Is Blue Light Therapy Right for Your Skin?

Green beauty expert Jacalyn Beales tests out the latest beauty tech for acne-prone skin.

The hottest celebrity and magazine-endorsed trend in skin care isn’t a facial product but, rather, a piece of technology. It’s called blue light therapy, and it’s blowing up. Why? Probably because it actually works.

Blue light therapy is a form of treatment for the skin which utilizes blue light (paired with infrared light) to kill the bacteria which causes blemishes (also known as Propioni­bacterium acnes). When the bacteria is killed by the blue light, the severity and appearance of blemishes are also diminished, effectively zapping zits and clearing the skin. Basically, it helps to keep your skin clear while ridding it of acne-causing bacteria. Blue light therapy is even being used to treat patients with skin cancer, according to the University of Iowa.

Blue light therapy is available in the form of masks or “pens” (handheld devices). It’s why so many celebs have been seen with creepy, full-face blue light therapy masks on. It has been touted by many as an innovative and drug-free way of treating acne, making it a great alternative for those wishing to stay away from prescription medicines to treat severe or acneic skin issues.

Now, I’ll try virtually any natural or chemical-free way of keeping my skin looking and feeling its best, and blue light therapy seems to fit that bill. Prior to my foray into blue light therapy, I did some research on the skin-clearing method and was unable to find any information which specifically warned you against the use of blue light. In fact, the information I did read was overwhelmingly positive and in favor of this new beauty trend. So, personal guinea pig that I am, I bought a piece of blue light technology for myself and gave it a whirl.

The Blue Light Therapy

If you’re wondering how you can get your hands on a blue light mask or “pen,” it’s surprisingly simple to do so. I purchased a Tanda Zap blue light bullet-thingy from Amazon (it looks more like a battery than a pen and certainly isn’t a mask) and tried the product out for one month. My goal? To see for myself whether blue light therapy is all it’s been cracked up to be.

And you know what? It totally is.

You can purchase a blue light mask if you can find one, though I was unable to find a stockist or brand which sells them in Canada (either physically or online), so my Tanda Zap had to do the trick. Most blue light masks range from $50-$60 and increase in price from there, often costing up to $400 for more expensive (read: not just Neutrogena) masks. For my intents and purposes, the Tanda Zap worked just fine. As someone who doesn’t suffer from acne and has relatively clear skin, the Tanda Zap works for me mostly because it functions like a spot treatment stick, and suits my needs for the occasional blemish. If you do have acne or find yourself experiencing frequent breakouts across your face, a mask may prove more beneficial.

How it Works

The Tanda Zap retails online for approximately $13 USD and $20 CAD.  All you have to do is put in the batteries it comes with, hold the Zap on the blemish you’d like to get rid of, click the orange button, and wait. The Tanda Zap vibrates with a blue light for two minutes, then automatically shuts off for you once it has completed its two-minute cycle. Simple, right? Sort of.

With the Tanda Zap, you have to hold the device against the blemish for the two-minute cycle, three times per day, in order for the Zap to be effective. This makes the process of using the Zap slightly tedious, and you can’t really do much while using it, aside from reading a book or watching a show. The most convenient time for me to use the Zap was at night, after my facial cleansing routine (and before using any sort of additional spot treatment, if I needed to). I used it three times in a row consecutively when I needed it, which meant my six minutes of blue light therapy application were done in the same period. The device is essentially a blue light bullet, and you may get bored using it, but it actually works.

The most common effect I found the blue light therapy had was minimizing my blemishes and reducing their appearance, which meant I could use less concealer (sometimes, none); a bonus for someone whose only makeup product is concealer.

The One-Month Mark

Because I do not have acne (nor an acneic skin condition), I did not have to use my Tanda Zap regularly. For example, I used it about once or twice a week and found that the 6-minute (total) application did the trick in helping to get rid of a blemish when I had one. After a month of using the device, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had done the trick in helping to kill bacteria that was causing the blemishes I did have in that month (mid-May to mid-June). Using the device for thirty days was simple, virtually effortless, and only twice did I need to use spot treatment after the device.

Can you really beat that? Probably not.

It wasn’t the most fun to use, as far as products go, but it was effective, didn’t cause any adverse reaction in my skin, and didn’t damage my skin. Considering that some spot treatments can dry out your skin, or even cause a negative reaction, I’d say my experience with blue light therapy was far safer and more convenient than the use of some spot treatments.

But do you need it? 

In a world of endless options of spot treatments and blemish solutions, blue light therapy may be the most trendy (for the moment), but it may also be the most unnecessary, unless you do have more severe acne or frequent breakouts which cannot be helped simply by using a spot cream or gel. If you’re looking to stay away from chemicals or drying treatments, something like the Tanda Zap may actually be more beneficial and easier for you.

But spot treatments often work just as well as blue light therapy. My Fat and the Moon Pimple Mud, for instance, is made with only four (organic) ingredients and is probably the most effective product I’ve ever come across. With that product, I don’t really need a blue light therapy device, though I see the draw of it. It eliminates the need for most spot treatment products, is simple to travel with, and does the trick in about 6 minutes (give or take, depending on your device). For the cost of $20, my Tanda Zap will last me more than 10,000 uses (apparently), which is far more than a spot treatment ever would.

The question for each individual is more or less how effective it could be for your skin versus your other products. If a spot treatment just isn’t doing the trick, I’d recommend giving blue light therapy a try. If you have serious acne issues, go to your dermatologist. They might suggest professional blue light therapy treatments in the office, which is stronger and more effective. But for gals like me, my Pimple Mud works just fine. And if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

A dedicated wildlife advocate and green beauty lover, Jacalyn Beales writes on a variety of issues at


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