Vitiligo: Phototherapy

Narrowband phototherapy has a high success rate in the treatment of vitiligo. Each session takes less than 5 minutes and is covered by Medicare for eligible clients. Treatments are safe and effective in up to 80% of cases. Most vitiligo sufferers will notice re-pigmentation after 4-6 weeks of phototherapy treatment.

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  • Narrowband UVB phototherapy is the consultant dermatologist’s vitiligo treatment of choice
  • Treatments are effective in up to 80% of clients
  • Re-pigmentation of vitiligo-induced skin patches can be seen as early as 4 weeks into treatment
  • Combination treatments using topical prescription creams and phototherapy give superior results
  • UVB treatments are completely covered by Medicare for eligible clients
  • Phototherapy sessions take less than 5 minutes
  • You will need to be able to attend 2 to 3 (sometimes 4) clinic appointments per week

Phototherapy delivers a filtered, metered and prescribed dose of ultraviolet B light. Each dose of UVB is tailored according to your skin type and presenting skin condition. Ultraviolet light in the wavelength of 311 nanometers stimulates the dormant pigment-producing cells in the skin to start producing pigment again. Over time, the white patches caused by vitiligo can return to a more natural colour.

Most clients attend 20-30 sessions per course. Re-pigmentation can be seen as early as 1 month into phototherapy treatments. A minimum of 2 sessions per week is recommended; however, 3 sessions have more of an effect. If you achieve re-pigmentation, phototherapy can be safely continued as maintenance therapy.

Phototherapy is an integral part of Cutis Clinic’s Skin Re-Pigmentation Program

More on Cutus Clinic’s Skin Re-Pigmentation Program

The average treatment takes less than 2 minutes to perform and is completely painless. The areas affected by vitiligo are exposed to a metered dose of ultraviolet B light, delivered in a phototherapy room. Treatments are discrete as only one patient is allowed in the room at any given time. The whole process is under the watchful eye of our phototherapy staff.

Phototherapy sessions are –

  • Quick
  • Painless
  • Safe
  • Discrete
  • Bulk billed (for eligible patients)
  • Effective
  • Easy

Narrowband phototherapy combined with topical prescription creams has the highest success rate in the treatment of vitiligo. Our team has a success rate of 60-80% using this combination. To know if phototherapy is successful, clients will need to commit to at least 20-30 sessions over a course of 10-14 weeks.

Good prognosis for success:

  • New vitiligo patches
  • Vitiligo on the face.
  • Dark coloured hairs in vitiligo patches.

Poor prognosis for success:

  • Long-standing vitiligo.
  • White hairs in vitiligo patches.
  • Absence of pigment on the lower limbs, hands or feet.

Unfortunately, the most predictable aspect of vitiligo is its unpredictability. In the majority of cases a course of phototherapy sessions will halt or even reverse vitiligo progression; however, vitiligo can recur when phototherapy is ceased. As it is not possible to predict which clients are at risk for recurrence of the condition we advise a wait-and-see approach. If you notice the beginnings of pigment loss in areas that have responded to treatment, phototherapy can be continued for maintenance.

Phototherapy sessions are bulk-billed for eligible clients.  If you hold a Medicare card with a current referral, you will not encounter any out-of-pocket expenses for phototherapy treatment at Cutis Clinic.

International clients who do not hold a Medicare care must cover their own costs. A minimum of 25 sessions are needed. We encourage all clients to to check their health insurance policy prior to undertaking phototherapy sessions. When dealing with a non-Medicare insurer, quote item number 14050.

Phototherapy for vitiligo patients is a very safe treatment with minimal side effects provided the treatments are supervised by a specialist dermatologist. Potential side effects include:

  • Short-term sunburn reactions in vitiligo patches. 10-15% of cases experiences this reaction yp UVB rays that subsides within a few days. This reaction is more common in clients who allow sun exposure following phototherapy or during their phototherapy treatment course.
  • Itching following narrowband phototherapy. Seen in 2-3% of cases and subsides within a few days.
  • There is no increased risk of skin cancer with phototherapy. Paler skins can receive a total of 350 treatments without increased risk. Darker skin can receive up to 700 treatments. At Cutis, your treating dermatologist will carry out regular skin checks throughout your treatment.

Phototherapy is suitable for the majority of vitiligo sufferers; however, there are some exceptions to the rule.

Patients who should not undertake phototherapy treatment for vitiligo include:

  • Those with a a personal history of melanoma.
  • Those with a direct family history of melanoma.
  • Those who have associated sun-sensitive conditions such as lupus.
  • Those who are unable to attend regular sessions – a minimum of 2 sessions per week is recommended.
  • We do not recommend phototherapy for children under 8 years of age.

Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light and is not a laser. Our practice policy is that we do not treat children under 8 years of age with phototherapy devices.

Easy fix. If you need a break from your phototherapy regime, we simply halt the treatment for as long as it is needed then pick it up upon your return. We may alter your phototherapy program after a break.  Please advise Cutis Clinic staff once you are ready to restart  treatments to give us time to adjust your personalised program.

An assessment with a consultant dermatologist is required prior to commencing phototherapy sessions for the treatment of vitiligo. During this initial consultation your Cutis Clinic dermatologist will photograph and document the extent of your vitiligo. Your phototherapy program will be tailored according to your skin type and the number of narrowband phototherapy sessions you can attend per week.

In most cases, your Cutis dermatologist will also prescribe a combination of creams including anti-inflammatory creams and vitamin D creams.

For more information on appointment times and the referral process please get in touch.


Dr Davin S. Lim
Consultant Dermatologist
Cutis Clinic

Phototherapy remains the gold standard for vitiligo treatment. Cutis Clinic consistently achieves a success rate of between 60-80% at its specialist vitiligo clinic. I usually combine topical anti-inflammatory creams with narrowband phototherapy to achieve optimal results. Several factors are important as regards to the predictability of narrowband phototherapy. These include your personal motivation as a minimum of 20-30 sessions are required before we are able to determine whether your vitiligo will respond to phototherapy. We encourage a minimum of 2 sessions per week, although 3 is better. Success rates are higher in vitiligo-affected facial areas, compared to more stubborn patches on the hands and feet.