5 Studies that Support Using Blue Light Therapy for Eczema

Blue light therapy for eczema

Irritating and infuriating, eczema causes skin to itch, swell, furrow and turn red anywhere on your head, neck, trunk or limbs.

Does blue light therapy for eczema help relieve symptoms? What about red light therapy? Red and infrared light work as well as blue to a point, but then blue is better at relieving redness. Blue light therapy is a safe alternative to ultraviolet light therapy, getting rid of 80-90% of eczema symptoms, according to several studies.

There are 24,199 papers including the word “eczema” on the NIH science database (see search hereOpens in a new tab.). Admittedly, only a few test blue light on eczema, but those results are stunningly good.

Elbow Psoriasis
Elbow Psoriasis

For Your Reference

The blue light I recommend in this article is the LightpathLED Blue TabletopOpens in a new tab..

What is Eczema?

Eczema is such an annoying and stubborn disease, it’s no wonder there are 959 randomized controlledOpens in a new tab. studies looking for ways to treat it.

Atopic eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) is the most common skin disease in the world, according to DermNet NZOpens in a new tab. .

“Atopy” is an overreaction of the immune system to a perceived allergy. Dermatitis is swelling of the skin.

Eczema is a swelling, itching, furrowing redness that burrows in and easily withstands attempts to destroy it.

Over 230 million people experience eczema.

The skin disorder is more common in wealthier countries, and is likely to co-present with allergies.

Types of eczema include:

  • atopic dermatitisOpens in a new tab. (immunity overreaction: red, itchy skin slightly more common in children than adults)
  • dyshidrotic eczemaOpens in a new tab. (affects palms and soles of feet: blisters, redness, desquamation (skin replaces itself) and itching)
  • contact dermatitisOpens in a new tab. (allergic reaction: itchy rash)
  • asteatotic dermatitisOpens in a new tab. (dry, cracked, inflamed)
  • nummular dermatitisOpens in a new tab. (itchy spots shaped like coins)
  • seborrheic dermatitisOpens in a new tab. (affects head and oily areas such as nose, eyebrows, ears, face, eyelids and chest; causes dandruff)
  • other dermatitis
  • psoriasisOpens in a new tab. (itching and scaling on scalp, trunk, knees and elbows)
  • tineaOpens in a new tab. (ring shape fungal infection)
  • scabiesOpens in a new tab. (intense itch and rash caused by “human itch mite” infestation
  • cutaneous T-cell lymphomaOpens in a new tab. (non-Hodgkins lymphoma including scaling, raised and itching round spots on the skin)
Atopic Dermatitis on Baby
Atopic Dermatitis on Baby

Why is Eczema so Annoying?

Eczema puts the sign of ill-health right on your skin, like a billboard advertising an over reactive immune system.

It makes the skin red, blotchy, bumpy and itchy. Symptoms you’ll see across mild and acute eczema include blisters, scaling and cracking.

It’s unattractive and itchy, sometimes gross, and often uncomfortable.

How to Measure Eczema Severity (to Know if the Treatment Worked)

  • Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI)[1]Opens in a new tab.
  • area: how much area the eczema covers in 10% increments per body area
  • severity: redness, thickness, itching, lined skin
  • does not measure: inflammation
  • self-diagnose using the EASI Score CalculatorOpens in a new tab. (opens in a new window)
  • Local Eczema Severity Index (local ESI) (see study below using this scale)
  • Dyshidrotic Eczema Area and Severity Index (DASI)[2]Opens in a new tab.
  • area: per square centimeter
  • severity: vesicles (blisters), erythema (redness), desquamation (skin replacing itself) and itchiness
  • Patient Oriented Eczema Measure (POEM)[3]Opens in a new tab.
  • advanced by the Harmonizing Outcome Measures for Eczema (HOME) working group
  • includes severity over time in the score
  • characterizes outbreak as clear, mild, moderate, severe and very severe
Atopic Dermatitis and Rash on Baby
Atopic Dermatitis and Rash on Baby

References

[1]Opens in a new tab. EASI scoreOpens in a new tab.

[2]Opens in a new tab. The Dyshidrotic Eczema Area and Severity Index – A Score Developed for the Assessment of Dyshidrotic EczemaOpens in a new tab.

[3]Opens in a new tab. Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology: POEM — Patient Oriented Eczema MeasureOpens in a new tab.

Opens in a new tab.

5 Studies Using Blue Light Therapy for Eczema

Study #1: The 453 nm Blue Light Eczema Study[4]Opens in a new tab.

In a 2016 study published in Dermatology, 21 patients received blue light therapy for their mild to medium severity eczema. Results were published as Randomized Study on the Efficacy and Safety of Local UV-Free Blue Light Treatment of Eczema.

Subjects had eczema on both limbs. Researchers treated one area with the light, and left the opposite limb untreated as a control.

Researchers treated the tested areas three times per week for four weeks.

The subjects’ local Eczema Severity Index (local ESI) dropped a statistically significant amount on the treated sides. This index appears to be the authors’ version of the Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI) defined above.

There were no adverse events or side effects.

References

[4]Opens in a new tab. Keemss K, Pfaff SC, Born M, Liebmann J, Merk HF, von Felbert V. Prospective, Randomized Study on the Efficacy and Safety of Local UV-Free Blue Light Treatment of Eczema. Dermatology. 2016;232(4):496-502. doi: 10.1159/000448000Opens in a new tab.. Epub 2016 Aug 19. Erratum in: Dermatology. 2016;232(4):522. PMID: 27537360.

Study #2: The Fully Body Blue Light Therapy Eczema Study

Researchers studied blue light as an alternative treatment to immunosupression, ultraviolet irradiation, and topical steroids for a study published PLOS ONE[5]Opens in a new tab. entitled Clinical efficacy of blue light full body irradiation as treatment option for severe atopic dermatitis.

Despite application of corticosteroids to their rashes, these 36 patients were not getting relief from eczema symptoms.

Researchers told subjects to wait for flare-ups, at which time they were to report for blue light therapy treatments.

The eczema symptoms started to recede within three blue light therapy sessions.

The subjects’ quality of life, sleep scores and the subjective sensation of needing to scratch significantly improved.

At three months into the study, the EASI scores improved 41%.

At 6 months in, the scores improved 54%. The subjects spontaneously lowered the amount of steroid they used to reduce symptoms.

Importantly, the blue light had no side effects. While ultraviolet therapy induces Langerhans cell and T cell depletion, the blue light therapy did not affect the quantity of these cells.

References

[5]Opens in a new tab. Becker D, Langer E, Seemann M, Seemann G, Fell I, Saloga J, Grabbe S, von Stebut E. Clinical efficacy of blue light full body irradiation as treatment option for severe atopic dermatitis. PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e20566. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020566. Epub 2011 Jun 8. PMID: 21687679; PMCID: PMC3110790.

Study #3: The 80% Reduction in Atopic Dermatitis Eczema Symptoms in Children Study

In a Russian study in Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult[6]Opens in a new tab., researchers tested blue light on ten children with eczema. Another group of ten children with eczema received moisturizer on their affected areas.

There was an 80% reduction in atopic dermatitis symptoms in the treated children, while the controls had no change.

References

[6]Opens in a new tab. Pogonchenkova IV, Lyan NA, Khan MA, Ivanova II, Aleksandrova OY, Dedurina AV. K voprosu o vozmozhnosti primeneniya selektivnoi khromoterapii pri allergicheskikh zabolevaniyakh u detei [To the question of the possibility of using selective chromotherapy for allergic diseases in children]. Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2020;97(4):37-43. Russian. doi: 10.17116/kurort20209704137Opens in a new tab.. PMID: 32687299.

Study #4: The Blue Light for Jaundice Halted Eczema Too Study

Researchers mined insurance databases for the medical records of children treated with blue light at birth to treat or prevent jaundice. The study was published in Neonatology as Neonatal Phototherapy: A Novel Therapy to Prevent Allergic Skin Disease for At Least 5 Years[7]Opens in a new tab..

They correlated the children’s eczema outcomes to the age of 5 years old.

The study included data from 117,041 children.

Those treated with blue light at birth also had significantly lower incidence of atopic dermatitis for at least their first 5 years.

References

[7]Opens in a new tab. Ku MS. Neonatal Phototherapy: A Novel Therapy to Prevent Allergic Skin Disease for At Least 5 Years. Neonatology. 2018;114(3):235-241. doi: 10.1159/000489389. Epub 2018 Jun 25. PMID: 29940600.

Study #5: The In Vitro Immune Suppression Blue Light Study

Tropical Beach
Blue and ultraviolet are close on the electromagnetic spectrum. Ultraviolet is powerful, as it can cause DNA damage. Blue light is less powerful. It does not cause damage, but the blue wavelength can shutdown melatonin production, keeping us awake. Use blue light in the morning.

In an in vitro study published in Experimental Dermatology[8]Opens in a new tab. (Blue light irradiation suppresses dendritic cells activation in vitro.), researchers studied the effects of blue light on dendritic cell maturation.

Results confirmed that blue light therapy suppresses inflammation by preventing dendritic cell maturation and cytokine release.

Dendritic cells start out as phagocytes that act as vacuum cleaners for the immune system.

The light prevented these cells from acquiring inflammation inducing properties that are over expressed in eczema.

The higher doses of light produced proportionately more inflammatory suppression.

References

[8]Opens in a new tab. Fischer MR, Abel M, Lopez Kostka S, Rudolph B, Becker D, von Stebut E. Blue light irradiation suppresses dendritic cells activation in vitro. Exp Dermatol. 2013 Aug;22(8):558-60. doi: 10.1111/exd.12193. PMID: 23879817.

Does Red Light Therapy Help Eczema? Can Infrared Help Eczema?

Red light therapy generally refers to the use of red and infrared light. “Blue light therapy” is under the “red light therapy” umbrella because “red light therapy” really means “the low energy delivery of photons for healthy effect,” and those photons can be red, infrared, yellow, green or blue.

We know that blue light reduces eczema symptoms, but what about red and infrared light?

Dyshidrotic Eczema on Palm
Dyshidrotic Eczema on Palm

In a study[9]Opens in a new tab. comparing blue to red for psoriasis, blue and red light each reduced plaque as well as the other. But the blue light was better at reducing redness over time.

You should know that the authors treated plaques with 10% salicylic acid to prevent scaling skin from interfering with light penetration.

In another study[10]Opens in a new tab. of light on psoriasis, subjects experienced significant healing from three treatments with a combination of red and infrared light.

References

[9]Opens in a new tab. Kleinpenning MM, Otero ME, van Erp PE, Gerritsen MJ, van de Kerkhof PC. Efficacy of blue light vs. red light in the treatment of psoriasis: a double-blind, randomized comparative study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2012 Feb;26(2):219-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2011.04039.x. Epub 2011 Mar 24. PMID: 21435024.

[10]Opens in a new tab. Ablon G. Combination 830-nm and 633-nm light-emitting diode phototherapy shows promise in the treatment of recalcitrant psoriasis: preliminary findings. Photomed Laser Surg. 2010 Feb;28(1):141-6. doi: 10.1089/pho.2009.2484. PMID: 19764893.

Can Light Therapy Make Eczema Worse?

Ultraviolet light can help eczema, but it can also make things worse. Ultraviolet creates burns, which make everything worse, including eczema.

Blue, green, red and infrared light are safe for eczema therapy.

White tropical birds
I hope this picture makes your day brighter.

What Kind Of Light Helps Eczema?

Ultraviolet A, Ultraviolet B, blue, green, red and infrared light have all been shown to help eczema.

Ultraviolet is too dangerous to do at home. Blue, green, red and infrared light are available in home red light therapy devices.

Blue light is the most effective of the home-use wavelengths (colors).

How Often Should You Do Red Light Therapy For Eczema?

The patients in the studies in this article were treated three to four times per week.

Contact Dermatitis on Hands and Arms
Contact Dermatitis on Hands and Arms

How Long Does It Take For Light Therapy To Work For Eczema?

In the studies above, the time until significant eczema recovery was as follows:

  1. Study #1: 3 sessions per week for 4 weeks resulted in significant improvement
  2. Study #2: symptoms started to get better after three treatments. Subjects improved 41% in three months, and 54% in six months.
  3. Study #3: not stated
  4. Study #4: The babies had blue light therapy for jaundice. According to Sanford University Medical School, clinicians treat babies with blue light anywhere from one to seven days[11]Opens in a new tab..
  5. Study #5: was in the Petri dish.

Lion cub and lionessReferences

[11]Opens in a new tab. Frequently Asked Questions About Phototherapy, Stanford Medicine, Newborn Nursery at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Frequently Asked Questions About Phototherapy, Stanford Medicine, Newborn Nursery at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, https://med.stanford.eduhttps://med.stanford.edu/newborns/professional-education/jaundice-and-phototherapy/faqs-about-phototherapy.html

Does Red Light Therapy Make You Itch?

Generally, red light therapy does not make you itch. Nevertheless, if your skin is primed for an itching episode, red light could tip it over the edge.

Infrared light enters the body as light (photons) and as heat (moving cells faster). The heat is not part of red light therapy, and it is usually soothing. This is the same heat as comes from a campfire and the sunlight.

If your skin is about to itch anyway, the heat from infrared might be the trigger it needs to set it off. Blue and red light should not have this effect.

Red light therapy uses red and infrared light
Red light therapy uses red and infrared light

Is UV Light Good For Eczema?

Ultraviolet (UV) light is good for eczema, but it’s not safe to self-treat with UV light.

Scientists study blue light as a substitute for UV. Blue and UV are close on the electromagnetic scale. That is, they have similar length wavelengths.

But UV is dangerous, and blue light is not dangerous. Ultraviolet light causes cancer. You should only consider UV at the dermatologist’s office under supervision.

UV and Blue Food Sanitizer Light
UV and Blue Food Sanitizer Light

Blue light has a couple of cautions that come with it, but it’s mostly safe. Don’t stare at blue light, because it shuts down melatonin production. The same mechanism keeps you up at night after using the phone or watching TV.

Doctors use UVB (ultraviolet B) to treat a number of skin diseases. UVB contains the wavelengths that trigger the production of vitamin D when you’re out in the sun. While UVB is safer than ultraviolet A (UVA), it’s not without its dangers. UVB can burn you, causing more harm than good.

What is the Advantage of Doing Eczema Light Therapy at Home?

You can avoid the ultraviolet dangers by doing your own red and blue light therapy at home.

You avoid the drive to the doctor’s office, and the ongoing expense for each visit.

Neighborhood Homes
Do light therapy at home. You save on driving to and from the doctor’s office, and doctor’s bills.

What is the Advantage of Doing Light Therapy for Eczema at the Doctor’s Office?

Your doctor can use ultraviolet wavelengths that are too dangerous for home-therapy use.

Should you need UVA therapy, your doctor will give you psoralen to make your skin more light sensitive. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help you with the nausea that psoralen sometimes sets off.

Colorful Birds
I just wanted to bright your day with these beautiful birds.

How to Do Red Light Therapy (and Blue Light Therapy) at Home

One of my favorite vendors designed and sells an ideal blue light therapy device that I want to tell you about now.

The LightpathLED Blue Tabletop is perfect for eczema therapy.

The Blue Tabletop has the ideal wavelengths for skin therapy, including for eczema and psoriasis.

You can share this device with friends and family who want to work on wrinkles or acne.

before and after wrinkle reduction therapy
Use red and infrared for wrinkle therapy.

Rather than selling a blue-only device as some “beauty” vendors do, LightpathLED sells a blue, red and infrared light device that offers the range of wavelengths that support healthy skin.

The LightpathLED Blue Tabletop also has 0-9,999 Hz pulse options, making the device insanely future-ready. When the science comes out about new pulsing that works, you will not need to upgrade to have the best options.

There is some evidence that pulsing pushing the light deeper into the skin.

Acne on the chin, before and after therapy
Use blue, then red/infrared for acne therapy. This is the same as the eczema/psoriasis protocol.

To use the LightpathLED to do at home light therapy:

  • For eczema therapy, set the Tabletop to Blue Light at a 6-inch distance from the target area.
  • Do no more than 5 minutes of light therapy, or get more comfortable at a distance of 24 inches and go about 20 minutes.
  • Then run the three wavelengths (blue, red and infrared) simultaneously for another 5-10 minutes.

The red and infrared promote healthy collagen to plump up the skin with fresh cells, and elastin, for more firmness. If you have wrinkles, you should look for wrinkle reduction as well as eczema reduction. If you have acne, you should look for acne reduction too.

To learn more, read my Best Red Light Therapy article: LightpathLED Blue Tabletop ReviewOpens in a new tab.

Rectangular metal device with 78 red and blue bulbs
LightpathLED Blue Tabletop

Caroline Bogart

I research the bloody hell out of everything that interests me, then translate it into blog posts to solidify my knowledge and share the information.

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