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Does Blue Light Therapy Really Cure Acne?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Blue light therapy is sometimes promoted as an effective treatment for acne, although people who undergo standard therapy sessions are typically not completely cured of acne. Clinical studies have shown that this method clears about 55% of pimples, so it's not a cure, but a treatment that may help reduce some acne. The light also can kill some of the acne causing bacteria, P. vulgaris. Blue light treatment is still being monitored for overall safety and effectiveness. So far, few complications from this therapy have been reported, but long-term effects are not yet known.

There are several apparent benefits to blue light therapy. It's painless, with relatively short therapy sessions, and the light does not contain UV rays, so it's not considered to be potentially cancer causing. Patients generally have two, 15-minute sessions every week for four weeks. People have also found that inflammatory acne may respond well to the treatment.

One type of acne that does not respond well to this therapy, and which may actually worsen as a result of treatment, is called nodulocystic acne. This form of acne usually shows on the skin as numerous bumps that are generally painful to the touch and may be red or purple in color. Cysts resembling boils may also be present and may be filled with pus. This form of acne may get worse with blue light treatment, so people with acne should be properly diagnosed before undergoing this therapy.

There are a few mild side effects to blue light therapy. Some pigment changes to the skin can occur, although they usually are temporary. Treated areas treated may also experience slight inflammation and may become especially dry.

It’s unclear exactly how long blue light treatments will help the skin remain clear, and it bears repeating that this is not a cure for acne. Some people experience significant improvement while others see minor, transient clearing. Generally, effective treatment in the best of circumstances results in a 50% reduction in acne. As a result, combined therapies are being experimented with.

One method under investigation is using the topical 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) before blue light treatments. ALA makes the skin less resistant to light, and may make it more effective in killing acne causing bacteria. It does have more side effects than blue light alone and may cause hair follicles to swell. People who are treated with ALA are instructed to use sunscreen for 48 hours after each treatment to avoid serious sunburn. Like many acne treatments now available, ALA with blue light therapy is considered potentially effective. Currently, there is no standard “cure” for acne.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon285916 — On Aug 18, 2012

Blue light therapy, by the way, is scientifically proven to reduce up to 70 percent of acne, making it a very controllable problem.

By anon183791 — On Jun 06, 2011

In the Netherlands there is a company where you can actually rent expensive Blue Light Therapy to use at home for two weeks. Is there something like that in the US as well so I can see if it works for me?

By anon148042 — On Jan 31, 2011

Specifically, the blue light therapy is supposed to decrease the bacterial growth under the skin. Who knows? Just like washing your face it gets the dirt off. The light treats the underlying sebum.

By Glen Godfrey — On Jan 04, 2011

So I have been reading these reviews and finally decided to have one myself. I have hormonal acne and lot of acne scars, ice picks and so on, oily skin, you name, it I had it. So before trying laser I gave it a chance and so happy I did. If you're like me, desperate and every dollar counts, try this. you shouldn't be disappointed. Skin is so much better.

By anon123083 — On Oct 30, 2010

I had this treatment done almost two weeks ago, using the ALA and blue light. This was a trial run from my dermatologist, the machine he borrowed from a rep.

I sat with the ALA gel on my face for about 20-30 mins, then went under the light for about the same amount of time. At first it got warm and then it started to feel like a chemical peel.

I either got used to the feeling or the pain subsided after a few minutes. After the treatment my skin was very red, and the next day I looked like I had a severe sunburn, raccoon eyes and all. Then several days later I developed a scab under my eye.

Still today I have a lot of redness and very patchy and flaky areas on my skin. I saw my doctor and he gave me a steroid cream to use. I am not sure if the treatment has really worked yet or not, I have cystic acne, so I was surprised to read that it could be made worse by using this treatment, luckily it has not become worse. But please be aware that this could happen to you, I was on no other meds, and was not in the sun after treatment.

By darryl80 — On Oct 21, 2010

There is still no cure for acne but there are treatments that help in clearing/reducing acne. I'm new to this method of treating acne. Yeah, how does it work? I'm sure it's costly. I'm still satisfied with the treatment I'm into right now, using Puraskin Acne Treatment.

By anon85054 — On May 18, 2010

Blue light therapy to treat acne does indeed work very well, generally for over 90 percent of those who try it. The home light therapy devices from Trophy Skin have almost the same intensity as the blue light found in the dermatologist office!

By anon25617 — On Feb 01, 2009

Specifically, how does blue light cure acne?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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