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Blue Light Therapy - Science & Research

Blue Light Therapy Science & Research

The Visible Light SpectrumThe Nature Of Light

The wavelength of light defines its color. In the visible spectrum (light we can see) the wavelengths range from 400nm (nanometers) to over 700nm. Thus, a light with a wavelength in the 450-495nm spectrum appears as blue, red light is in the 630nm-700nm spectrum.


What Is Light Therapy

Light therapy wasn't thought up overnight. Years of clinical research by independent organizations around the world, from the Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, to the FDA, to Nasa have all concluded that light therapy does work. In fact, before we were using light therapy to treat disorders such as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and skin conditions like acne, we had been using light to affect the natural world in all sorts of places. For example, greenhouses have been using lights in the higher blue and red spectrums to speed up plant growth and keep plants healthy. If you have ever owned an aquarium you have likely used a UV light in the tank or in the filters to rid bacteria from the water and keep the fish healthy. These examples are are great displays of the power that different spectrums of light have over our natural world.

It has long been known, and you have likely experienced that when you expose your skin to the sun for a moderate period of time, whether it be naturally or via a tanning bed, acne seems to improve or clear up. This is because of the natural blue light spectrum that the sun provides, even though you don't see it as blue. The disadvantage to sun exposure and tanning is of course the artificial aging of your skin, not to mention the risk of skin cancer. Blue light therapy focuses specifically on the spectrums outside of the UV range that kill acne bacteria.

Blue Light - For Acne (400nm-495nm)

Light in the 400-495nm spectrum is described often as violet or purple on the lower end of spectrum and bright blue on the higher end. Regardless of what you consider the color to be, for all intents and purposes when using these wavelengths of light for light therapy we simply consider them blue light.

To put it simply, it has been proven that blue light in the 405nm-420nm spectrum actually kills Propionibacterium Acnes (P. acnes) bacteria. P. acnes bacteria create tiny molecules called porphryins. When porphyrins are exposed to blue light they produce free radicals that kill the bacteria that cause inflammatory acne. It sounds quite complex, but it's a wonderfully simple solution.

In 2000 an independent research study performed by the Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine at Hammersmith Hospital in London determined "We have found that photo therapy with mixed blue-red light, probably by combining antibacterial and anti-inflammatory actions, is an effective means of treating acne vulgaris of mid to moderate severity, with no significant short-term adverse effects".

In October of 2002 the American Academy of Dermatology published that "Light gets at the core of what causes acne eruptions: P. acnes, the bacterial responsible for causing acne inflammation, pumps out tiny molecules called porphyrins. When those porphyrin are exposed to certain wavelengths of light, they produce free radicals that kill the bacteria. Without P. acnes around to cause inflammation, acne clears up." They also noted that "A low intensity blue light source (405 nm to 420 nm) has been studied for the treatment of mild to moderate inflammatory acne. In the study, two 15-minute exposures a week for a period of four weeks produced a 60 percent reduction in acne in 80 percent of patients. Reported remissions from acne lasted as long as three to eight months."

In fact in 2002 the FDA (American Food And Drug Administration) gave the first acne treatment system called 'ClearLight' FDA approval. The same technology used in that system and other commercially available systems on the market is found in the Blue Acne Light.

Red Light - For Skin Healing (630nm-700nm)

Much like blue light, red light also has natural healing properties. Red light effectively speeds up the skins natural healing process and prevents scaring. The root of red lights healing properties is that when red light is absorbed into the skin it increases blood and oxygen flow. This increased blood and oxygen flow allow scars and blemishes to disappear much quicker than normal. Combining the acne fighting powers blue light with the healing powers of the red light, it becomes a "destroy and heal" solution, exactly what it takes to clear up problematic acne.

Clinical Studies And References

The British Journal Of Dermatology 2000 - "Phototherapy with blue (415 nm) and red (660 nm) light in the treatment of acne vulgaris"

In this study we have evaluated the use of blue light (peak at 415 nm) and a mixed blue and red light (peaks at 415 and 660 nm) in the treatment of acne vulgaris. One hundred and seven patients with mild to moderate acne vulgaris were randomized into four treatment groups: blue light, mixed blue and red light, cool white light and 5% benzoyl peroxide cream. Subjects in the phototherapy groups used portable light sources and irradiation was carried out daily for 15 min. Comparative assessment between the three light sources was made in an observer-blinded fashion, but this could not be achieved for the use of benzoyl peroxide. Assessments were performed every 4 weeks. After 12 weeks of active treatment a mean improvement of 76% (95% confidence interval 66±87) in inflammatory lesions was achieved by the combined blue±red light phototherapy; this was significantly superior to that achieved by blue light (at weeks 4 and 8 but not week 12), benzoyl peroxide (at weeks 8 and 12) or white light (at each assessment). The final mean improvement in comedones by using blue±red light was 58% (95% confidence interval 45±71), again better than that achieved by the other active treatments used, although the differences did not reach significant levels. We have found that phototherapy with mixed blue±red light, probably by combining antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action, is an effective means of treating acne vulgaris of mild to moderate severity, with no significant short-term adverse effects.


Pub Med 2005 - "An open study to determine the efficacy of blue light in the treatment of mild to moderate acne."

BACKGROUND: The effective management of acne remains a challenge; achieving an optimal response whilst minimizing adverse events is often difficult. The rise in antibiotic resistance threatens to reduce the future usefulness of the current mainstay of therapy. The need for alternative therapies remains important. Phototherapy has previously been shown to be effective in acne, with renewed interest as both endogenous and exogenous photodynamic therapies are demonstrated for this condition. OBJECTIVES: To determine the effect of narrowband blue light in the reduction of inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions in patients with mild to moderate acne and to evaluate patient tolerance of the therapy. METHODS: We performed an open study utilizing a blue LED light source in 30 subjects with mild to moderate facial acne. Two weeks after screening, lesions were counted and recorded by lesion type. Over 4 weeks, patients received eight 10- or 20-minute light treatments, peak wavelength 409-419 nm at 40 mW/cm2. Assessments were taken at weeks 5, 8 and 12 and lesion counts were recorded. Repeated measures-ANOVA and Dunnett's tests, respectively, allowed assessment of the different scores over time and permitted comparison of mean counts. RESULTS: An overall effect on inflammatory counts was observed at week 5, and a statistically significant decrease in inflamed counts was detected at the week 8 assessments, which continued to week 12. There was little effect on non-inflamed lesions. The treatment was well tolerated with adverse events experienced generally rated as being mild and usually self-limiting. CONCLUSIONS: Eight 10- or 20-minute treatments over 4 weeks with a narrowband blue light was found to be effective in reducing the number of inflamed lesions in subjects with mild to moderate acne. The treatment had little effect on the number of comedones. The onset of the effect was observable at the first assessment, at week 5, and maximal between weeks 8 and 12. Blue light phototherapy using a narrowband LED light source appears to be a safe and effective additional therapy for mild to moderate acne.


Pub Med 2006 - "Light-emitting diode 415 nm in the treatment of inflammatory acne: an open-label, multicentric, pilot investigation."

BACKGROUND: The management of acne remains a challenge, with current therapies linked to significant side effects and patient non-compliance. Phototherapy using blue light has been proven in the treatment of acne vulgaris and offers the clinician an effective alternative. OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect of narrowband light-emitting diode (LED) blue light in the reduction of inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions in patients with mild to moderate acne and to evaluate patient tolerance of the therapy. METHODS: Forty-five patients were treated with high-intensity pure blue light, 415 nm and 48 J/cm2, receiving two treatments of 20 minutes per week for a period of 4-8 weeks. Clinical assessment was performed at baseline, and 2, 4 and 8 weeks after treatment. A patient's therapeutic response was measured using a global improvement scoring system. RESULTS: The mean improvement score was 3.14 at 4 weeks and 2.90 at 8 weeks. Nine patients experienced complete clearing at 8 weeks. The treatment was well tolerated, with 50% of patients highly satisfied with the treatment. CONCLUSION: This open-label study suggests the therapeutic efficacy of high-intensity LED pure blue light in the treatment of acne vulgaris with no reported side effects.


Pub Med 2006 - "Combination blue (415 nm) and red (633 nm) LED phototherapy in the treatment of mild to severe acne vulgaris."

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Acne vulgaris represents both a challenge to the treating dermatologist and a major concern for the patient. Conventional treatments have proved inconsistent with often unacceptable side effects and high rates of recurrence. Non-thermal, non-laser, phototherapy for acne with a combination of blue and red light has recently attracted attention. The present study was designed to assess the efficacy of this combination phototherapy. METHODS: Twenty-four subjects, Fitzpatrick skin types II-V, with mild to severe symmetric facial acne vulgaris were recruited for the study. Subjects were well matched at baseline in terms of both age and duration of acne. Subjects were treated over eight sessions, two per week 3 days apart, alternating between 415 nm blue light (20 minutes/session, 48 J/cm2) and 633 nm red light (20 minutes/session, 96 J/cm2) from a light-emitting diode (LED)-based therapy system. Patients received a mild microdermabrasion before each session. Acne was assessed at baseline and at weeks 2, 4, 8 and 12. RESULTS: Twenty-two patients completed the trial. A mean reduction in lesion count was observed at all follow-up points. At the 4-week follow-up, the mean lesion count reduction was significant at 46% (p=0.001). At the 12-week follow-up, the mean lesion count reduction was also significant at 81% (p=0.001). Patient and dermatologist assessments were similar. Severe acne showed a marginally better response than mild acne. Side effects were minimal and transitory. Comedones did not respond as well as inflammatory lesions. CONCLUSIONS: Combination blue and red LED therapy appears to have excellent potential in the treatment of mild to severe acne. Treatment appears to be both pain- and side effect-free.


Pub Med 2007 - "Blue and red light combination LED phototherapy for acne vulgaris in patients with skin phototype IV."

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Blue light is effective for acne treatment, inducing photodynamic destruction of Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). This study was designed to investigate the efficacy of combined blue and red light-emitting diode (LED) phototherapy for acne vulgaris. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty-four patients with mild to moderately severe facial acne were treated with quasimonochromatic LED devices, alternating blue (415 nm) and red (633 nm) light. The treatment was performed twice a week for 4 weeks. Objective assays of the skin condition were carried out before and after treatment at each treatment session. Clinical assessments were conducted before treatment, after the 2nd, 4th, and 6th treatment sessions and at 2, 4, and 8 weeks after the final treatment by grading and lesion counting. RESULTS: The final mean percentage improvements in non-inflammatory and inflammatory lesions were 34.28% and 77.93%, respectively. Instrumental measurements indicated that the melanin levels significantly decreased after treatment. Brightened skin tone and improved skin texture were spontaneously reported by 14 patients. CONCLUSION: Blue and red light combination LED phototherapy is an effective, safe and non-painful treatment for mild to moderately severe acne vulgaris, particularly for papulopustular acne lesions. (c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.


Wikipedia - "Light Therapy"

Acne vulgaris
Sunlight was long known to improve acne, and this was thought to be due to antibacterial and other effects of the ultraviolet spectrum which cannot be used as a treatment due to the likelihood of skin damage in the long term.

It was found that some of the visible violet light present in sunlight (in the range 405-420 nm) activates a porphyrin (Coproporphyrin III) in Propionibacterium acnes which damages and ultimately kills the bacteria by releasing singlet oxygen. A total of 320 J/cm2 of light within this range renders the bacteria non-viable.

Deep penetrating light therapy for 3 consecutive days has been shown to reduce the bacteria in the pores by 99.9%. Since there are few porphyrins naturally found in the skin, the treatment is believed safe except in patients with porphyria; although eye protection is used due to light-sensitive chemicals in the retina. The light is usually created by fluorescent lamps, bright LEDs or dichroic filament bulbs.

Overall improvements of on average 76% for 80% of patients occurs over 3 months; most studies show that it performs better than benzoyl peroxide and the treatment is far better tolerated. However, approximately 10% of users see no improvement.