What’s the Science Behind Red Light Therapy?

Do you want to improve the appearance of your skin? Perhaps you’re looking for a safe and natural way to boost skin health and reverse the signs of aging. If so, you may want to consider red light therapy.

Key takeaways:
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    Red light therapy is a promising treatment for a range of skin conditions.
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    It works by energizing cells, increasing collagen production, and reducing inflammation.
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    Red light therapy seems safe for most people with few side effects, but more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.
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    You can purchase at-home red light therapy devices, but it’s best to see a qualified professional for treatments.

Red light therapy is a treatment that uses low-intensity red light to improve the appearance of the skin and treat various conditions. The therapy is also sometimes called photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy.

Research shows that red light therapy gives your skin an energy boost, allowing it to better regenerate and heal itself. The process may help improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, acne scars, and other skin concerns.

Red light therapy is a non-invasive, safe treatment with few side effects. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to traditional treatments like creams, lasers, and dermabrasion.

If you’re considering red light therapy, it’s important to understand how it works and what the evidence says about its effectiveness. This article will give you all the information you need to make an informed decision.

The history of red light therapy

The idea that our cells can absorb light and use it as an energy source isn’t a new concept. In fact, ancient cultures used sunlight to treat a variety of conditions.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began using red light therapy in the 1990s for experiments on plant growth and healing skin issues in astronauts.

Its use expanded to general medicine and is used in photodynamic therapy (PDT). This cancer treatment uses a light-sensitive drug and red light to kill cancer cells. It’s also used to treat some skin conditions.

More recently, red light therapy has become a popular beauty treatment, with people using it to improve skin appearance and treat specific skin concerns.

How does red light therapy work?

Red light therapy uses low-intensity red and near-infrared light to stimulate energy production in the mitochondria of cells. This process is known as photobiomodulation.

Mitochondria are miniature power generators that exist in every cell in your body except red blood cells. They convert air, water, and food into energy. Without mitochondria, cells couldn’t grow, divide, or function.

Red light therapy gives your mitochondria more energy, so they can work more efficiently to regenerate and heal skin cells and boost the extracellular matrix (ECM).

The ECM gives skin its unique properties of elasticity, strength, and contraction ability. It’s a gel-like support system that comprises proteins called collagen and elastin and proteoglycans which are highly hydrated sugar molecules.

After around age 25, the ECM starts to degrade. Its essential components are not produced as quickly, and skin becomes drier, weaker, and less elastic.

Red light therapy supports the ECM by providing fuel and promoting oxygen utilization, so the mitochondria work at their full potential. The process is similar to how plants absorb sunlight and convert it to energy for growth during photosynthesis.

The potential benefits of red light therapy

Red light therapy has a wide range of potential benefits for the skin, including:

  • Boosts circulation — An increase in blood to the skin delivers more oxygen and nutrients to cells.
  • Increases fibroblast activity — These cells produce the critical proteins collagen and elastin.
  • Stimulates collagen production — This is the most abundant protein in the skin, giving it structure and strength.
  • Reduces wrinkles and fine lines — As collagen production increases, skin becomes plumper, and lines and wrinkles are less visible.
  • Reduces pore size — As collagen production increases, pores may appear smaller.
  • Tightens skin — By stimulating collagen and elastin, red light therapy can help skin become firmer.
  • Eases inflammation — The increase in energy helps reduce inflammation at a cellular level. Inflammation can damage skin cells and lead to premature aging and redness.
  • Fades scars and acne — By stimulating collagen production, red light therapy can help heal the deep wounds caused by acne, and the anti-inflammatory effects can calm breakouts.
  • Soothes sun damage — Red light therapy can help repair the skin damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.
  • Treats psoriasis — The anti-inflammatory effects of red light therapy can help reduce the symptoms of psoriasis, a chronic skin condition characterized by red, scaly patches.
  • Relieves itchiness — The effects of red light therapy help relieve itching caused by dry skin or eczema.

However, there isn’t enough solid, high-quality scientific research to support most uses of red light therapy.

Some studies have found that red light therapy improves fine lines, wrinkles, and skin texture. But, most research only includes a small number of participants and doesn’t have a placebo group to compare treatments. Therefore, even though results may appear promising, more research is needed to determine if red light therapy is truly effective.

Is red light therapy safe?

For most people, red light therapy is safe and has no significant side effects. However, there’s a small chance you could experience some temporary side effects, such as:

  • Eye irritation — You may want to wear eye protection during treatment if you find the light uncomfortable.
  • Burning sensation — Some people feel a warmth or tingling during or after treatment. This is normal and should go away quickly.
  • Skin irritation — People with sensitive skin may develop a rash or redness.

Red light therapy uses a different wavelength from ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning beds, so there are no concerns about skin cancer or premature skin aging. That said, if you have a history of skin cancer, you should speak to your doctor before trying red light therapy.

Although you can buy at-home red light therapy devices, it’s best to see a dermatologist or other medical professional for treatments. This will ensure you’re using the correct wavelength and intensity of light for your specific needs.

Red light therapy is a promising treatment for a range of skin conditions, but more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness. However, it may help improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and scars.

It’s generally safe for most people, with few side effects. However, if you have a history of skin cancer, it’s important to speak to your doctor before trying this treatment.

You can purchase at-home red light therapy devices. Still, it’s best to see a qualified professional for treatments to ensure you’re using the correct light intensity and wavelength for your needs.

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