Blue Light Therapy

Blue Light Therapy for Actinic Keratoses (Pre cancer)

Also known as, Levulan PDT, Blue Light Therapy is a convenient way to treat your Actinic Keratosis (AKs). Aks are rough, textured, dry, scaly patches on the skin that are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet light such as sunlight. AKs are pre-cancerous lesions that can occur more often on areas such as the face, scalp, and ears.  If left untreated, they may go on to become Squamous Cell Carcinoma (link this to Squamous cell carcinoma in skin cancer document)

During this treatment, Levulan Kerastick Topical Solution is applied to the AKs. The solution is then absorbed by the AK cells where it is converted to a chemical that makes the cells extremely sensitive to light. When the AK cells are exposed to the BLU-U, Blue Light Photodynamic Therapy Illuminator, a reaction occurs which destroys the AK cells.

How should I prepare for my blue light photodynamic therapy treatment?

Please inform us of any medical conditions such as pregnancy, cold sore/fever blister tendency, recent facial surgery or peels, and medications such as Accutane, hormone replacement therapy or use of retinoids. 

Avoid sun exposure or bright indoor light PRIOR to treatment.  Avoid tanning booths and SELF TANNING lotions.  Do not sunbathe AT ALL prior to your appointment.  If you arrive tan or with a sunburn you may not be able to be treated that day.


Required for treatment:

For patients treating Face and/or Scalp:

1. Canvas hat with at least a 3-inch wide brim which can be purchased through COOLIBAR 1-800-926-6509 or for your convenience throught South Coast Dermatology.  The hat cannot be made of straw or see through in any way. 

2.  You must use ELTA MD sport SPF 50 or ELTA MD SPF lightly tinted which can be purchased at South Coast Dermatology and will be applied by our staff immediately after treatment

For patients treating Arms, Hands, or Chest:

  1. Wear a long sleeved OLD shirt
  2. ELTA MD Sport SPF 50

*For all patients, we recommend ear buds and an ipod or phone to listen to music during treatment


What should I expect during treatment?

You will be here for approximately 1.5 hours.  The area to be treated will be cleansed and wiped with alcohol wipes.  Then a photosensitizer, the Levulan Kerastick Topical Solution, is applied to the AKs. The solution is then absorbed by the precancerous cells and you will sit with this solution applied for 15 to 30 minutes depending on the area that is being treated.  You will then sit in front of the blue light with protective goggles on for 30-45 minutes to activate the topical solution.  While under the light you will feel a warm, tingling sensation that is sometimes a bit ‘stingy’ or painful but generally well tolerated.  Our staff will provide you with a cooling fan and intermittent sprays of water if the sensation gets too intense. 

What should I expect and do after treatment?

You may be very red, have a sunburn sensation, itchiness, feel dry and tight, or have mild swelling.  This can last from several hours to days and usually is proportional to the amount of pre-cancerous damage you have.  The night of treatment and the following night, use an antihistamine such as Zyrtec, Claritin, or Benadryl to relieve itching and swelling.  BE SURE TO AVOID SUNLIGHT (even through windows, the windshield of the car, or going to the mailbox) FOR 48 HOURS after treatment.  There is a strong possibility of severe side effects including blistering or burning if exposed to the sun during the first 48 hours. 

DO NOT USE skin care products such as retin-A, obagi, or any face cream that contains hydroquinone or glyquin for one week after treatment.

DO USE ELTA MD sport spf 50 for 2 days post-treatment when indoors and outdoors.  Hat must be worn for 48 hours after treatment when outdoors or driving in a vehicle.  Other sunblock SPF 30 or higher can be used in place of the Elta Md Sport 50 starting the 3rd day after treatment. 

  • It is best to remain indoors for 48 hours after FACE treatment.  For other areas (arms, chest, scalp) you need to apply SPF at ALL TIMES and COVER WITH CLOTHING
  • Apply ice for 20 minutes per hour as needed. 
  • Wash with gentle cleanser and apply an oil free moisturizer for the first few days.
  • Try to avoid make up or shaving for the first 48 hours.
  • Use Tylenol or Advil to relieve any discomfort.