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What is the Difference Between Blue and Red Light Therapy?

Nicole Long
Nicole Long

Light therapy is touted as an alternative treatment for several diseases and conditions. The difference between blue and red light therapy lies in the diseases they help treat. Blue light therapy helps treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), depression, and some skin disorders. Red light therapy is used to treat acne, accelerate wound healing, and reduce the appearance of scars.

Blue and red light therapy both administer wavelengths of light to the patient through a variety of light sources. This is done through the use of light boxes, lamps, and light-emitting wands. They work by having the patient sit in front of the lighted box for a prescribed amount of time or directing the light at a specific spot. Instruments related to administering blue and red light therapy can range in price from affordable to expensive, depending on the type and manufacturer.

A man having red light therapy.
A man having red light therapy.

The treatment of depression and other mental disorders are the most common uses of blue light. A certain type of depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), has been shown to benefit from the use of blue light therapy. The use of blue light therapy can help patients reduce the need for prescription antidepressants when used as directed.

In the case of bipolar disorder, blue light therapy also shows promise. Someone with bipolar disorder should be under the watchful eye of a physician when using a blue light therapy box, as too high a setting may result in heightened manic symptoms. It can also interfere with a person’s sleep cycle.

Blue light therapy can also offer skin care benefits. By killing bacteria, blue light therapy can help treat and prevent acne. In addition to using blue light therapy, patients are also directed to follow a proper cleansing routine.

Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.
Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.

Skin care benefits differ between blue and red light therapy. While blue light will help eliminate acne causing bacteria, red light therapy helps stimulate the production of collagen and speed the healing of wounds. Blue and red light therapy are often used at the same time to treat acne and heal the scars associated with it.

Red light therapy can also help in the treatment of other skin disorders and conditions. Rosacea and eczema are just two of the many skin conditions which may improve with the use of red light therapy. Other possible benefits of red light therapy include reducing the look of lines and wrinkles and helping firm the facial skin.

Discussion Comments


@browncoat - I would make sure it definitely says it on the product that it doesn't emit ultraviolet light, as you never know with some of these companies, particularly if it is bought over the internet.

Generally though, you're right, light therapy is relatively harmless unless you've got a special condition which it might aggravate.

Honestly though, I wouldn't try it without a doctor's advice. You don't buy a $500 machine simply to kill the bacteria on your skin to prevent acne when a bar of soap will do the same thing.

If the soap isn't working there might be something else wrong and your doctor is the only one in the room qualified to figure out what that might be.


@bythewell - Actually, my main concern would be that the home versions of the lights can be quite expensive. But, compared to how much the doctor might charge for each session, I suppose that's a bargain.

I think that certain disorders need to be treated with care, but otherwise light therapy is relatively safe. I mean, it's the same light you experience every day, with most of the harmful elements removed (such as the UV rays). About the only thing you have to worry about is that it can cause insomnia if you mess up your body clock by making it think it's day when it's actually night.

In some cases it can help people to sleep better, in fact, as long as they use it properly.

Frankly, I don't think LED light therapy products are any more dangerous than caffeine.


I've actually heard of people being able to bring home their own light therapy products so they can treat themselves at home.

It makes me wonder how safe that actually is, or alternatively how effective.

It seems like the kind of thing that is only really going to be effective if it is administered in a high enough "dose" i.e. if the light is strong enough.

But I doubt that they sell very strong lights to people for this kind of therapy. I'm sure they prefer if it is done at home.

Of course, red light therapy doesn't sound like it's as dangerous as blue light therapy so maybe people are able to use that at home in effective doses but without the danger of harming themselves.

That would be really useful actually. It sounds like light therapy can be effective with a range of different problems.

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    • A man having red light therapy.
      A man having red light therapy.
    • Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.
      By: Gordana Sermek
      Blue light therapy can help clear up acne.
    • Blue light therapy may be used to treat seasonal affective disorder.
      By: Igor Mojzes
      Blue light therapy may be used to treat seasonal affective disorder.