaluated 13 clinical studies on various light therapies for acne. The analysis concluded blue light showed “a moderate efficacy in inflammatory acne lesion count reduction” compared to other light devices.
As you can glean from these study results, analyzing the effectiveness of blue light therapy for acne is complex. Treatment protocols have varied across studies regarding light wavelengths, dosing schedules, number of repeat treatments, use of photosensitizers, and types of control groups.
However, the consensus is that blue light has demonstrated an ability to improve inflammatory acne lesions mildly to moderately. While not a panacea, it shows potential as a supplemental treatment, especially for inflammatory papular pustular acne. Maintaining results relies on continued light exposure multiple times per week.
Researchers are still trying to optimize treatment parameters and identify which subgroups of acne patients respond best. However, current evidence suggests that incorporating blue light into a comprehensive acne regimen may benefit some individuals.
How Effective Is At-Home Blue Light Therapy for Acne?
The majority of clinical studies have examined in-office professional blue light therapy administered by a licensed provider. However, at-home blue light devices have become popular and offer a convenient alternative.
But does at-home blue light therapy for acne work as well?
Unfortunately, limited research compares professional treatments to at-home masks and wands. However, one 2015 split-face study examined results using a handheld blue light device without photosensitizer.
The clinical-grade blue light reduced inflammatory lesions on one side of the face by about 48% over four weeks—the handheld device, on the other side, decreased lesions by only 23%.
While not as powerful, this early study hints home devices may still impart some acne-fighting benefits. However, experts agree that more clinical trials are needed to compare OTC devices and understand their effectiveness.
If considering at-home treatment, built-in safety features are paramount. Look for home blue light devices made by reputable companies that are FDA-cleared for treating acne. These will provide the correct therapeutic wavelengths and power output for safe use.
Please speak to your dermatologist for their opinion on recommended at-home options that can be integrated into your acne skincare routine. While professional blue light remains the gold standard, home units may help maintain results between in-office visits.
Are There Any Side Effects of Blue Light Therapy?
Multiple clinical studies have found blue light therapy for acne very well tolerated with minimal risks or adverse effects. The most commonly reported side effects include:
– Mild stinging, prickling, or burning sensation during treatment
– Temporary redness and dryness post-treatment
– Mild peeling of facial skin a few days after
– Temporary hyperpigmentation or darkening of treated skin
– Photosensitivity reactions if not enough sun protection worn afterward
Most dermatologists consider blue light therapy safer than oral or topical acne medications. However, you should follow certain best practices to avoid potential problems:
– Protect eyes with opaque goggles during any blue light treatment. Never look directly at the operating light.
– Use proper hand placement to cover sensitive areas near the eyes and lips.
– Cleanse skin gently and avoid irritating products 24 hours after treatment.
– Apply a broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen daily following sessions. Blue light may increase UV sensitivity.
– Tell your provider if you are on any photosensitizing medications or supplements that could heighten light reactions.
– Consider treatment risks if you have a history of lupus or epilepsy or are pregnant. Discuss concerns with your provider.
With appropriate eyewear, sun protection, and monitoring for side effects, most individuals can undergo blue light acne therapy with minimal risks. Still, speak with your dermatologist about any concerns before starting treatment.
Tips for Using Blue Light Therapy Devices at Home
If you and your dermatologist decide at-home blue light therapy is worth trying, here are some tips for safe and effective use:
- Choose a suitable FDA-approved device. Handheld wands allow easy targeting of affected areas. Masks are ideal for full-face coverage. Invest in a reputable brand with an optimal wavelength range (405-420 nm).
- Start slowly. Only use a blue light device 1-2 times the first week to test skin sensitivity. Gradually increase to 3-5 times weekly in line with manufacturer instructions.
- Cleanse and prep the skin properly. Remove all makeup, oil, and debris that may block light penetration. Consider applying a salicylic acid or glycolic cleanser before exfoliating pore-clogging dead cells.
- Target acne-prone zones. Focus the light on areas most affected, like the cheeks, jawline, and nose, where light will penetrate oil glands efficiently. Avoid eyes and lips.
- Move the device around continuously. Don’t hold light static in one spot, which can burn skin. Keep slowly moving across target zones to distribute dosage evenly.
- Use light pressure and correct form. Hold the wand firmly to the skin at the proper angle to allow LEDs direct contact. However, avoid excessive pressure, which can cause discomfort.
- Follow with acne-fighting and skin-soothing products. After treatment, benzoyl peroxide, retinoid, or antibiotic creams are applied to combat the bacteria. Hydrating gels and aloe vera calm any irritation.
- Always wear sunscreen daily when undergoing light therapy. Blue light can induce photosensitivity. An SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen is imperative, even on indoor days.
- Stick to schedule and maintenance. It takes 4-8 weeks to see initial results. Continue regular treatments 2-3 times a week to control long-term acne. Don’t give up too soon!
- Be patient! Blue light therapy reduces acne slowly and modestly. Have realistic expectations on what it may add to your overall regimen. Monitor progress monthly and adjust device schedule or head to dermatologist if there is no improvement.
Which Blue Light Devices Are Best for At-Home Use?
Choosing a suitable device is critical if you’ve decided to incorporate blue light into your acne treatment plan. Here are some of the leading brands’ best blue light devices for acne treatment options. Always check with your dermatologist first for their specific recommendations.
Best Blue Light Therapy Machines
- Price range: $199
- Blue & red LED lights
- Wavelengths: 465 nm Blue, 640 nm Red
- Auto and manual treatment settings
- Covers full face
- FDA Cleared
Hydraskincare PDT LED Light
- Price range: $250
- Blue & red & yellow LED lights
- Wavelengths: 423 nm Blue, 583nm Yellow, 640 nm Red
- uto and manual treatment settings
- Covers full face
- Price range: $299
- Blue & red LED lights separate panels
- Wavelengths: 415 nm & 625 nm
- Auto and manual treatment settings
- Covers full face
This dermatologist-recommended mask provides professional quality phototherapy at home. It combines bacteria-destroying blue light with collagen-boosting red light. Adjustable settings allow you to increase session duration and intensity gradually.
- Price range: $279
- Blue LED light
- Wavelength: 415 nm
- Cordless, waterproof, rechargeable
- 2-minute treatments
As the first blue light wand massager, Foreo’s device stimulates acne-prone areas for enhanced penetration while destroying bacteria. Its ergonomic shape targets hard-to-reach zones. They are designed for quick, convenient acne spot treatment.
LightStim for Acne
- Price range: $169-$249
- Blue & red LED lights
- Wavelengths: 415 nm & 633 nm
- Handheld wand
- 5-minute treatments
This FDA-cleared device uses medically proven wavelengths and LED technology to clear acne and improve skin complexion. Combining blue and red light, LightStim packs a one-two punch against active breakouts.
Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask
UPDATE: Please note there has been a recall on this in 2019:
You may have noticed that the NEUTROGENA® Light Therapy Acne Mask and Activator are not available where you shop in the United States. These products have been recalled from wholesalers and retail stores. Our decision to recall this product is made out of an abundance of caution. The NEUTROGENA® Light Therapy Acne Mask is safe for the general population to use once per day as directed. Reports of visual effects associated with using the NEUTROGENA® Light Therapy Acne Mask are rare, generally mild, and transient. There is a theoretical risk of eye injury for a small subset of the population with certain underlying eye conditions and for users taking medications that could enhance ocular photosensitivity.
- Price range: $30 – $50
- Blue & red LED lights
- Wavelengths: 415 nm & 625 nm
- Pre-treated pads available
- 10-minute treatments
This affordable mask harnesses the acne-clearing power of blue light and anti-inflammatory red light. It fits comfortably on the face for a quick, hands-free treatment. Neutrogena’s patented light technology is clinically proven to reduce breakouts.
Final Takeaways on Blue Light Therapy
While still an emerging skincare technology, clinical evidence indicates blue light therapy has potential in the battle against troublesome acne. By emitting wavelengths that intercept the replication of P. acnes bacteria deep in follicles, blue light offers a novel way to curb breakouts.
Keep in mind each acne sufferer is different. Blue light therapy seems most beneficial for inflammatory papular and pustular acne and works best alongside traditional treatments. Milder cases may respond less robustly. It generally produces only modest improvement, not miraculous cures.
However, research suggests blue light is a generally safe, noninvasive approach that may enhance progress when combined with proper skincare, medications, and lifestyle adjustments. Following best practices and managing expectations is key.
Always consult your dermatologist to devise an individualized acne plan. Adding home blue light devices into the mix could take your results to the next level when used correctly. Try it for a few weeks to determine if your skin responds favorably.
With a comprehensive acne-fighting protocol – of which blue light may be one supplemental piece – you’ll be on your way to clearer skin ahead!
Blue light therapy for acne is emerging as a supplemental treatment that may help reduce inflammatory acne lesions. It targets acne-causing P. acnes bacteria with light wavelengths between 405-420nm. While in-office professional therapies remain the most effective, at-home blue light devices offer a more convenient option to help maintain results between visits.
However, research on over-the-counter blue light therapy for acne devices is limited, and they likely provide only modest improvements at best. Speak to your dermatologist about potentially incorporating supervised blue light therapy into your acne skincare regimen. Keep in mind it works slowly and in conjunction with other anti-acne therapies.
If used with realistic expectations, proper treatment protocols, and as part of a comprehensive acne treatment plan, blue light therapy may aid some individuals struggling with breakouts to achieve clearer skin over time.