This post is under review and in the process of being rewritten.
What is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy is a relatively new treatment that utilises low wavelength red light for therapeutic and cosmetic effects on the skin. It is considered to be bioactive at this low wavelength, making it potentially capable of improving cellular function.
The use of red light therapy started with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) using it for experiments on plant growth in space and 1healing wounds of astronauts. It is now more widely used in the medical industry for therapeutic and cosmetic purposes.
More research still needs to be done to discover what other benefits it may have for the human body.
For the skin, various benefits have been reported.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
Light-emitting diodes release light and heat. The red light penetrates the dermis layer of the skin, which is the middle layer. At this level, it can reach organelles within individual cells to exert its effect. Its target organelle is the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. It stimulates the mitochondria to produce more energy. With more energy, the skin cells can produce more collagen and elastin – proteins responsible for maintaining the integrity of the skin. Some cells also absorb the light causing them to work more efficiently.
Benefits of Red Light Therapy
1. It can help improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and age spots
Red light therapy increases the production of collagen, elastin and Hyaluronic acid in the skin. Hyaluronic acid is an endogenous fluid found mostly in the eyes and joints that helps retain moisture in the skin.
By increasing the production of these substances, red light therapy helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the skin.
2. It can improves Acne
Red light therapy decreases signs of inflammation such as redness. It can also kill bacteria and minimise oil production on the skin. Acne thrives on all these factors. This makes red light therapy a suitable treatment for it.
3. It can reduce the appearance of scars and stretch-marks
Red light therapy can reduce scar tissue and improve circulation in the area. For stretch marks, it can boost collagen production which helps improve the appearance of the skin.
4. It may assist in managing inflammation in topical steroid withdrawal
Red light therapy can be effective for chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. It can reduce itchiness, redness, flaking, rashes or bumps, and inflammation in general. It can also strengthen the barrier of the skin.
For topical steroid withdrawal, there are anecdotal reports with online support groups that red light therapy has been effective in managing their withdrawal process. More evidence is required to validate its efficacy and we will update this page as more evidence emerges.
Red light therapy is a new frontier in medicine that requires more research to fully understand the extent of its capabilities. How and why it works need to be fully understood to potentially expand its range of use.
Current studies about red light therapy have shown it has several benefits for the skin. There is also evidence outside 2clinical trials to prove its efficacy.
- Whelan H. et al., 2002, Effect of NASA Light-Emitting Diode Irradiation on Wound Healing, Journal of Clinical Laser Medicine & Surgery, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11582463_Effect_of_NASA_Light-Emitting_Diode_Irradiation_on_Wound_Healing
- Alexander Wunsch and Karsten Matuschka, 2014, A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase, Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926176/