Blue light therapy is a type of light therapy that is great to treat conditions that occur on or just beneath the skin’s surface. According to most people, it is a relatively painless procedure.
In this article, we’ll explore the potential benefits and risks of blue light therapy.
Blue Light Therapy: How Does It Work?
Blue light therapy is an outpatient procedure that takes only a few minutes. It is also relatively inexpensive. Photodynamic therapy applied to high-risk areas of the body for cancer treatment may be an exception to this general rule .
Your dermatologist will take you to a darkened office room for the procedure. They will apply the medication topically to the treated area rather than subcutaneously using photosynthesizing drugs.
If these medications are used, they may need to be applied to the skin for several hours or days to absorb. No matter how extensive the medication is on, it’s important to avoid direct sunlight, protect your skin, and stay as indoors as possible .
Before administering the light treatment, your doctor will first provide you with protective goggles to keep your eyes safe before applying light to the affected area.
Depending on the size and location of the area to be treated and whether or not a topical medication has been applied, treatment sessions can last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes.
A small area, such as a single spot of skin cancer, will be exposed to blue light for approximately 17 minutes if the treatment is limited to a single spot of skin cancer.
Some people with depression, especially seasonal depression, have blue light therapy devices they can use daily to help relieve their symptoms .
Blue Light Therapy’s Purpose and Uses
Blue light therapy is only effective in areas where the light is visible. Therefore, it is a great treatment to treat skin conditions that manifest themselves on or just beneath the skin’s outermost layer.
1. Skin Cancer and Sun Damage Prevention
Blue light therapy is useful for sun damage and premalignant or malignant skin cancer growths, but it can also be great for other conditions .
Dermabrasion is a safe and effective way to treat precancerous and cancerous skin lesions that have not spread elsewhere on the body (or metastasized).
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment option for skin cancer. A photosynthesizing drug applied to the skin becomes active, causing it to react with oxygen and kill cancer cells due to the reaction. Additional applications include activating the immune system’s defenses and damaging the blood vessels that supply cancer cells with oxygen and nutrients .
2. Acne and Skincare
Blue light therapy can treat other types of skin conditions, including acne. It can improve the skin’s texture and reduce sebaceous hyperplasia (enlarged oil glands). It may assist in fading sunspots, acne, and acne scars [4,5].
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, light therapies have the potential to improve acne in some people significantly. While results may vary from person to person, the organization warns that acne may not be completely cleared in all cases . In addition, a person will require multiple sessions, and the results may not be visible for several weeks after the last treatment is complete.
Blue light therapy is also helpful to treat depression and other mental health issues.
Treatment for seasonal affective disorder, formerly known as major depressive disorder, has proven particularly effective in this situation . The dreary winter weather, shorter days, and increased time spent indoors are all known to exacerbate this condition. It is curable with light therapy .
Research and Blue Light Therapy
The following research demonstrates the beneficial effects of blue light therapy on acne.
- A four-week study in 2013 in Korea exposed half of 35 people to light therapy using a device that combined blue and red light. After 12 weeks, they were evaluated, and half were given a placebo device. The use of the light therapy device improved inflammatory lesions by 77% and noninflammatory lesions by 54% .
- 33 mild-to-moderate acne sufferers used self-administered blue light and specific skincare products for eight weeks. After the last treatment, 90% of participants said their skin was clearer, toned, texture, and smoothed. The survey found 82% approval and 86% gentleness .
- A Japanese study found that using targeted blue light therapy once or twice a week significantly reduced the severity of acne in eight out of ten participants. No one reported any negative side effects from participating .
- Blue light therapy improved acne lesions in 28 adults with facial acne in a four-week study .
- Five weeks of blue light therapy for mild-to-moderate acne was studied in 2009. Skin lesions were reduced by 64% .
- In 2011, 30 people were given either a blue light device or a placebo device twice daily until their lesions are not visible. The blue light users improved significantly faster than the placebo users .
It’s important to remember that most of this research is based on self-reported outcomes, potentially less reliable than clinical test results, which should be considered.
Blue Light Therapy: Efficacy
Blue light therapy is an effective treatment for skin conditions. If used consistently and when the person receiving treatment attends all of their scheduled appointments. To treat a condition, the following steps must be taken:
- Actinic keratosis (precancerous sun spots) requires one to four treatments, with annual maintenance .
- four to six acne treatments, followed by six-month maintenance appointments
In cancerous areas, including skin cancer lesions, photodynamic therapy is more effective than conventional therapy. Because the photosynthesizing drugs cause a stronger reaction in the cancerous areas.
When it comes to treating depression, light therapy has also been effective. However, you should consult your doctor to ensure that you receive the proper amount of light.
Blue Light Therapy: Side Effects
Immediate post-treatment signs and symptoms include redness, swelling, tenderness, mild bruises or blisters, and mild swelling. It is normal for the treated area to experience some crusting or peeling. The majority of people recover within seven days, and the crusting subsides within three to fourteen days in the majority of instances.
Assume that photodynamic therapy is used in conjunction with light-sensitive drugs. If this is the case, as it is in most cases, your skin will be extremely sensitive to light for several weeks following the procedure, which is normal . Avoid direct sunlight, though fluorescent lights are acceptable. Also, the ineffectiveness of sunscreens is because they shield against UV light rather than photosensitive reactions.
Furthermore, blue light therapy has no significant long-term side effects when used properly. This method is significantly less invasive than surgery, and the treated area usually heals with little or no scarring.
Potential Risks and Complications
Blue light therapy is completely safe and poses only a small risk if not combined with photosensitivity medications. If any post-treatment blisters are popped or ignored, the greatest risk of contracting a skin infection exists .
If you have a rare blood disorder called porphyria, or if you are allergic to porphyrins, you should avoid blue light therapy. In addition, if you have lupus, you should avoid this therapy as much as possible .
However, photodynamic therapy for cancer may have additional risks and complications depending on the treatment area. Swelling in the treatment area may cause breathing difficulties. If you notice any of these symptoms, see a doctor right away.
Self-Administered Blue Light Therapy
Blue light therapy devices for home use can be purchased online. While these may be an option for mild acne, they are not as effective as devices prescribed by a doctor. They can also be prohibitively expensive and may not benefit everyone.
Additionally, when using these products, it is critical to adhere to the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
Cost and Insurance For Blue Light Therapy
According to one source, a series of weekly blue light therapy for acne can cost anywhere from $40 to $1,000–1,500 .
The length of time required varies depending on the severity of the symptoms and the acne’s response to treatment. Others require more than two to four weekly treatments. Following a period of improvement, regular monthly treatment can assist in managing symptomatic relief.
Acne treatment with light therapy is not covered by Medicare or most health insurance plans.
The Bottomline: Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Blue Light Therapy
Blue light therapy is a non-invasive, painless procedure performed in an outpatient setting to treat various medical conditions. A small number of long-term side effects are associated with this medication, with only a few mild, immediate effects.
Make sure to close the curtains in your home before you leave to prepare for the days following your procedure. The amount of light that reaches your skin will be reduced as a result. Avoid scheduling activities that require you to be outside immediately after treatment, and keep the treatment area clean with soap and water after you have finished.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.