Blue light therapy for acne: Benefits, side effects, and costs

Blue light therapy is a noninvasive treatment for acne that uses light to kill certain bacteria on the skin.

A form of phototherapy, blue light treatments are FDA-approved for acne vulgaris that is moderate or has not responded to other therapies.

Blue light therapy can be carried out in a dermatologist’s office or at home.

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 moderate evidence for the efficacy of blue light treatments for people with mild to moderate acne.
  • It should be noted that most studies on blue light therapy are small and do not report on long-term results. There is a lack of data for outcomes in cases of severe acne.


Does blue light therapy work for acne?

Blue light blue light
Blue light has a frequency that can kill P. acnes bacteria and treat acne.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, light therapies “show great promise in treating acne,” with many people experiencing a significant improvement in their skin health after a number of sessions.

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.

However, the academy warns that acne does not usually completely clear up with phototherapy alone.

Additional treatments are often needed to manage acne symptoms fully.

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.

It is important to note that the majority of this research involves self-reported outcomes, which may be less reliable than using the results of clinical tests.


Advantages of blue light therapy for acne

Blue light therapy may offer some benefits over alternative acne treatments, as it is considered:

  • safe and gentle
  • painless
  • drug-free
  • appropriate for all areas of the body
  • suitable for use with most other acne therapies

Unlike photodynamic therapy, there is no requirement to avoid the sun following treatment. Blue light therapy does not cause any scarring.

Source: Blue light therapy for acne: Benefits, side effects, and costs

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