I have friends that suffer from chronic skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis, so I know how uncomfortable and debilitating they can be. We have lots of evidence that red light improves aging skin, but does it improve acne and psoriasis? It turns out that red light does help, but blue light helps more.
Blue light improves acne, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, rosacea, vitiligo and sunspots. Blue light improves cellular function at the mitochondrial level, just as red light does. Both red and blue light can stimulate energy production in good cells, and slow or stop energy production in unwanted cells. The response depends on the wavelengths used.
For some psoriasis and acne, blue light or blue light combined with red light improves skin more than red light. Which light to use depends on the skin condition, its tendency toward pigmentation, and whether stopping/killing certain cells is beneficial at the disease’s current stage.
What Is Blue Light Therapy?
Blue light is the visible electromagnetic fields that have wavelengths between 400 and 500 nanometers (billionths of a meter). While the scientific data strongly supports the use of red light to improve skin, we now have solid data that blue light is a better choice for psoriasis. The data support using blue light therapy to treat:
- Eczema or dermatitis
- Skin cancer
- Sun spots
How Does Blue Light Therapy Work on Skin Conditions?
Blue light therapy penetrates the epidermis or outer layer of the skin and targets the porphyrins, which are a vital part of mitochondria, the cell’s energy production center. The porphyrins absorb the blue light, and depending on the wavelength of blue light, will be stimulated into working correctly or will be over stimulated and work slower, or stop functioning altogether. Thus, blue light either corrects cells that are not functioning correctly or kill off unwanted cells such as bacteria.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Beauty treatment centers have used red light therapy for decades to stimulate collagen and reduce skin inflammation. It has longer wavelengths of approximately 600-730 nanometers, allowing it to penetrate into the dermis or middle layer of skin. Red light therapy is useful to treat skin conditions including:
- Age Spots
- Hair loss
How Does Red Light Therapy Work on Skin Conditions?
Red light is particularly good at targeting the skin’s inflammatory response by influencing cytokines, which are the immune system’s messengers. Depending on the wavelength, red light therapy will energize wanted cells or kill unwanted cells. Red light can stimulate the cytokines to work more effectively and can slow cytokines to reduce inflammation. For example, if collagen production is your goal, you want to stimulate cytokines to produce collagen, which is the body’s repair protein. If you are targeting the inflammation of acne, psoriasis, or rosacea, then you want to slow down the cytokines to reduce the immune response and blood flow.
What Is Acne?
Acne occurs when pores and hair follicles fill up with a mixture of oil and dead skin cells. It presents in bumps (pimples) and red, irritated skin. Severe and persistent acne can stretch pores, creating scars and pockmarks. Scarring can also occur if the sufferer picks at or squeezes pimples, thus damaging the skin. Acne occurs most commonly in puberty when an influx of hormones can increase the production of sebum. However, bacteria such as P Acnes may also cause acne. Bacterial acne persists until the bacteria dies. Acne most commonly occurs on the face but may also occur on the chest or back as well.
How Does Light Therapy Compare to Current Acne Treatments?
Doctors prescribe topical retinoids, antibiotics, and hormones for acne treatment. Dermatologists add chemical peels and light therapy to those treatments. The effectiveness of treatments alone and in combination depends on the acne cause and severity.
Does Blue Light Reduce Acne?
Yes, blue light reduces acne by killing the P Acnes bacteria and reducing inflammatory red pimples and inflamed whiteheads. P Acnes causes acne, so killing the bacteria prevents acne from forming. Inflammation increases acne’s surface area, so reducing inflammation reduces the inflamed red and white bumps. A patient picking at bumps causes permanent scarring. Blue light therapy indirectly prevents scarring by reducing the bumps at which the patient might pick, tear, and hurt the underlying skin.
Which Blue Light Wavelengths Work Best to Reduce Acne?
The majority of blue light acne studies test the effects of 415 nm on reducing and preventing acne. Almost all of these studies were successful. 415 nm suppresses inflammation and kills P Acnes.
Does Red Light Therapy Reduce Acne?
Red light therapy is effective in treating the non-bacterial causes of acne. It reduces the pore size and regulates sebum production. It is also effective in stimulating collagen to speed up scar fading and reduce skin inflammation.
Is Blue Light Therapy Better Than Red Light Therapy For Treating Acne?
Blue light and red light therapy target different causes of acne. Both blue and red reduce inflammation. Studies support alternating between blue and red light to prevent acne and reduce acne inflammation. Blue light kills P Acnes, decreases sebum production, and prevents new acne eruptions. Both red and blue reduce pore size.
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a skin condition that presents with patches of scaly, flaky, red skin. Psoriasis can erupt when the body produces skin too quickly. New skin grows before old skin dies and sloughs off. Psoriasis is either a genetic or an immunity problem. Once triggered, psoriasis is a chronic disease. The sufferer will go through periods of lighter symptoms followed by flare-ups.
Psoriasis often causes discomfort due to itchiness, dry skin, or soreness of the affected skin. Many sufferers may also feel embarrassed or ashamed because of the effect it has on their appearance. In some cases, psoriasis can affect the joints and cause swelling and pain, known as psoriatic arthritis. The most common areas of the body affected by psoriasis are the knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp. Psoriasis can appear on the face and neck as well, though this is less common.
How Do Conventional Psoriasis Treatments Compare to Light Therapy?
Doctors do use light therapy to treat psoriasis. The most popular light therapy for psoriasis is in the ultraviolet (UV) range. EMF Channel recognizes the benefits of UV therapy, but since it is inherently dangerous, we do not explore the use of UV for at home psoriasis treatment. Doctors also use blue light therapy to treat psoriasis with significant success.
Other treatments include topical creams like emollients, exfoliating treatments, and vitamin D to control psoriasis symptoms. Severe cases justify using injectable retinoids, which are forms of vitamin A.
Does Blue Light Therapy Treat Psoriasis?
Yes, blue light not only treats psoriasis symptoms, it directly slows the root cause of the disease. Psoriasis is a disease of cell overproduction. Blue light works to damages the cell porphyrins, which in turn, slows the skin cell reproduction.
Which Wavelengths of Blue Light Therapy Are Best For Treating Psoriasis?
415 nm, 420 nm, 435 nm and 453 nm blue light wavelengths have all been shown to be effective at reducing psoriasis.
One study showed that 415 nm blue and 633 nm red were more effective than ultraviolet (UV) at treating psoriasis, when the blue and red were used separately, and when they were used in combination.
Another study compared 420 nm blue to 453 nm blue. Both groups had significantly reduced psoriasis symptoms.
Another study compared low and high dose 435 nm light to each other, and to placebo. The higher dose of blue light reduced the psoriasis symptoms more than the lower dose. Both worked much better than the placebo. The group getting 200 mW treatments fared slightly better than the group receiving 100 mW treatments. The length of treatment is unknown, so we cannot report on the actual joules delivered to each group.
As with red light therapy, it seems that a range of wavelengths in the blue spectrum is therapeutically effective.
Does Red Light Therapy Work For Psoriasis?
Yes, red, infrared, and blue light — separately and in combination — effectively treat psoriasis. One study combined 633 nm red and 830 nm infrared to reduce psoriasis scales.
Is Blue Light Therapy Better Than Red Light Therapy For Treating Psoriasis?
Blue light and blue combined with red are the most effective psoriasis light therapy wavelengths. Red, infrared and ultraviolet also reduce psoriasis, but not as effectively as blue or blue combined with red.
When used as a photodynamic therapy (the use of light to potentiate a therapeutic substance), blue light’s positive effects lasted longer than red light’s. A study compared the results of blue light therapy and red light therapy for psoriasis treatment and found that blue light therapy was more effective. Researchers used salicylic acid in petroleum to de-scale the plaque prior to treatment so the light therapy could properly penetrate the skin. The study found that while both blue light therapy and red light therapy had initial success in treating the erythema or redness, the red light therapy group showed no further improvements once the six-week treatment period was up. The blue light therapy group’s psoriasis continued to improve throughout the 3-8 month follow up period.
What to Expect From Blue Light Therapy
There are two options for blue light therapy: at-home treatment or at a dermatologist’s office. We will walk you through the differences between at-home blue light therapy and dermatologist office blue light therapy, as well as the pros and cons of each option.
Blue Light Therapy at a Dermatologist’s Office
Dermatologists are medical professionals specializing in skin conditions. Their devices are medical grade-blue light therapy devices that allow the dermatologist to change the wavelength and energy concentration for each treatment. The dermatologist can adjust wavelengths and power for more effective treatment. A dermatologist will also combine light treatment with topical therapies. Psoriasis topicals include exfoliants to remove plaque, allowing blue light to reach the skin under that plaque.
Benefits of dermatologist blue light therapy:
- Dermatologist can offer blue light therapy as part of a treatment plan tailored to the individual
- The doctor can adjust the blue light treatment plan as necessary
- The dermatologist will often use and suggest different products that may accelerate or improve results.
Disadvantages of dermatologist blue light therapy:
- As with any doctor’s visit, blue light therapy at a dermatologist’s office can be expensive
- The combination of topical exfoliants and creams with blue light therapy can lead to skin sensitivity. Treatment might require you stay out of the sun, and avoid some foods and medications.
People with severe acne or psoriasis should consider seeing a dermatologist for blue light therapy to get the most targeted treatment for their individual needs.
Blue Light Therapy At Home
At-home blue light therapy devices are extremely popular, and there are a number of different treatment devices available. You can choose from various methods to apply the light to your skin. All use LED (as opposed to laser) light. These devices include:
- Spot treatment pens
- Blue light therapy cleansing brushes
- Handheld devices
These different ways of applying light offer you flexibility in how you use your time. The facemask reaches a lot of skin on the face, but does not treat the neck and other psoriasis spots. However, if you have psoriasis on the face, it’s a good way to hit all the areas as quickly as possible. Facemasks are passive treatments that work while you wait. You don’t need to do anything except put the mask on your face. You can listen to music but you can’t read or see a TV while wearing a facemask light.
Spot treatment pens are more active than facemasks. You must take the time to find the treatment spot and put the pen light on the affected area. The hand holding the device is not available to scroll the phone or change the TV channel. But you can see as well as listen to books and entertainment while using the spot pen light.
When using home treatments, follow instructions, and don’t deviate or improvise treatment protocols. Light works to reduce psoriasis when used correctly. Use the lamp at the suggested distance, for the suggested time per session, and on the suggested schedule.
Benefits of at-home blue light therapy:
- Home therapy has a one-time cost that is cheaper than multiple dermatologist visits
- You can use your device as often as instructed without commuting to a doctor’s appointment, waiting for a doctor, and commuting home
Disadvantages of at-home blue light therapy:
- Devices are created for general use, and the wavelength will not be tailored to your skin type and the severity of your acne or psoriasis.
- You might not know how to tweak your treatment if you don’t see results
- You don’t have access to dermatologist’s topicals and photodynamic treatments.
At-home therapy is very effective for mild to moderate acne and psoriasis. It allows you to quickly deal with any flare-ups and control inflammation.
Is Blue Light Therapy Dangerous?
Blue light therapy can be harmful to the skin and eyes when used outside therapeutic parameters. These include using the light as instructed, avoiding getting the light in the eyes, and following instructions about avoiding sun exposure during and after treatment.
If you are using an at-home device, you need to follow the instructions closely. These devices are designed to operate in a very specific way, and operating outside of those parameters may be harmful. Here is a brief list of things to avoid when using blue light therapy.
How to avoid risks or side effects of blue light therapy
- Do not use products that will make your skin more sensitive. Blue light makes your skin more sensitive to retinol, Accutane, and acids. These topicals are likely to irritate the skin and increase redness when their use follows a blue light therapy session. Check with your doctor if your medication or topical treatments will cause adverse effects if mixed with blue light therapy.
- Stay out of the sun. Your skin will likely be extremely photosensitive after blue light therapy and will therefore easily be irritated by sunlight. Some sunscreens will not sufficiently protect your skin from ultraviolet rays. At a minimum, use a physically blocking sunscreen such as zinc, rather than a chemical sunscreen that only transforms the UV rays. Learn more about blocking vs. chemical sunscreens Your best action after blue light therapy is to stay out of the sun. Photosensitivity is not a typical problem of red light therapy, which can actually be photoprotective.
- Do not do blue light therapy while taking photosensitive medications. The side effects of some drugs may include increased light sensitivity, so be sure to discuss medications with your dermatologist, doctor or pharmacist before starting treatment.
- Protect your eyes with opaque or light-filtering eyewear. You can wear completely opaque eye coverings. If you need to see while targeting the therapy device, you can use light-filtering eye protection. Choose wrap-around light filtering eye protection to ensure your eyes are not exposed to the blue light. For pure blue light therapy (not a combination of blue and red light therapy), you should wear a short-wavelength filtering lens that cuts off transmission at 500 nanometers or eyewear with a yellow-orange lens.
What About the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask Recall?
Neutrogena had a popular blue and red light therapy LED mask that used target acne and redness. Consumers saw good results, but Neutrogena had to recall the product after people with underlying eye conditions reported that the mask exacerbated their eye problems and caused pain. At first, Neutrogena suggested that users consult their doctor if they had eye conditions and stop using it if they experienced eye pain. A few months later, they decided to recall the product even though the general population did not experience issues.
The instructions for many at-home LED therapy devices say that eye covering is optional, but we strongly recommend using eye protection with any light therapy. These devices do not include harmful UV rays, but daily exposure to blue light therapy without eye protection, especially in the long-term, can cause macular degeneration.
Does Blue Light Therapy Contain UV Light?
No, visible blue light is in the spectrum next to invisible ultraviolet light. UV wavelengths are 100 nm to 400 nm wide. Blue light wavelengths are approximately 400 to 500 nm wide. UV light penetrates deeper into skin and is dangerous. Blue is safe when used as directed.
UV light is harmful to our health. In large doses, it can cause premature aging of the skin, damage to the eyes, pigmentation, and skin cancer. Blue light does not have these harmful effects, but it may cause our skin to be extra sensitive to UV rays. When undergoing blue light therapy, stay out of the sun as much as possible. If you are using at-home products, you should use them at night.
How Long Does Blue Light Therapy Take to Be Effective?
Blue light therapy will not completely heal acne and psoriasis, but it will improve the condition and make it more manageable. Results will vary depending on the wavelength of blue light therapy and the method of use, but you should expect to see a noticeable improvement in your acne or psoriasis within six to eight weeks of treatment.
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