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Red Light Therapy For Skin: Unlock the Secret to Radiant Skin

Last Reviewed on March 1, 2024

Learn about the benefits of using red light therapy for skin. It’s used by experts for a number of skin conditions from acne to wrinkles and more.

Ever wondered if there’s a magic wand for flawless skin? Well, red light therapy might just be the closest thing to it!

In the world of skincare, where everything from gua sha massages to high-tech gadgets promises that elusive perfect glow, red light therapy (RLT) stands out. It’s not just another fad; it’s a game-changer, used by dermatologists and loved by A-listers.

We’re not just skincare enthusiasts; we’re experts who know all the ways RLT can jazz up your skin game – from smoothing out wrinkles to calming down acne.

If glowing skin is your goal, you’re in the right place!

Red Light Therapy: Skin Health Benefits

Think of red light therapy, also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT), as a power-up for your skin. By tapping into this light’s potential, you’re not just giving your skin a superficial makeover. You’re investing in its deep, overall health.

And let’s not forget, our skin is more than just a cover; it’s the body’s largest organ. So, taking care of it isn’t just about looking good – it’s about being good to ourselves.

Before and after skin treatment comparison

For Skin Conditions

Red light therapy has been shown to help with a variety of skin issues, from acne to eczema and more.

Here’s what the science has to say about it:

Acne

Battling acne can feel like an endless game of whack-a-mole, right? Well, here’s a ray of hope: using red light therapy for acne.

Unlike your typical skin creams that barely scratch the surface, red light dives deeper, reaching layers of your skin that most topicals only dream of.

And, if you have skin that throws a fit at the slightest provocation, you’ll love this: this therapy is all about boosting your skin’s overall health, making it a great fit for those with sensitive or reactive skin.

A recent study revealed that red light therapy cut down mild and moderate acne breakouts by a whopping 36%​​ [1]. That’s right, it’s not just hype – there’s real science backing this up!

Closeup of acne-affected skin
For the best results, combine red and blue light therapy. A 12-week study found this combination therapy to reduce both inflammatory and noninflammatory acne by 77% and 54%, respectively [2].

Eczema

If eczema’s got you feeling like you’re constantly battling your own skin, red light therapy might just be the ally you need. It has the potential to offer a gentle yet effective approach to managing eczema symptoms.

Ongoing clinical trials are shining a light on how red light therapy can provide relief to eczema sufferers. It’s not just about temporary relief; we’re talking about a significant reduction in the niggling itchiness and those pesky skin eruptions.

In one study, patients with atopic dermatitis experienced a 71% decrease in itchiness and a 62% drop in skin flare-ups [3]. Plus, all this without any nasty side effects during or after treatment.

Doctor examining eczema on elbow with gloves

Psoriasis

The unpredictability and impact of psoriasis symptoms can take a toll on anyone who suffers from it. And not just a toll on your skin, but on your overall quality of life. Thankfully, using red light therapy for psoriasis may help offer relief.

A study revealed that patients with chronic psoriasis saw an incredible 60-100% improvement in their symptoms after using 633 nm and 830 red LED light [4].

This healing therapy goes deeper, aiming to reset the way your skin cells behave. The result? It could help dial down the intensity of those psoriasis flare-ups, making them fewer and far less fierce.

Closeup of psoriasis on skin

Rosacea

For anyone with rosacea, you already know that it can turn what should be good skin days into episodes of redness, irritation, and sometimes, a whole lot of frustration.

Fortunately, using red light therapy for rosacea may help. Dermatologists and skin gurus agree that the anti-inflammatory magic of RLT seems tailor-made for calming the storms that rosacea brings.

One study showed that after just 10 sessions of combining red and blue light therapy, patients with rosacea started seeing real changes – less redness, reduced burning, and fewer itchy moments [5].

Closeup of facial rosacea

For The Face

Beyond treating chronic skin conditions, red light therapy can even help with cosmetic skin issues like wrinkles and sun damage. 

Wrinkles

Wrinkles – those little memory lines that show we’ve laughed, frowned, and lived. But let’s be honest – sometimes we wish they were a tad less… memorable. Well, using red light therapy for wrinkles has actually been described as the ‘fountain of youth’.

Clinically speaking, this treatment has made some impressive strides in the anti-aging arena. Patients who’ve tried it have seen some pretty amazing results – better skin complexion, smoother skin, and fewer wrinkles [6].

These aren’t just surface-level changes, though. Collagen ultrasonography scans revealed an increase in collagen density [6]. That means your skin isn’t just looking better; it’s actually getting stronger and healthier from the inside out.

Medical scan images showing collagen density at time intervals t0 and t30

What’s more, these changes lasted. After 60 treatments (30 weeks), patients saw significantly better results than they did after 30 treatments (15 weeks) [6]. In other words, you’ll see more anti-aging benefits from long-term, consistent use.

Sun Damage

While we can’t quite turn back time, red light therapy might be the next best thing for sun-damaged skin. Sun damage, or photoaging, can leave behind fine lines and wrinkles, spots, and a not-so-glowing texture.

Thankfully, red and near-infrared light treatment penetrates to where the real skin magic happens. It’s a wake-up call for your skin’s elastin and collagen production.

Patients who’ve used this treatment, often combined with other skin-loving treatments like microneedling, have seen some pretty amazing results. They’ve reported not just feeling better about their skin, but actually seeing the difference, with clinical improvements in the signs of photoaging [7].

Closeup of a skin pigment spot

Acne Scars

Well, isn’t this great news for acne sufferers? Not only does red light therapy work for treating acne, it can also help with the aftermath!

This therapy goes beyond superficial treatment. It dives deep, working under the skin’s top layer to promote healing where it counts. Think of it as a gentle, yet powerful, way to soothe and repair your skin from the inside out.

Patients who have turned to this therapy have seen some real transformations. Low-level laser therapy (585 nm) was shown to significantly improve the appearance of facial acne scars [8].

Closeup of skin with acne scars

For The Body

As you’ve probably realized by now, red light therapy’s benefits aren’t limited to the face. It can even help with reducing stretch marks and speeding up the healing process. 

Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are all about collagen, the protein that keeps our skin looking firm and smooth. When our skin stretches faster than our collagen-producing cells (fibroblasts) can keep up, we get stretch marks. And – you guessed it – you can use red light therapy for stretch marks!

By increasing ATP production, ramping up collagen synthesis, and improving blood flow, red light therapy helps the skin in its repair mission. It allows those stretch marks to fade gracefully and blend more seamlessly with the surrounding skin.

Studies have shown that when infrared light is combined with bipolar radiofrequency, it can reduce the depth of stretch marks by 22% [9]. This means not just a visual improvement, but a real, measurable change in the skin’s texture.

Closeup of stretch marks on skin with hands

Scars

Using red light therapy for scars has been shown to accelerate the healing process of wounds and scarring, taking your skin from scarred to unmarred. The results aren’t just promising; they’re impressive!

A study found that red light therapy can significantly reduce induration – that’s the hardening of tissue which can be a precursor to scarring. A 2022 study showed a decrease of 78% in induration thanks to light-emitting diode-red light (LED-RL) [10].

This is huge, as deep induration can be a sign of more pronounced scarring. Plus, this treatment helps manage collagen levels in scar tissue, which is crucial because excess collagen can mean tougher, more noticeable scars.

Person examining scar on arm skin

Wounds

Healing wounds goes much deeper than patching up the surface. Originally, low-level laser therapy was the go-to for promoting healing with red light [11], but advancements in light-emitting diode (LED) lights have provided an alternative effective, safe, and natural way to encourage healing. Plus, you can do red LED light therapy at home!

Red light therapy is great at promoting wound healing, while its near-infrared (NIR) counterpart reaches even further, aiding in the recovery of deeper injuries that may involve muscles, bones, and connective tissues.

But, don’t just take our word for it. A comprehensive meta-analysis of 68 studies has shown that LED therapy was just as effective as low-level laser therapy in speeding up the healing process.

It reduces inflammation – a key culprit in prolonged wound healing. It stimulates fibroblasts, helping ramp up collagen production – the building blocks for healthy, new tissues. And, it speeds up angiogenesis and granulation tissue formation, which are crucial steps in the body’s natural healing process [12].

Diagram of three wound healing phases: inflammatory, proliferative, remodeling

How To Use Red Light Therapy For Your Skin

Keen to try red light therapy for your skin? Getting started is easy, and it can all be done from the comfort of your own home!

Below, we’ll walk you through the easy process, from choosing the right device to creating a spa-like experience at home.

1. Check Your Meds

First things first. If you’re taking any medications that might make your skin sensitive to light, it’s a good idea to chat with your doctor. Red light therapy doesn’t use UV light, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

2. Pick Your Device

There are tons of red light therapy devices on the market – you need to choose one that matches your skin goals. Just focusing on your face? Go for a handheld device or a LED face mask. Need to target larger areas of the body? Invest in larger full-body devices.

Also, look for a red light therapy device that offers both red light and near-infrared light options for the full package.

3. Strip Down

For the therapy to work its magic, the area you’re treating should be in direct contact with the light. So, shed any clothing that’s covering that spot.

And, if you’re looking to use red light therapy on your face, I’d recommend cleansing and drying your face first. This ensures there’s nothing blocking the red light from penetrating your skin.

4. Stay on Schedule

Consistency is how you’re going to see results. Remember, this isn’t a quick, overnight solution.

Aim for around 10-20 minute sessions, 3-5 days a week. You can start with just 5 minutes a day, only 3 times a week to start out, and then slowly work your way up to longer and more regular sessions.

5. Track Your Progress

The best thing about doing a treatment is actually seeing how far you’ve come. So take photos of where you started and then at the end of each week to see your progress.

Sometimes, it’s hard to notice the changes when you’re in the middle of it all, but those pics will tell the story.

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about red light and skin health.

What Does Red Light Therapy Do for Your Skin?

A whole lot! This treatment rejuvenates your skin by shining specific red wavelengths that go deep beneath the surface. It helps with improving skin tone, wrinkle reduction, soothing inflammation, and speeding up healing. In short, it’s like a skin workout for a healthier, more radiant complexion.

Does Red Light Therapy Tighten Skin?

Absolutely! Red light therapy can help tighten your skin by stimulating the production of elastin, which is essential for firmness and elasticity. Unlike temporary skin creams or invasive procedures, this therapy is a safe and natural way to boost your skin’s health from the inside out.

Is Red Light Therapy Good For Skin Cancer?

Currently, there isn’t enough evidence to confirm if red light therapy is beneficial for skin cancer patients. There is a procedure in use today, however, called photodynamic therapy (PDT). PDT is a precise treatment that uses specific drugs, known as photosensitizing agents, and light to target and eliminate cancer cells. It’s an effective non-surgical alternative, but multiple sessions may still be necessary.

At the very least, studies have shown that red light therapy doesn’t seem to cause harm in cancer patients [13].

Final Thoughts

Red light therapy offers a world of skincare benefits, from tackling common skin issues to deeper problems like eczema and even giving you a more youthful appearance.

While it’s not a magic fix, it has certainly shown promise in improving skin health and treating multiple skin concerns. There are plenty of red light therapy devices to shop, and if you’re consistent, you could see results too!

So, do you want to give your skin that much-needed TLC? Then give red light therapy a try! And, while you’re at it, you can learn more about the other amazing red light therapy benefits.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34981580/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23278295/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7907380/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19764893/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6988247/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926176/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20166166/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8682969/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27020000/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8919713/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC522143/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4148276/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3423866/
Anne, Founder of Therapeutic Beams

Anne Linde

Since using it to clear up her acne in college, Anne has been an avid user and fan of all things light therapy. She now primarily uses red light therapy for its anti-aging benefits. Anne's mission is to make the science behind red light therapy easy to understand and accessible, so anyone can use it to take control of their health and wellbeing.

John Ni, BSc.

John, a graduate of the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, serves as a respected scientific reviewer at TherapeuticBeams.com. His expertise extends across various domains, including chemistry, pharmaceuticals, and dermatology. He contributes to publications like Royal Society of Chemistry, Drug Topics, and Practical Dermatology.

John Ni, Content Editor & Scientific Review

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