Red Light vs Blue Light Therapy

Red Light vs Blue Light Therapy Featured Image

Just like numerous other blessings of nature, sunlight is a great resource since it does not only provide energy for our bodies, but it also regulates many of its functions. For example, sunlight enables your body to synthesize Vitamin D, an essential vitamin for our bones, blood cells, and immune system [1].  

In order to understand the topic of red light vs blue light therapy and their benefits,  It is important to understand the natural light rays emitted by the sun.

The sun comprises several different-colored light rays that are red, blue, green, yellow, and violet with varying amounts of energy. These rays have different wavelengths with red being the longest and blue being the shortest [2]. Each of these rays has different benefits for mankind. Other than these, the sun also emits invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, too much UV exposure may lead to sunburn or even skin cancer [3].  

Today, various therapies have been introduced based on the benefits of natural light, such as red light therapy and blue light therapy. The right amount and combination can help you maximize their benefits.  

Let’s explore how red and blue led light therapy works.

What Is Red Light Therapy?

Using a wavelength between 630-700 nm, red light therapy is a highly popular and non-invasive treatment option that solves various conditions today. Red light therapy affects the cell at the mitochondrial level. 

When red light therapy is used on the skin, it can penetrate 8-10 millimeters deep.  As your skin absorbs this light energy, red light boosts enzyme activity,  mitochondrial respiration, and the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), thus promoting cell and tissue repair [4]. Increased energy production within the cell improves blood flow and the function of the entire body.  
Red light therapy is primarily used for skin rejuvenation and decreasing skin inflammation. It mitigates the effect of sun damage, increases collagen production, and minimizes the effect of aging. Red light therapy treatment is also used for depression, sleep disorders, and mood problems.  You can learn more about red light therapy in this article.

What is Blue Light Therapy?

Blue light therapy is primarily used today for skin problems such as mild to severe acne and various types of skin cancer. 

Blue light therapy is also used to treat jaundice in newborns, reduce daytime sleepiness, and bacterial infections. 

The mechanism of blue light therapy is that it emits short wavelengths between 450 and 495 nanometers, and while the skin is exposed to blue light, it is quickly absorbed by bacteria-causing acne. Blue light then activates a chemical within bacteria that leads to the rupture of its outer layer. Thus the cells that are causing acne and other skin imperfections get destroyed, and now you’re left with healthy, smooth, and acne-free skin [5].

This efficacy of blue light for skin is evident from an experimental study on 31 Taiwanese with facial acne. The subjects were treated with the blue light on one side of the face for 4 weeks. The other side of the face was not given any treatment to make a comparison. By assessing the intensity and severity of acne before and after the treatment, it was concluded that blue light irradiation is effective for acne treatment [6]. 

Blue light therapy is called photodynamic therapy when it is used in combination with photosynthesizing drugs. In this case, you’re asked to stay indoor for minutes to hours and then you’re exposed to blue light to activate that drug. Photodynamic therapy is often used to treat cancerous and non-cancerous lesions within the skin as well as some form of acne [7].

Red Light vs Blue Light Therapy

Although the effectiveness of red and blue light therapy is backed by scientific evidence, there exists some difference between these two light rays. They are the following:

Uses and Benefits

Both therapies can be used to treat several diseases and benefits in multiple ways. The blue light therapy helps in killing acne-causing bacteria found in oil glands in your skin, controls sunburn, and is used to treat cancerous lesions. 

In the clinic, blue light therapy treatment is better when you have larger areas to treat and you need aggressive treatment at least in the beginning. At-home devices are good afterward to avoid recurrence and be able to get the treatment any time you want. 

On the other hand, red light therapy helps in reducing inflammation, wrinkles, and skin roughness. Nowadays, this therapy is also commonly used in treating sleep disorders, hormonal issues, removing surgical scars, and even helping in memory-related issues among senior people. 

Because the technique produces a minimum amount of heat, there is a rare chance of skin burning or any other side effects. The treatment is cost-effective as you don’t have to visit your physicians again and again.

Cost

Red light therapy is offered by many spas, salons, and gyms nowadays with their specialized red and blue light therapy machines. Many dermatologists also offer this therapy in their clinics and the cost varies between 25$ to 200$ depending upon the complexity of the treatment. 

However, If you want to buy a device of your own, you can find a quality device ranging from around 90$ to 1700$. You can find one that meets your requirements and gives you reliable in-home treatment. But for photosensitive people, it is advised to discuss with your doctor prior to using any such device. 

The cost of blue light therapy lies in between 40$- 60$ per session. If you’re buying a full package, you may have to pay around 1500$. 

However, when blue light therapy is applied as photodynamic therapy, that is with the combination of some chemicals, the costs can go up. Depending upon the problem, you may be asked to pay between 100$ to 4000$ per session. This treatment is often done to treat precancerous or cancerous lesions with blue light.

Blue light at-home devices can be between 50$ to 2000$ depending upon the need it fulfills.

Side Effects

Red light therapy and blue light therapy can be advantageous or not depending on the situation. Here are some side effects to expect: 

Cardiac Rhythm and Melatonin

Blue light can affect your sleep at night because it affects your circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin, your sleep-related hormone. That’s why people who sleep during the day out of depression or any other reason are given blue light therapy to wake them up and become more active. 

On the contrary, red light therapy is helpful to manage our sleep at night. This is based on the fact that in the evening, the sun has a dim red light, sending us the signal that it’s time to rest and sleep. Red light activates melatonin [8]. 

Depending on the need, the use of blue and red light therapy or their combination can be used.

Effect on the Eyes

Research suggests that excessive blue light exposure increases the risk of macular degeneration and eye strain [9]. Red light therapy is therefore safer for eyes than blue light. However, protective goggles should be worn and proper usage should be followed to reap the benefits of blue light. 
Learn more about the side effects of red light therapy and now to minimize them in this article.

Intensity and Frequency 

Red light has photons of low energy whereas blue light has photons of high energy.  This is because blue light has shorter waves, with wavelengths between about 450 and 495 nanometers. 

Red light has longer waves, with wavelengths around 630 to 700 nm. The intensity of blue light vs red light is high, making both therapies effective for treating a wide variety of problems. 

Can You Use Red and Blue Light Therapy Together?

Acne vulgaris has now become a challenge both for dermatologists and patients because conventional medicine doesn’t always provide the best results and often come with many side effects. Also, the rate of recurrence for acne is high. 

Both red and blue light skin therapy treatments have gained momentum because of their effectiveness, cost advantage, and fewer side effects. 

A study conducted in 2006 assessed the efficacy of blue and red light therapy for acne. 24 subjects with mild to severe acne were given treatment for 12 weeks. 

The subjects were given over 8 sessions, with 2 sessions per week 3 days apart, alternating between 415 nm blue light and 633 nm red light. Each session lasted for 20 minutes. After a 12-week follow-up, there was an 81% reduction in acne lesions and side effects were minimal [10].

It was concluded that red light and blue light therapy can be used together since a combination of both lights may reduce skin scarring, control inflammation, and kill acne-causing bacteria. Cystic acne can be treated with a combination of red and blue light.

Conclusion

Blue light and red light therapy are clinically proven non-invasive treatment options today.

The appropriate use of red and blue light can make these therapies more effective. They’re also affordable, safe, and easy to use. Most dermatologists recommend using any one or a combination of these light based therapies to treat mild to severe acne.

If you have a severe skin condition, you need to consult your doctor first. Your doctor may recommend the use of these light therapies or may combine them with drugs to maximize their therapeutic effect.


References:

  1. Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. 2012- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/
  2. Standford Solar Center. What colour is the Sun.2020- http://solar-center.stanford.edu/SID/activities/GreenSun.html
  3. American Cancer Society. Ultravoilet Radiation. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/uv-radiation.html
  4. Tafur J & Mills PJ. Low-intensity light therapy: exploring the role of redox mechanisms.2008 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996814/
  5. Dai T et al. Hamblin MR. Blue light for infectious diseases: Propionibacterium acnes, Helicobacter pylori, and beyond?.2012 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3438385/
  6. Tzung TY et al. Blue light phototherapy in the treatment of acne. 2004 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15379878/
  7. Wan MT & Lin JY. Current evidence and applications of photodynamic therapy in dermatology. 2014 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4038525/
  8. Tosini G, et al . Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology. 2016 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/
  9. American Macular degeneration foundation. Ultra-violet and Blue Light Aggravate Macular Degeneration. –https://www.macular.org/ultra-violet-and-blue-light
  10. Goldberg DJ & Russell BA. Combination blue (415 nm) and red (633 nm) LED phototherapy in the treatment of mild to severe acne vulgaris. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16766484/

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