Blue Light Therapy For Skin: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects

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The sun is important for life, but it can also harm our skin. Too much sun can damage our skin, making it dry, taking away its natural oils, and causing long-term changes because of the sun’s harmful UV rays.

If your skin has been damaged from years in the sun, you might find blue light therapy helpful. It can lower the risk of skin cancer and make your skin look and feel better. Blue light therapy can also help with acne.

If you’re curious about how blue light therapy works and who can benefit from it, keep reading.

What Is Blue Light?

Blue light is one of the colors in the rainbow, along with red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, and violet (remembered as ROY G BIV). When all these colors come together, they form the white light we get from the sun.

The sun is our main source of blue light, but it’s important to know that fluorescent and LED light bulbs also give off blue light. Like UV rays, which can damage the skin, blue light can also affect your skin.

Blue Light Therapy For Skin

How Blue Light Therapy Works

Blue light therapy is typically a quick and outpatient procedure, except for photodynamic therapy for high-risk cancer areas. Here’s what usually happens:

  1. You’ll go to a dark room in the doctor’s office.
  2. If special drugs are used, they’ll be applied to the treatment area.
  3. Depending on the medication, it might need to stay on your skin for a few hours to a couple of days for it to work. During this time, you should avoid sunlight and bright light and stay indoors as much as possible.
  4. Your doctor will give you protective goggles for your eyes.
  5. The light treatment will be applied to the area that needs treatment.

The length of treatment sessions can vary, ranging from 15 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the treated area and whether a topical medication is used. For example, a small spot of skin cancer might need about 17 minutes of blue light exposure.

Some people with conditions like depression, especially seasonal depression, may have their own blue light therapy devices at home. They can use these devices daily to help with their symptoms.

Learn more: Best At-Home Light Therapy Devices

Why Blue LEDs Are Great for Your Skin

  1. Clearer Skin: Blue LEDs clear up your skin by targeting the P. acnes bacteria, a major cause of pimples. This means less fuel for your breakouts.

  2. Oil Regulation: Blue LEDs also help your skin balance its oil production, which is handy when you’re dealing with acne.

  3. No Dryness: Unlike some acne treatments that can dry out your skin, blue LEDs don’t do that. They just get rid of P. acnes bacteria, leaving your skin looking and feeling better without any dryness.

How Well Does Blue Light Therapy Work?

Blue light therapy can work quite well for various skin conditions, but it’s important to stick to a consistent treatment plan and follow-up with appointments. Here’s what to expect:

  1. Actinic Keratosis (Precancerous Sun Spots): You might need one to four treatment sessions, and it’s crucial to schedule yearly check-ups to manage the condition.

  2. Acne: Typically, you’ll need four to six treatment sessions, and it’s a good idea to have check-ups every six months to prevent acne from coming back.

  3. Photodynamic therapy, which uses special drugs, is especially effective for treating cancerous areas, including skin cancer lesions, because it generates a stronger reaction.

In addition, light therapy can help with depression, but it’s important to consult your doctor to get the right amount of light for your specific needs.

What to Expect Regarding Side Effects of Blue Light Therapy

After your blue light therapy session, you might notice some immediate effects on your skin, like:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Mild bruising or blistering, especially if medication was applied to your skin

Don’t worry, these reactions are usually normal. In most cases:

  • The treated area may develop crusts or peel, which is part of the healing process.
  • People typically heal within 7 days, and any crusting usually goes away within 3 to 14 days.

If light-sensitive drugs are used during photodynamic therapy (which is common), your skin will be highly sensitive to light for a few weeks after the procedure. Avoid bright, direct sunlight during this time, but regular fluorescent lights are usually fine. Keep in mind that regular sunscreens won’t protect you because they block UV light, not photosensitivity reactions.

When done correctly, blue light therapy usually doesn’t cause major long-term side effects. It’s less invasive than surgery, and scarring is minimal or often not a concern once the treated area has healed.

Potential Risks and Complications

Blue light therapy is usually safe with few risks, especially when photosensitivity drugs aren’t involved. Here’s what you should know:

The main risk is a skin infection if blisters develop after treatment and aren’t treated properly.

However, there are situations when blue light therapy may not be suitable:

  1. Porphyria: If you have a rare blood disorder called porphyria or allergies to porphyrins, it’s not recommended.

  2. Lupus: People with lupus should also avoid this therapy.

For photodynamic therapy used in cancer treatment, there could be additional risks, depending on the treated area:

Swelling in the treated area, for example, might cause breathing problems. If you experience such symptoms, seek emergency medical attention right away.

Blue Light Treatment for Skin Cancer

Blue light treatment, often used in photodynamic therapy, is effective for certain types of skin cancer and precancerous spots called actinic keratoses. These spots result from sun damage and can turn into skin cancer.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Medication Application: A dermatologist puts a special medication on the affected skin. This medicine makes the skin sensitive to light.

  2. Light Exposure: After waiting for an hour or two, the dermatologist shines blue light on the treated area for about 15 minutes. The light targets and eliminates the cells with the medication.

  3. Skin Healing: After the treatment, damaged skin peels off, revealing healthier skin underneath.

For the best results, you might need two or three treatments, spaced four to six weeks apart. This therapy is great for people with a lot of sun damage or precancers. It not only lowers the risk of skin cancer but also makes your skin look better.

Clearing Acne with Blue Light

Blue light can be a game-changer for certain types of acne. Many common acne cases are caused by a bacterium known as Propionibacterium acnes, or simply P. acnes, which naturally resides on your skin. Interestingly, P. acnes happens to produce its own photosensitizer, making it responsive to blue light.

Here’s how it works:

Shining blue light on skin prone to acne can effectively eliminate the bacteria and improve the appearance of blemishes. However, it’s not a miraculous solution.

It’s important to note:

  • Blue light therapy may not work for everyone, and it might take multiple sessions to determine if your acne responds to blue light.
  • Even if it does, you might still need to complement the treatment with other acne remedies, such as prescription creams.

Nonetheless, for some individuals, this treatment can pave the way to clearer, healthier skin.

Learn more: Does Blue Light Therapy Work For Acne?

Using Blue Light Therapy at Home: Is It Worth It?

You might be thinking about using blue light therapy at home, but it might not be the best idea, according to Dr. Benedetto. Here’s why:

  1. Dermatologist’s Recommendation: Dr. Benedetto suggests having a dermatologist do the treatment rather than doing it yourself at home.

  2. Varied Responses: Not all acne types respond well to blue light therapy, and a home device might not give you the results you want. Dermatologists can recommend the best acne treatment for your specific needs.

  3. Power Difference: Devices in dermatologists’ offices are usually stronger and more effective than ones for home use.

So, before you buy a blue light device for home use, it’s a good idea to talk to a dermatologist. They can give you personalized advice and make sure you get the right treatment for your skin.

In-Office vs. At-Home: Choosing the Right Blue LED Treatment for You

When it comes to blue LED skin treatment, being consistent is really important for success. It’s not a one-time thing. You could go to the dermatologist’s office every day for a blue LED session, but that can get expensive, ranging from $25 to $85 or even more depending on where you live.

Let’s be honest, though – when you’re dealing with stubborn breakouts, wouldn’t you prefer the convenience of treating them whenever you want, rather than just once a day? That’s where at-home blue LED devices come in. For a good at-home LED light therapy mask, I recommend Cleopatra LED Mask.

Yes, they might seem like a big upfront cost (some can be $495 or more), but in the long run, you’ll find that your DIY purchase is worth it. It gives you the flexibility to treat your skin when you need to, and it ends up being more satisfying and cost-effective over time.

Looking for professional skincare advice? Schedule an online consultation with dermatologist Dr. Ava Patel to address your concerns.

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