Recently, blue light therapy has been introduced in the red light therapy space. PlatinumLED added blue light therapy to their BIOMAX panels in a 2022/2023 upgrade to their product.
PlatinumLED is not the first though: blue light therapy has been popular for decades now. And, there's a ton of published science on this topic. I will break down that science down in this blog post and teach you about the pros and cons of blue light therapy.
During that process, I'll rely on existing "systematic reviews" that have been published on this topic. I'll also add some other studies that haven't been included in these systematic reviews but that add context to the discussion.
"Systematic reviews" are a systematization and summarization of existing research on a given topic. For instance, you can have a systematic review on "blue light therapy for acne" or "the molecular mechanisms of blue light therapy" (1; 2). I'll break these down into simple to understand language.
If you're interested in watching a summary video on this topic, check this:
If you're short on time and like to read, you can also check the summary I've included below though:
Blue Light Therapy Effects Summary
- Blue light therapy uses light in the 400-500 nanometer range (definitions vary) to accomplish biological effects.
- Blue light has many different benefits, such as for skin problems (acne, psoriasis, and others), Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), setting your circadian rhythm, dental care, quicker healing after traumatic brain injury, your serotonin and melatonin levels and others.
- Side effects include circadian disruptions and eye problems so you'll have to be careful with excess exposure. If you're getting tons of blue light exposure during the daytime because you work indoors then adding more with blue light therapy might be dangerous and unnecessary (especially through the eyes).
- Sunlight is probably the best way to get your daily dose of blue light, but for people who don't expose their naked skin to the sun, blue light therapy can be a benefit.
- Dosage parameters in studies differ widely, from very high to very low, and a dose close to sunlight of 5-10 mW/cm2 max is probably best.
- If you want to integrate blue light therapy into your life, get a PlatinumLED BIOMAX for full-body treatment or a Hooga Color Light Therapy in Blue for spot treatment. Code ALEX saves in those two cases. You can also find Blue Light Therapy on Amazon
What Is Blue Light Therapy?
Light has huge effects on human health in general. For instance, sunlight exposure has huge effects on human health and its effects have been underappreciated by most of science for a long time (3; 4; 5; 6). And, sunlight exposure effects on health are far more wide-ranging than just creating vitamin D in your skin.
For instance, sunlight exposure affects the opioid system in your body, its internal cannabinoid system called "endocannabinoid", influences the 24-7 internal clock in your body called the "circadian rhythm", and much more (7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14). Then, sunlight helps create brain signalling compounds called "neurotransmitters" and aids energy generation through so-called "mitochondria" (15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22). Mitochondria are the energy-producing factories of your cells.
You therefore cannot take a vitamin D pill and expect to get the full benefits of sunlight exposure. With vitamin D pills, you only receive one out of many health benefits and the approach is arguably very suboptimal.
Obviously, for this blog post, we'll focus on the health effects of blue light. Blue light therapy was invented to expose your body to that part of the light spectrum.
Just like tanning beds exist to expose your body to ultraviolet light, and red light therapy exist to expose your body to red and near-infrared light, the goal of blue light therapy is to expose your body to more blue light.
Sometimes the violet light located around the low 400s is included within the blue light, and sometimes not.
A recent excellent systematic review on blue light therapy states the following about the research on the topic:
"The effect of visible blue light on cells and their corresponding tissue has gained increasing interest in recent years. Though obviously effective in some inflammatory dermatological conditions, the exact underlying molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways are still elusive. There are quite a number of studies investigating the photoacceptors, mediators and signaling pathways involved in the cell- and tissue-specific responses observed after blue light irradiation but with controversial outcomes. Two main species as mediators of cellular responses to blue light are NO and different ROS, which have been identified in several studies. However, which species, alone or in combination, elicits the observed effects is still unclear. Here, the balance between both generated species could also make a difference regarding the different observed effects. Additionally, opsins have been identified in the skin which seem to have a light dependent signaling role adding further possibilities for effecting cellular responses with blue light. Clearly, some more effort is needed to describe and characterize these main players and their effects in the context of inflammatory skin conditions." (2).
These researches venture amazingly deep into the physiological mechanisms of blue light therapy.
The most important conclusion here is that there's a large unknown: a lot more research into blue light therapy is needed for deeper understanding. Blue light therapy research is still in its very early phases.
Also, notice that lots of research is carried out on different physiological mechanisms, such as "photoacceptors", mediators, and signaling pathways". ROS or "Reactive Oxygen Species" which underlies oxidative stress and Nitric Oxide (NO), which plays a major role in blood flow and blood vessel health, in part, are two important mechanisms here. Both mechanisms, in turn, are closely related to the benefits of blue light therapy that are currently proven.
Blue light therapy was developed because the gold standard of skincare, ultraviolet light, began to have a reputation for harmful side effects. Whether that reputation is legitimate or not can be read in my blog post on tanning beds.
Basically, researchers wanted a skincare tool that didn't involve ultraviolet light exposure. And, sure, red light therapy has amazing benefits for skincare as well, but blue light therapy offers a second avenue for realizing these benefits (26; 27; 28). Blue light therapy has also be used in dental care. In the next section, I'll look at some of the blue light therapy benefits:
Blue Light Therapy Benefits
In the section below, I'll consider some of the benefits of blue light therapy.
1. Probably Benefits Skin Acne
A huge amount of research has been published on blue light therapy for acne. Acne vulgaris, or simply called "acne", is one of the most common skin conditions out there, mainly affecting young people. Up to 90% of adolescents are affected. Soon, you'll learn why blue light therapy for acne has a decent reputation for that problem.
For writing this section, I've only relied upon existing systematic reviews (29; 30; 31; 32). I'm assuming there that these studies do a much better job summarizing and integrating the published science as they've spent hundreds of hours on these topics.
So what's the outcome?
Overall studies have a short duration and are of low quality. The benefit of blue light therapy isn't always clear. Many studies do, however, favor blue light therapy over a control therapy or other placebo. Especially the study participants themselves found that blue light therapy improved their skin condition. When the researchers judged whether inflammatory or non-inflammatory skin lesions improved, there was no difference with placebo (29).
Adverse effects or side effects were rare to nonexistent though.
However, there's a different picture. The second systematic review investigating the effects of blue light therapy on acne concludes that there is a significant effect. For inflammatory acne, there is need for more trials but the overall picture is much more positive than the earlier systematic review I considered (30).
However, the third systematic review finds no effect (31). And, the fourth, on the contrary, is extremely positive again:
"In general, high-intensity narrowband light (405–420 nm) applied for 8–20 min twice weekly for four weeks was reported to reduce inflammatory acne lesion count in the 60%–70% range; noninflammatory acne lesions were less affected. Similarly, a combination of blue-red light has been reported to reduce inflammatory lesions from 69% to 77% with more modest effect on noninflammatory lesions." (32).
Once again, the evidence is contradictory but still hugely positive. Overall, my position here is that there's a very high probability that blue light therapy for acne works well. Of course, more research is needed.
Treatments are generally also safe and without many side-effects. The fourth systematic review I considered states:
"One study investigated safety and efficacy of at-home treatment of mild to moderate inflammatory acne with a FDA-approved blue light device (412 nm) at 2 J/cm2/day (equivalent to typical full-face treatment) or 29 J/cm2/day (equivalent to typical dose after localized spot treatment). [...] Results showed that blue light at both doses were effective in reducing the number of inflammatory lesions and acne flares and associated with improved cosmesis. In addition, 53% of subjects found blue light treatment to be much gentler than conventional acne treatment and 61% reported satisfaction with the treatment. Gold et al. reported a significant decrease in mild to moderate inflammatory acne at 1 and 3 months with home use of Silk’n Blue LED device (405–460 nm) in 17 patients.[..] Patients demonstrated a good understanding of device labeling and experienced no adverse events. Another study evaluated the efficacy of a combination of blue light (415 nm) with red light (633 nm) in reducing inflammatory acne lesions with mild-to-moderate acne after eight 20–30 minute self-administered treatments with a hand-held unit over four weeks.[...] Lesion counts were reduced 69% at eight weeks post-treatment course." (32).
It's good that blue light therapy has decent effects. Conventional acne treatments here often involve treating the skin directly, antibiotics, retinol (vitamin A), lifestyle changes and medical procedures (33). So, if blue light therapy can offer results without sid e effects that is a big gain!
The combination of red light therapy and blue light therapy for acne is also superior to either in some of the studies. I'll come back to that topic later in this blog post.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that affects the skin (35; 36; 37). No cure for psoriasis currently exists. The midsection, head, and extremities are most often affected by the autoimmune condition. The problem here is that many people take prescription medication or use skin treatments that have side effects. For that reason if blue light therapy for psoriasis is helpful, it can be a way to minimize side effects for people with psoriasis.
Only one systematic review has been published on psoriasis and blue light therapy though (38). I can't view the full text of that study in any way. So I'll therefore also look at individual studies and summarize them below.
Suffice it to say that the abstract of the only systematic review on blue light therapy for acne is very positive (38). The results section of the abstract states the following:
"Therapeutic modalities using blue light have been proven to be effective as a monotherapy or component of a comprehensive treatment plan for common dermatologic diseases such as actinic keratosis, acne, cutaneous infections, and psoriasis, and early reports support its use in disseminated superficial actinic porokeratosis and actinic cheilitis." (38).
Next up, let's look at some of the individual studies on blue light therapy for psoriasis:
- A 2017 study investigated the effects of two 4-week treatments of a pharmaceutical intervention with 12 weeks of blue light therapy (39). Both interventions worked about equally well, but, the blue light therapy was much cheaper to implement. Both interventions were applied to mild to moderate psoriasis.
- In another study, participants used blue light therapy for 3 months (40). The participants treated their own limbs with a blue light therapy device. Overall, the effects were highly positive as there were across-the-board improvements in psoriasis.
- Yet another study used blue light therapy at 420nm and 453nm for psoriasis (41). Both modalities had good results and led to improvements in psoriasis. The results got progressively better over a 4-week period. What's important to note is that both wavelengths worked really well.
- When comparing different power intensities of blue light therapy, both 100 mW/cm2 and 200 mW/cm2 worked well (44). Read my guide on red light therapy dosing to learn what these numbers mean.
- Overall, light therapy works really well for psoriasis - if you need help then ultraviolet light and pulsed red light therapy and other modalities can also help (42).
- One study compared blue light therapy with red light therapy (43). Both worked well and blue light therapy worked even slightly better.
Overall conclusion? Blue light therapy for psoriasis seems very helpful and promising! Different wavelengths in the 420s and 460nm light all help according to recently published science, and blue light therapy sometimes does even better than red light therapy.
3. Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is yet another inflammatory skin condition (45; 46; 47). To be more precise, it's a specific form of eczema and is the leading cause of skin disease in the world right now. Once again, there's a role of the immune system and potentially an autoimmune factor (in an autoimmune disease your immune system attacks your own cells, failing to correctly distinguish between "you" and "non-you" cells).
Ultraviolet light is one of the most common treatments used for atopic dermatitis. Prescription medication is also frequently used.
Once more, systematic review studies are highly positive for blue light therapy on atopic dermatitis - same as for eczema (48). Let's once again go over some individual studies though, as there isn't a ton of published literature available:
Only one study investigated the effects of blue light therapy for severe atopic dermatitis as far as I can tell (49). After 5 cycles of multiple treatment sessions, atopic dermatitis improved significantly. Itchy skin, a common and dangerous side effect because people start scratching, sleep quality, and quality of life all improved. Participants had fewer flare-ups of their skin condition and could reduce medication.
As a side note, there is evidence that blue light therapy can also be used in newborns for preventing inflammatory skin diseases in the long run (50). Atopic dermatitis was lower in newborns who received blue light therapy. Blue light therapy, here, could significantly decrease the risk of developing inflammatory skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis for up to a period of 5 years.
Conclusion? Unfortunately, I couldn't find any more direct studies but if you keep treating your skin with blue light therapy, eventually you'll probably get results. More research is needed though.
Eczema, as a generalized condition, may also be affected by blue light therapy moreover (82). I won't go into detail here as a lot more publications are available on atopic dermatitis.
Lastly, some other skin conditions may also be helped with blue light therapy (80; 81). Usually, (chronic) inflammation and a partially malfunctioning immune system play a role here. I won't go into great detail here.
4. Countering Seasonal Affective Disorder
Many of us feel a lot better during the summertime when there's ample bright light available. And, many people will experience what is called "Seasonal Affective Disorder" when they're spending lots of time indoors in darkness during a long winter (51; 52; 53). I'm saying "many" here and not "all" as some parts of the human population don't seem to have much of a problem spending a long dark winter in Finland, Canada, or another country with a high latitude.
Well here's the good news. There's a ton of evidence showing blue light therapy counters Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and helps to improve mood. Often, in these cases, people are underexposed to bright light, leading to problems down the road. So let's look at some of the research on this topic:
- Quite a few systematic reviews have been published on this topic (54; 55; 56). Many of these studies have been published in the last 5-10 years. One of these three studies has a negative outcome and considers blue light therapy unproven for both seasonal depression and a non-seasonal one. Another one states the following:
"[Blue Light Therapy]is an increasingly promising treatment option, particularly for those disorders that show seasonal variation in symptoms, delayed circadian phase, and depressive symptoms. In addition to more robust randomized controlled trials for the use of BLT in disorders other than SAD, further research into the physiological mechanisms of BLT is needed." (55).
So, evidence is currently best for seasonal depression, not a regular clinical depression that's independent of seasonality. The third systematic review also finds benefit for light therapy in general, which includes white light (all the colors of the rainbow which are included in visible light), and other options.
- Some of the differences why blue light might not work may be because other light wavelengths, such as green and yellow, also work very well (57). So if you'd compare blue light therapy versus green light therapy, both would work. Nevertheless, for mood, some studies do show that blue is superior to red, for instance (58; 59). So overall it's complicated but I'd say that there's an effect here.
Overall, blue light therapy for seasonal affective disorder is promising, although I'd rather see more studies of higher quality.
5. Setting Your Circadian Rhythm
Next up, there's also a lot of evidence showing blue light therapy can improve your circadian rhythm. Remember that your circadian rhythm is the 24/7 clock in your body that takes cues from the light and darkness in your environment - especially blue light.
Simply put, by exposing your eyes to blue light therapy you tell your body it's daytime. Make sure to not wear lenses or glasses during that process for the best effect.
Even in night shift workers, blue light therapy can be used to reduce sleepiness and improve alertness and wakefulness. The same is true if you've often got problems getting out of bed during weekdays. In that case, use blue light therapy in the morning for the best effects. The most important part here is that your light emits blue light, not that it is exclusively blue. White light with a regular dose of blue light seems to suffice and doesn't perform better than blue-enriched light.
In some studies, exposure to blue light in the morning also leads to improved sleep at night. Bright red or amber light during the day doesn't confer this benefit.
6. Traumatic Brain Injury
A very high number of studies have investigated the effects of blue light therapy on traumatic brain injury (67; 68; 69; 70; 71; 72; 78; 79). These outcomes are quite all-encompassing although more research is needed. I'll summarize these studies here and also the outcomes of the systematic reviews (73; 74).
Traumatic brain injury, as the name already suggests, is a health condition in which the brain has received mechanical trauma (75; 76; 77). As a result, you'll have to recover and sometimes have to rehabilitate. Such traumatic brain injuries can occur due to different reasons, such as a car crash or being hit during a contact sport. Large complications can occur, such as poor sleep, depression, impairments in motor function and sensation, poor cognition, and more.
First of all, blue light therapy seems to be mainly effective for countering depression after a traumatic brain injury. Sleep disturbance, fatigue, and sleep quality also improve with blue light therapy. For other benefits, less evidence is available.
Daytime sleepiness and quality of life are other domains often affected by traumatic brain injury and blue light therapy may help here. For the best results, it's probably useful to use blue light therapy in the morning.
And there's more:
7. Dental Care
So, now I'll consider blue light therapy for dental treatment. Later on in this section, I'll also briefly talk about whether it's possible to use customer-grade blue light therapy or whether you need professional equipment to get good results.
Let's check a few studies on this topic:
- One study investigated the effects of blue light-emitting electric toothbrushes (82). The power density used was only 2 mW/cm2, which is fortunately very low. This power density means that if you expose your teeth to some blue light at all, it will have a positive effect as many devices will be able to emit the 2 mW/cm2.dose. Also, 405 - 420nm blue light was used. Apparently, the blue light has a very positive effect on the bacteria in your mouth. There are also positive benefits for "gingivitis" - inflammation of the gums around your tooth. By adding the blue light therapy to the brushing, overall results improved by up to 50%. The benefit here is that for a poor bacterial makeup in the mouth and gingivitis, blue light therapy offers an approach that doesn't involve prescription medication or side effects. Quite a few studies show that combinations of blue light therapy and other interventions, such as rose bengal, aid the biome in the mouth (87; 88). The reason is that some bacteria and other organisms are photosensitive to the blue light.
- Some other studies show positive effects by using a light-emitting electric toothbrush as well (91; 92; 93). Bleeding of the gums and inflammation go down, for instance, over a period of multiple weeks. Some harmful bacteria are inhibited.
- Blue light therapy, moreover, is also used for bleaching and other dental procedures (83). The downside is that at higher dosages, blue light causes oxidative stress, such as increases in Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). ROS are a byproduct of energy-production but increases ROS also likely speeds up aging. At very high dosages, blue light therapy used by dentist for teeth whitening, for instance, may thus be damaging. Nevertheless, very promising research has demonstrated that blue light therapy can be used for whitening of teeth in lab studies (86). I'd like to see more high-quality human research here though. In the lab study, extracted teeth were used and some were exposed to blue light therapy together with other compounds. Blue light at 456nm was used and 192 mW/cm2 - that dose is extremely high.
- Blue light can also be used by dentists to counter "biofilm", which forms the basis of plaque (84; 85; 89). Microorganisms cause that biofilm. In the future, blue light may be used as an alternative for the mechanical removal of plaque, if more high-quality studies confirm its viability (86; 91). The best results are found by combining red and blue light therapy in some studies.
- Blue light, curcumin, and vitamin B2 (riboflavin), work really well to counter periodontitis (90). Somehow, in this treatment, curcumin and riboflavin are photoactivated by the blue light. These compounds then remove harmful bacteria from the mouth that cause part of the inflammation.
What do these results mean for you?
Well, right now, I think blue light therapy has limited application for the average person. What you could do is to expose your teeth to some blue light if you've got a panel for that, at not too high a dose. The problem is that most of these interventions I described above use very specific protocols in dentistry, often with additional compounds, so that the procedure becomes impossible to replicate for the average person.
Overall though, exposing your teeth to a very low dose of blue light is probably helpful.
8. Increases Serotonin Production
I've looked at the effects of blue light therapy on SAD before - now I'll explore blue light therapy for serotonin. Once again, there's a very nice quantity of research available on this topic. So let's explore these studies one by one:
- You might know that blue light, in excess, can be damaging. But, the absence of blue light also works depressing - perhaps partially explaining why SAD lamps work so well. In rat studies, blue light therapy alone can alleviate depression (94). And, that blue light directly affects serotonin in the brain. Boosting serotonin, in turn, helps your body create melatonin at night, which explains why blue light therapy aids sleep quality in some studies. Many light therapy studies, in fact, find a direct link to serotonin levels (95; 96).
- In other animal studies, if you expose animals to full spectrum light without the blue light, depression ensues (97). This probably means that blue light has a very helpful role to play in alleviating depression and making you feel good. Amber (orange-red) light doesn't have this effect (98). Further effects such as connectivity between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex also happen because of blue light exposure in animal studies. The amygdala is the emotional center of the brain and the prefrontal cortex can be imagined as a kind of "CEO" of your brain that affects abstract thinking. As a result of this connectivity, you may gain better cognitive control over your emotions and also have a better mood. Human studies need to confirm these findings though.
Conclusion? Preliminary research using animal studies are very promising and show that blue light therapy for serotonin is a real possibility. Human studies need to be performed with these study setups though.
9. Rare Health Conditions Such As Hyperbilirubinemia
I won't go into great detail here, as most readers aren't affected by this benefit. I just want to mention it because it might be important. The health condition called "hyperbilirubinemia" entails that you have excessive bilirubin levels in the blood. That bilirubin breaks down iron, in turn. Hyperbilirubinemia is often called "jaundice" (98; 99; 100; 101; 102).
Especially for jaundice in newborns and children, blue light therapy seems hopeful (103; 104; 105; 106; 107). Just a 24-hour treatment can decreases bilirubin dramatically by ~35%. Apparantly, bilirubin in the skin is affected and secreted. In some cases, full-spectrum light seems to be more effective than blue light alone.
If your beloved newborn is affected by this health condition, I simply recommend reading the studies I've cited above and finding some related sources that might help you.
Blue Light Therapy Versus Red Light Therapy
"So, what's better, blue light therapy or red light therapy?"
If at all possible, I don't want to turn this discussion into a binary choice. Simply put, if you were asking me to choose between a car or airplane, meat or eggs, a house or a job, I'd universally tell you that I'd rather have access to both options, not either or. The same is true for the red light therapy versus blue light therapy discussion - ideally you'll want to expose your body to both therapies.
Should you though?
It depends. In my opinion, if you have access to high-quality sunlight, especially blue light therapy becomes less important. For red light therapy, the jury is still out. We've been in the red light therapy space for many years now, and many people report decreases in health if they're not exposing themselves to red light therapy, despite spending lots of time in good sunlight. Sunlight exposure is essential for health, and yet, adding red light therapy to the mix seems to offer even greater benefits.
- lowers inflammation
- improves skin health and wound healing
- upgrades thyroid function
- aids fat loss
- enhances gym performance
- speeds up recovery after exercise
- optimizes testosterone levels potentially
- increases your energy levels
- boosts blood flow and circulation
- enhances fertility
- makes your immune system perform better
- aids eye health
- helps the body utilize stems cells more effectively/efficiently
- improves oral health
- decreases pain
- may reverse hair loss
- boosts your mood
- may slow down aging
- optimizes brain function and may act as a cognitive enhancer
- helps clear your nose so you can nasal breathe better
- deepens sleep quality and raises the amount of REM sleep you get
- has lots of potential benefits for health conditions such as Alhzeimer, diabetes, heart disease, and so forth
Yes that list is epic...
Moreover, that's just a short list of red light therapy benefits I posted above. Also, remember, the list of blue light therapy benefits that I elaborated on above is very different and much shorter.
Nevertheless, the benefits of blue light therapy are still impressive, even though they sometimes slightly overlap with red light therapy benefits. In an ideal world, you wouldn't have to choose and could benefit from both.
So, just like I don't want to choose between a car and an airplane, or between eating eggs or meat, I also don't want to choose between having blue light therapy and red light therapy in my life. Both options have huge benefits.
If financial means are a problem though, at this point, I'd still choose red light therapy over blue light therapy, because there are lots more evidence on the efficacy of the former. And, as a cheap alternative for blue light therapy, and arguably just as an effective alternative, I'd make sure I'd integrate lots of sunlight exposure onto my naked skin and eyes into my life, as a means to ensure I receive all the benefits or most of the benefits of the blue light wavelengths between 400 and 500 nanometers.
How To Use Blue Light Therapy
The natural question in your mind may be "how to use blue light therapy?". Well, there's no universally correct way to use blue light therapy. First of all, different blue light therapy devices come with different instructions for usage. So if you get a blue light therapy mask the usage pattern will be different than if you've getting a BioMax panel that has blue light therapy in it.
Nevertheless, blue light therapy dosing is important. And, from seeing multiple studies, dosages as low as 2 mW/cm2 already have positive effects. It's likely such dosages are effective because they accord to the exposure pattern of sunlight in a way. Other studies use dosages as high as 100 to 200 mW/cm2 so a wide spectrum of different exposure patterns can probably work well here.
To stay safe though, it's probably best to stay close to the exposure of sunlight exposure. Sunlight has an irradiance of 30-35 mW/cm2 in the near-infrared spectrum, for instance (108; 109; 111; 112). UV levels can also approximate 40 mW/cm2 in the tropics. So, given that blue light is only a small part of the visible light spectrum, it's safe to say that with a dose of 5-10 mW/cm2 you're getting all the benefits you'd normally get from sunlight exposure.
Of course, you could exposure your body to a much higher dose than what you're getting from sunlight exposure. Similar trends exist within red light therapy, where people are exposing themselves to 50 or 75 mW/cm2, which is more than the normal maximum of 40 mW/cm2 for near-infrared light exposure. For many people, those dosage parameters give good results but more research is needed on that topic. Of course, if you're dosing your cells with 75 mW/cm2 using red light therapy, half of that light is red light. And, you're also missing out on most of the visible light spectrum, all of the ultraviolet light spectrum, and middle and far infrared as well. So this issue here is extremely complicated.
Suffice it to say, a higher dose than 5-10 mW/cm2 might work for blue light therapy but just to be sure I'd keep my exposure to the low end and not massively exceed the levels you're exposed to from the sun.
By the way, the topic of sunlight versus blue light therapy is really important. Let's explore that topic next:
Blue Light Therapy Vs. Sunlight
Arguably, if you're regularly getting sunlight exposure during the day then you don't need blue light therapy. Both the morning sun and midday sun emit decent levels of blue light.
Of course, I'm assuming here that you're exposing your entire skin to that sunlight. In cases where it's impossible for you to get mostly naked in a societally acceptable way then blue light therapy can have the benefits I described in an earlier section.
But basically, if you're exposing most of your skin to 5-10 mW/cm2 of blue light from sunlight exposure for 30 minutes or 90 minutes a day, you probably don't need blue light therapy. The caveat here is that if new studies come out showing that the extremely high irradiance levels such as 100 or 200 mW/cm2 have benefits normal exposure levels don't.
But, such studies need to be published first before any conclusion can be drawn. And, it's also somewhat unlikely that unique benefits are found at these exposure levels as there's a dropoff in benefits with ultraviolet light and infrared light exposure too. So more is not always better here!
So, generally, no, I don't think you need blue light therapy if you've got sufficient sunlight exposure integrated into your life. And, that sunlight is still the best way you can get balanced exposure to a combination of different ultraviolet light types (UVA and UVB), the whole visible light spectrum (violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red), and all types of infrared (near, middle, and far). So right now, there's no viable replacement for sunlight.
Arguably, people can claim that red light therapy has some benefits sunlight exposure doesn't precisely because you can expose your body to a higher power output at very specific wavelengths such as 660 nanometers and 810 nanometers that doesn't exist in sunlight. I would agree with that argument as it makes sense. I think the mitochondrial benefits of red light therapy may outshine those of sunlight exposure, for instance. But so far, I've not seen any unique benefits from blue light therapy that you cannot get from sunlight exposure.
So, right now, my viewpoint is that you don't need blue light therapy if you get regular high-quality sunlight exposure.
Next up, another burning question on many people's minds:
Do You Need A Medical Device?
Generally, the answer is "no", you don't need a medical blue light therapy device. Of course, if you want to use a device under for medical goals, under medical supervision, then of course I'd recommend a medical blue light therapy device. But in that case you'll be consulting your physician about the course of treatment.
For the non-medical use of blue light therapy that I'm considering in this blog post, people don't need a blue light therapy device in my opinion. Just grab a device that has normal exposure to blue light therapy and you'll do good.
Should Blue Light Enter Your Eyes?
At first glance, you may think that if the blue light therapy dose is normal then it's fine that it enters your eyes during the daytime. So, a 5-10 mW/cm2 dose of blue light therapy can be beneficial to many people.
However, there's a caveat. Many people in the modern world are already exposed to excessive blue light exposure almost 24/7. Fluorescent and LED lighting is very much predominated by blue light, as well as smartphones and other technology.
If you're sitting in an office for 8 hours a day under fluorescent lighting while working on a computer that emits a ton of blue light, then you don't need more exposure of blue light into your eyes. In that case the added blue light is probably highly damaging.
On the other hand, if you're working outdoors as a construction worker or farmer or gardener, you're probably already getting sufficient blue light exposure through your eyes, and you don't need any more either.
It's very hard to imagine scenarios where people in the modern world need more blue light exposure in their eyes rather than less. If you're outside enough, you don't need more blue light in your eyes. If you're not outside a lot during most days, then you're spending lots of time indoors and you probably don't need more blue light in your eyes.
So, the problem is self-correcting. If will say though, that if you're working in a shop or office under fluorescent light or LEDs and working with screens all the time, then getting getting a tiny bit of extra blue light exposure from blue light therapy is probably not going to move the needle much. The 8 hours you're spending in front of a screen is probably far more damaging than 15 minutes of blue light therapy after you got home from work.
So there's that.
Let's go somewhat deeper into possible blue light therapy side effects:
Blue Light Side Effects?
So let's talk about blue light therapy side-effect - at least potential side-effects. I've listed a few of these side-effects below:
- Eye damage. The low 400s to mid 400s contains "high-energy" blue light and is closely related to eye damage if you're overexposed. A recent 2018 study summarizes these effects as follows:
"This high energy blue light passes through the cornea and lens to the retina causing diseases such as dry eye, cataract, age-related macular degeneration, even stimulating the brain, inhibiting melatonin secretion, and enhancing adrenocortical hormone production, which will destroy the hormonal balance and directly affect sleep quality." 113
Many other studies show that this effect exists as well. The damage can even be irreversible - at least for now (114). Many different effects occur, such as oxidative damage, the death of mitochondria, inflammation leading to cell death and DNA damage. As a result, your risk of getting many eye diseases goes up. Not all studies agree on this assessment though - some believe that other mechanisms such as aging play a role and explain why people's eyes deteriorate (115).
I personally think the blue light can be damaging and is the current nature of exposure to it is totally different from anything we've ever experienced as humans.
- Circadian disruptions. If you're exposing yourself to blue light in the evening or night, after sunset, you're disrupting your circadian rhythm and therefore sleep. Remember that the circadian rhythm is the 24-7 day and night clock inside your body that responds to light inputs through the eye. Ample of studies reach his conclusion although they disagree how strong the effects are (116; 117; 118; 119; 120) Some studies show that even extremely small levels of exposure, such as a dim light during sleep, can have an effect.
So what's the solution here? If you want to be safe, don't use any blue light therapy at nighttime! It's literally that simple. So if you've got a device that contains both blue light therapy and red light therapy, don't use it during the hours before you go to bed. For the same reason studies using blue blocking glasses are positive for boosting melatonin, you should also avoid blue light threapy at night (120).
Now, blue light therapy on the skin is far more controversial and I don't think the current science shows that blue light on the skin impedes melatonin levels. That's good news as you could use a combination of red light therapy and blue light therapy on the skin after sunset in that case. It's best to test this outcome and observe how you feel. Why? Because some people do really well with red light therapy in the evening, while for others its detrimental for sleep quality.
- Other potential side effects. Many other potential side effects are reported on the internet because of blue light exposure, such as eye strain, headaches, and skin problems. However, often these don't occur because people are incidentally using a blue light therapy device for 20 minutes per day but because of daily exposure for long periods of time. So right now, I can confirm that circadian disruptions and eye damage are the best proven side effects of blue light exposure, although others could be found in time.
The most important thing here, to avoid side effects, is to simply not overdo blue light therapy and to use it at the correct time of the day. To me, it's better to be safe than sorry so here's what I conclude is best:
- If you already have tons of blue light exposure in your life - because you work in a shop or in an office with LEDs or fluorescent lights - then no need to expose your eyes to even more blue light
- If you don't have lots of blue light exposure in your life, then you can expose them during your sessions. But, in that case, you'll probably want to grab some sunlight exposure too.
It's that simple...
Best Blue Light Therapy Devices
Currently, there's only one high-quality red light therapy device that also contains blue light therapy on the market right now. I'm talking about the PlatinumLED BioMax here (after clicking the link you'll get a code that saves you 5%). You can grab one of the PlatinumLED BioMax panels which all contain blue light therapy HERE.
Hopefully, in the future, more companies will include blue light therapy inside their panels. I'm pretty sure that most people will appreciate the benefits on skin health and mood. Also, as there's not a lot of research on this topic yet, I'm expecting that many other health benefits that have been undiscovered so far will be found in the future.
Very soon, from mid-March 2023, all PlatinumLED BioMax panels will also have an on and off switch that allows you to active or deactivate blue light therapy during your sessions.
Some people only want to use red light therapy, not the blue, and will therefore be very happy with this option. Others don't want to use blue light therapy at nighttime (obviously) because it impedes the circadian rhythm in the body and affects melatonin levels at night. As a result, sleep quality will probably be impeded if you use blue light therapy before bedtime.
Also, as a second option, Hooga sells a blue light therapy device HERE under the color therapy section. That device is very small though, but you could use it for spot treatment. Generally, I'm more of a fan of the PlatinumLED approach, where you expose your entire body to a small amount of blue light.
Thirdly, in 2023 we got yet another option that may be even better than the previous two options. I'm talking about the LightpathLED Diesel range here, that has a ton of blue lights in there. So if you want more than a few LEDs of blue light, you can get a panel that's fully covered with it.
Check out the LightpathLED Diesel range (code ALEX saves). I highly recommend checking those panels out if you want to saturate your skin with tons of blue light. You'll have to select the "blue series" on the LightpathLED Website.
Conclusion: Hopefully, We'll See A Lot More Research On Blue Light!
The developments in the light therapy space are extremely exciting. And I'm happy to see that blue light therapy has a place for some people as well. There are many advantages to blue light therapy, such as better mood and skin. I'm also almost certain there are many undiscovered benefits to blue light therapy today that will get scientific backing in the decades to come - just as with red light therapy.
Moreover, as you can tell by my argument above, I still consider sunlight the best option to get blue light therapy exposure. And if you cannot get good sunlight exposure, then blue light therapy is certainly a great addition to any health routine.
In that case, make sure you don't use blue light therapy into your eyes in the late evening or at night. You'll have to use the therapy during the morning, afternoon, or very early evening for the best results. And if you have to expose yourself at nighttime, make sure to cover your eyes with blue-blocking glasses or something else to avoid circadian disruptions.
Welcome to the light therapy revolution!
If you want to use blue light therapy, grab a big panel from the PlatinumLED BioMax series or for spot treatment, use the Hooga Color Therapy Blue Light Therapy. Discount code ALEX saves on both. As of this moment of writing, no other options are available from the bigger red light therpay companies. Of course, you can also grab a blue light therapy product from Amazon but then you'd be dealing with companies that me or Alex haven't dealt with before.
Lastly, as an update as of 2024, the Blue series of LightpathLED is probably your best bet if you want a lot of blue light exposure (code ALEX saves).
This is a post by Bart Wolbers of Lighttherapyinsiders. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MS - with distinction), and Clinical Health Science (MS), has had training in functional medicine and is currently chief science writer.
- PlatinumLED BioMax - you'll get a discount code after clicking the link
- Hooga Color Therapy Blue Light Therapy - code ALEX saves
- Blue Light Therapy on Amazon
- LightpathLED Blue Series - code ALEX saves