Last week I got a call from a young woman who said she’d received “blue light therapy” from her dermatologist. As she described the treatment, it became clear that the treatment she actually had was PDT, or Photodynamic Therapy, with Omnilux blue as the light source.
Even though a blue light may be used in PDT, it is not the same as the original, “blue light therapy” for acne that was FDA approved in 2002 under the name ClearLight. Here are some differences you should know about when considering either of these two acne treatments for yourself or your child:
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
PDT was FDA approved for the treatment of actinic keratoses. It is being used ‘off-label’ successfully for acne treatment. PDT starts off with an application of a chemical (5-ALA) to the skin. The chemical is allowed to penetrate the skin for a while. Then the skin is exposed to bright light (not necessarily, but often it is blue light (415nm +/-) such as Omnilux blue or Blue-U.) The light causes a chemical reaction in the 5-ALA, which kills the cells it has penetrated. This may cause burning, stinging or tingling sensations. Over the next few days, the dead skin peels and falls off. PDT should only be done by a licensed dermatologist or aesthetician.
Blue Light Therapy
Blue Light Therapy begins with cleansing the skin with a mild, non-medicated soap and allowing it to dry for a while. Then the skin is illuminated with blue light (415nm +/-) for 10-20 minutes. This initiates a natural chemical reaction within the acne bacteria, causing it to self-destruct. No burning or stinging is felt. The body’s natural healing and detoxification processes eliminate the dead acne bacteria and, in it’s absence, skin naturally clears without peeling. This healing and detox process can be sped along by adding red light to the treatment regimen. Blue light acne therapy is safe for all ages and can be done conveniently in your own home.
ALA or Levulan is not necessary for effective blue light acne treatment. We promote the natural, non-invasive use of blue light. Our lights are not to be used with ALA, Levulan or any other related topical application. You may want to consider PDT at your dermatologist’s office for severe cases of acne that do not respond to blue light alone.