Blue light therapy has gained popularity as an alternative acne treatment in recent years, and clinical research supports its safety and effectiveness.
If you’re one of the millions of acne sufferers looking for more natural treatment options, you might be wondering where to find some good FDA-approved blue light therapy devices for treating acne. Here’s a secret: you won’t.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some great devices available. It just means that, despite what you’ll see in a Google search on “FDA-approved blue light therapy for acne,” home-use light therapy devices don’t pass through the same FDA approval process as, say, a new drug or vaccine.
Read on to find out how the FDA evaluates light therapy devices, how this technology treats acne, and five of the top “FDA-approved” blue light therapy for acne options.
Why You Won’t Find FDA-Approved Light Therapy for Acne
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all kinds of products in the United States, from medications to food to radiation-emitting devices like cell phones. They also regulate medical devices.
Medical devices fall into one of three risk-related FDA classifications:
- Class I — low risk and little regulation
- Class II — medium risk and require clearance
- Class III — high risk and require approval
Most of us have heard the term “FDA-approved” many times, but we may not be as familiar with the term “FDA-cleared.” Though they’re often used interchangeably in casual conversation, these phrases actually have different meanings.
Only higher-risk devices — like pacemakers and heart valve replacements — require pre-market FDA approval. To get FDA approval, companies must submit clinical data showing that a Class III medical device provides the benefits it claims to provide and that those benefits outweigh the potential risks of using the device.
Lower risk devices — like at-home light therapy — don’t typically require FDA approval, just clearance. For FDA clearance, companies must show that a device is “substantially equivalent to one legally in commercial distribution in the United States.”
Sometimes product descriptions, especially by third parties, describe certain light therapy devices as “FDA-approved,” but if you look closely you’ll find that they’re actually FDA-cleared. So if you’re searching for an FDA-approved blue light therapy device, know that what you’ll find are FDA-cleared devices.
Does FDA-Cleared Blue Light Therapy Really Help Acne?
The short answer to this question is, yes! Many clinical studies have shown that certain wavelengths of blue light are antimicrobial, killing the bacteria that causes acne through a photochemical reaction.
However, though blue light alone is helpful, it becomes even more effective when combined with red light.
Once blue light kills the acne-causing bacteria, red light can come in to repair the damage. Red light therapy significantly reduces inflammation and helps to repair skin damaged by acne outbreaks. Together, blue and red light can even reduce oil production in the skin, making future breakouts less likely.
Choosing an FDA-Cleared (vs. FDA-Approved) Blue Light Therapy Device
Now that you know the difference between FDA-cleared and FDA-approved blue light therapy for acne and how this treatment works, it’s time to talk about choosing a device. Below are five of the top FDA-cleared (vs. FDA-approved) blue light therapy devices for acne, with a short explanation about each.
The Luminance RED
The first on our list of FDA-cleared blue light therapy devices for acne options is the Luminance RED. This product retails for $349, but if you want a lot of bang for your buck, it’s worth the higher price point.
The Luminance RED uses medically optimized blue and red light wavelengths to help eliminate existing acne-causing bacteria and heal the skin. The device performed well in a short clinical study, resulting in a 20% improvement in participants’ acne.
This particular device is intended for acne spot treatments, so the treatment head covers a small surface area. To use it, hold the tip slightly above or softly against a blemish for 90 seconds of blue light followed by 90 seconds of red light. Perform the three-minute treatment on clean, dry skin twice per day, once in the morning and once at night.
The slim device packs well for travel and treating breakouts on the go. Luminance RED also offers a six-month, 100% money-back guarantee, so if you don’t see results by then, you can return the device for a full refund.
reVive Light Therapy Lux Collection DPL IIA
The reVive Light Therapy Lux Collection DPL IIA is one of the larger FDA-cleared handheld devices on the market and can treat an entire section of your face or body at one time. You can rest the double-paneled surface directly on your body, or you can hold it up like a book. Treatment sessions last three minutes per day.
The DPL IIA uses both blue and red light therapy to destroy bacteria, facilitate healing, and keep pimples at bay. The device’s red light provides the additional benefit of reducing wrinkles, fine lines, and sun damage while improving skin texture and tone.
The main downside to this device is the cost — retailing for $399, it’s the most expensive option on the list. However, the company offers a one-year warranty, and the high Amazon rating seems to indicate customers are happy with their purchase.
LightStim for Acne
LightStim for Acne is a mid-price option for those willing to invest a little but not a lot. The device costs $169, and the company offers free shipping. This is the lowest-cost option on the list that uses both blue and red light technology.
LightStim claims that their product will last a lifetime, never requiring a battery replacement or LED replacement. The device also uses the company’s own patented technology to emit multiple colors of light at the same time. The larger surface area treats small areas of the face for three minutes at a time, once per day.
LightStim offers a five-year warranty on their acne device, which is manufactured in the U.S. At the time of this writing, a 4.2/5-star rating on Amazon shows that most customers are happy with their LightStim for Acne purchase.
Foreo Espada Acne Treatment Device
Another light therapy option that’s a little easier on your wallet is the Foreo Espada Acne Treatment Device. The device periodically goes on sale for $99 to $119, a significant savings on the list price of $159.
The Espada uses blue light technology only, so you won’t get the extra benefit of combined blue and red light therapy with this device. However, the Espada makes use of what it calls T-Sonic pulsations to stir up the skin and allow blue light to penetrate deeper into pores.
Like the Luminance RED, the Espada provides targeted treatments for specific blemishes. Treatment time is 30 seconds, and can be repeated up to four times per day on the same blemish. The company shares that in consumer studies, 75% of users see visible results after one use.
This compact device is good for travel and has been recommended by Allure, Glamour, PopSugar, and Teen Vogue. Small bonus: It comes in three fun colors — magenta, cobalt blue, and pink.
Tanda Clear Plus and Tanda Zap
Until recently, the Tanda Clear Plus was available on Amazon for just $84.99. The listing has been removed, but you might still be able to find the device from other retailers or resale sites. The Tanda Zap, a newer acne-clearing device from Tanda, remains available for $28.99.
Both devices use blue light alone, and both produce sonic vibration to increase microcirculation and bring more acne-causing bacteria into contact with the blue light. The Tanda Clear Plus has a larger surface area to cover small areas of the face at once, while the Tanda Zap’s smaller surface area is more appropriate for targeting individual blemishes.
One downside to Tanda products is that company may no longer be operational. This isn’t uncommon in the light therapy for acne and skincare niche, but it means customer support is unlikely.
However, these Tanda products will cost you less than $100, far less than many other light therapy products, and the Zap has fairly promising Amazon reviews at 3.9/5 stars. That’s not a bad bet considering how much people have spent on over-the-counter acne treatments that haven’t done the trick.
How to Choose a Device
If you’ve decided to try FDA-cleared (FDA-“approved”) blue light therapy for acne, then the only thing left is to choose a device.
To help you choose, try this exercise: Add up the cost of all the products you’ve bought over the last six months to try to control your acne breakouts. Include the price of any visits to the dermatologist or prescription medications. You might be surprised to see just how quickly these costs add up.
Use the number as a guide to help you determine your price range for a light therapy device. Then, take some time to read reviews on the devices you’re considering. Skin care products tend to have detailed reviews in which users explain the condition of their skin and how it’s improved. The experiences of other people can help you learn a lot about how your skin will respond to blue light therapy.