Is Blue Light Acne Treatment Safe?
While considering blue light acne treatment for yourself or your child, there are six key safety issues that you should investigate. Those are:
No chemicals are used in blue light or blue/red light therapy for acne. Blue light is a 100% natural acne treatment. If blue light is used with a chemical such as ALA or Levulan, it is then called Photodynamic Therapy, or PDT, which is NOT the same form of treatment.
There are no adverse side effects connected to the use of blue light therapy when it is used either short or long term. In study after study, no adverse side effects have been reported.
Consider the following two examples from the wider field of blue light therapy to better illustrate this point:
- Blue light therapy for Neonatal Jaundice: Around the globe, newborn babies are treated for jaundice every day using blue light. This is shone on the most delicate and tender example of human skin, and yet no side effects occur.
- Blue light therapy for Crigler Najjar Syndrome: Patients with this condition need to spend extended amounts of time under blue light every day, for life. However, despite the quantity of hours spent under blue light on a daily basis (typically 10 hours or more), no long term side effects are reported.
UV (Ultraviolet) Content
The fact is, whether a website will disclose it or not, if a light peaks around 415nm or below, it is going to also have a little UV in it. Because of their broader spectrum, incandescent and fluorescent lights will have more UV than LEDs with the same peak.
Here is an example:
This shows two blue acne lights, Trophy Skin, and the Peak 415. Trophy Skin is uses fluorescent tubes, showing a peak at 417nm. The enLux 415nm is a high power LED light, with a peak at 415nm. As you can see, the fluorescent light contains more than twice the UV as the LED counterpart, even reaching into the UVB.
The lights used in the original research reported in the British Journal of Dermatology (fluorescent tubes) contained 9% UVA (blacklight). “No attempt was made to filter out this UV contamination as the output fell well within the Health and Safety Executive guidelines for occupational exposure of unprotected eyes and skin.”
In fact, “it is possible that the UV content of the tubes contributed to the clinical effect of the treatment.”
If you are seriously concerned about UV, there are a couple of things you can do. First, you can get an LED acne light instead of one that uses fluorescent tubes. If you would like to further eliminate the presence of UV, get an LED light that peaks between 420nm-470nm. It will still be effective, just a little less so, and may require a longer treatment time. However, it will most likely have zero UV in it.
Your Circadian Rhythm
There has been a lot in the news lately about the “dangers” of blue light to your sleep and wake cycle. I’m going to write a whole article on this. For now, just know that blue light shone on your skin has no effect on this, it has to go through your eyes to impact your circadian rhythm. You can eliminate this risk by keeping your eyes closed or wearing protective goggles during treatment.
Your Eyes – Macular Degeration
There was at least one study done where blue light was blamed for Macular Degeneration. Also, the LEDs of today are glaringly bright. Do not look directly into them. Even with your eyes closed some can cause you to see spots for awhile afterwards. As a result of these issues, all acne lights should come with free eye protection, which you should wear during your therapy.
Now for “FDA Approval.” The first blue light therapy device, ClearLight, gained FDA approval in 2002. Since then many ‘acne lights’ have hit the market. Although they use generally the same color (wavelengths of) light, few of them actually have “FDA approval.” There are many websites throwing around the terms “FDA Approved”, or “FDA Cleared”, or “FDA Accepted” and what they are really referring to is the
concept of using blue light for acne treatment, NOT their specific product.
We know by now that “FDA approval” does not necessarily mean the approved thing is safe. But if FDA approval means a lot to you, seek proof that the product has obtained it. If their website is misleading, scratch their product off your list.
To sum it up, blue and blue/red light is a 100% natural acne treatment with no adverse side effects in the short or long term. Potential risks can be negated by using your chosen product only as directed.