Blue light therapy is a noninvasive treatment for acne that uses light to kill certain bacteria on the skin. Blue light is a part of visible light. It has a very important role in how our body adapts to light and dark cycles. Our modern lifestyle has increased our exposure to blue light. Not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night and can disturb sleep. The proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.* Despite these negative effects, the appropriate use of blue light has several therapeutic benefits.
A form of phototherapy, blue light treatments are FDA-approved for acne vulgaris that is moderate or has not responded to other therapies.
Fast facts on blue light therapy:
· Blue light therapy uses light in the blue wavelength range to kill the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, on the skin.
· There is no recovery time, and the treatment has relatively few, if any, adverse effects.
· Studies show evidence for the efficacy of blue light treatments for people with mild to moderate acne.
Blue light therapy can be used to treat acne that is already present on the skin or to control the condition before an outbreak occurs.
How Does Blue Light Therapy Work?
There are two main ways through which blue light affects our body: our eyes and skin.
Light exposure anchors human body functions to the rise and fall of the sun.
Blue Light and Our Skin
In other parts of the body, like the skin, blue light activates proteins that contain light-sensitive molecules (porphyrins and flavones), increasing mitochondrial activity.
Skin cells respond by releasing molecules that promote inflammation and control skin growth. Lesions caused by acne and some proliferative skin diseases improve when exposing only specific parts of the skin to blue light under controlled conditions.
The susceptibility of certain molecules toward blue light activation is used for therapeutic purposes. Scientists genetically modified rat heart cells to contain a light-sensitive protein (CatCh). Blue light pulses then helped control their heartbeat. However, this most likely cannot be applied to humans.
To take advantage of the effects blue light has on our bodies, we can expose our skin or eyes to an adequate source of blue light (a special LED lamp). The duration and time of day for the exposure will depend on the condition we wish to treat.
The effects of blue light on our body can be used to treat certain diseases. Photodynamic therapy is another method that combines blue light with drugs that activate within the blue light wavelengths.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?*
Findings that support the effects of blue light therapy for acne include:
· A study on people with mild to moderate acne who were treated with blue light therapy twice weekly for 5 weeks reported that lesions were reduced by 64 percent.
· A 2004 study on 28 adults with facial acne who underwent 8 sessions of blue light therapy over 4 weeks experienced nearly 65 percent improvement in acne lesions overall.
· A Japanese study of 10 people with acne on their face or back reported that targeted blue light therapy once or twice a week led to a significant reduction in acne severity in eight participants. None experienced any harmful effects.
· In another study, 33 people with mild to moderate facial acne self-administered blue light application twice daily for 8 weeks, along with certain skincare products. At the end, over 90 percent of participants reported improvements in overall skin appearance, clarity, tone, texture, and smoothness. The vast majority, 82 percent, were satisfied with the treatment system, and 86 percent reported that it was gentler than other acne treatments.
*Research reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP. He graduated from Touro College, New York with his PhD in Health Sciences