BACKGROUND: A preliminary investigation showed that ultraviolet (UV) emissions from compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) can pose a risk to the skin of photosensitive individuals. OBJECTIVES: To carry out a larger scale study, in patients with a range of photodermatoses, to assess this risk. To determine a safe alternative light source for photosensitive individuals. To investigate if CFL emissions have the potential to induce skin responses in normal individuals. METHODS: 200 patients were directly exposed to a single enveloped CFL as part of their routine management. Irradiation was carried out on the inner forearm with lamps positioned at 5cm. Skin assessments were made immediately and 24 hours post irradiation. 11 of these patients were further tested to a double enveloped CFL. 101 patients were tested to emissions from a light emitting diode (LED). A study involving 20 normal individuals was carried out with exposure to the single envelope CFL. RESULTS: Skin erythema was induced by the single enveloped CFL in the following cases: 16/53 Chronic Actinic Dermatitis, 7/52 Polymorphic Light Eruption, 5/9 Solar Urticaria, 1/2 Actinic Prurigo, 1/1 Erythropoietic Protoporphyria and 2/20 healthy subjects. The double envelope CFL eliminated or reduced the skin response in all 11 patients tested. The LED did not induce any UV provoked skin responses. Conclusions UV from CFLs can aggravate the skin of photosensitive and healthy individuals when situated in close proximity. Double envelope lamps reduce this risk. LEDs offer a safer alternative light source which eliminates the risk of UV induced skin erythema. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.