What is red light therapy?
Red light therapy is a skin rejuvenating therapy that uses wavelengths of light to enhance the body’s ability to repair itself. The skin rejuvenating and pain relieving effects of Red light therapy have been documented for decades. Red light can boost the formation of elastin and collagen to give youthful and plumper looking skin. It can also help increase blood circulation and fade scars, dark circles, acne, eczema and psoriasis. In elderly patients, red light can be used in combination with infrared diodes to relieve painful muscles of the legs, arms, back and neck. This therapy is a great alternative to many painful skin rejuvenation treatments including chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser therapy. It is especially a boon for patients suffering from painful conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Origin of red light therapy
It is believed that NASA first developed this technique to grow plants in space. They later found that it even healed wounds and skin infections in the space environment. Today, the technique is used extensively across salons and spas to heal and rejuvenate aging skin.
How does red light therapy work?
Red light therapy is a pain-free, non invasive technique that uses red light at 633 nm wavelength. Light at this wavelength has therapeutic benefits and is very easily absorbed by the human cells. When this light is directed on the skin, the mitochondria of the cells absorb its energy and stimulate intracellular energy transfer or ATP (the energy used by cells for proper functioning) for enhanced cell permeability and vitality. The result: there is enhanced production of collagen and elastin fibers. Studies have shown that the skin cells grow at 150% faster rate than normal when treated with or exposed to red light. Unlike laser skin rejuvenation, red light therapy does not burn or cut the skin. The very fact that there is no vaporization or burning of cells means there is very little downtime. Patients can actually see the results within 4-6 weeks of treatment in the form of reduced varicose veins, diminished fine lines and wrinkles and brightening and smoothening of the skin.
Red light therapy and western medicine
The therapeutic value of light and color has been known for thousands of years. Red light has the longest wavelength and is used for deep penetration in the skin. It contains no harmful UVA or UVB rays that can cause any damage. In ancient Egypt, people used natural sunlight and passed it through specific glass to refract it and bathe the patients in specific colors depending on his/her specific ailment. Even in early Greece and Persia, practitioners used materials in their solaria to treat patients having different ailments. Sunlight itself is extremely healing in nature. It has the power to kill bacteria including the deadly microbes that cause tuberculosis.
Unfortunately, conventional Western medicine has always tended to ignore this powerful alternative therapy, preferring to rely on conventional drugs and radical surgical approaches. Hence, red light therapy is only usually administered at spas, alternative wellness centers etc.
Benefits of red light therapy
- Reduces effects of premature aging
- Decreases fine lines, age spots, wrinkles and other signs of photo-damage
- Boosts collagen and elastin fibers to give a more youthful, radiant look
- Evens out skin tone
- Increases blood circulation which enables nutrients to reach the treated areas efficiently. As oxygen and blood flow increase, the skin starts to show a more youthful appearance.
- Helps heal pockmarks, acne scars, eczema prone skin, psoriasis, pigmentation spots and stretch marks.
- Reduces spider veins
- Fades all kinds of scars
- Reduces inflammation of the skin.
- Reduces pain in arms, legs, back, knees, shoulders, hips etc
- Particularly beneficial for patients of arthritis and fibromyalgia
- Speeds up healing of torn muscles and ligaments
- Fixes broken capillaries
- Beneficial for healing post-surgery scars, wounds, burns and sprains etc
- Reduces cellulite in areas like thighs, buttocks, hips and stomach
- Helps address carpal tunnel syndrome pain
Risks of red light therapy – Is red light therapy safe?
Red light therapy is extremely safe given the fact that red light and infrared light waves are already present in sunlight. The reason why we do not use sunlight for skin rejuvenation is the fact that it also contains UVA and UVB rays which are harmful in excess to the human skin. That being said, red light therapy must be administered with caution and must be only undertaken by a trained and experienced practitioner. Following are some of the rare side effects of this therapy:
Eye damage– It is very important to cover and protect the eyes with goggles when directing the red light underneath the eye area to reduce wrinkles, puffiness or fine lines. Patients can also simply close their eyes when the therapy is being administered but it is important not to look directly at the light source. In fact; red light therapy is even safe enough to be administered to patients with sty on the eyelids. The device will be directed on the eyelid but when the red light hits the eyelid, it disperses and reduces in power by nearly 10 times. This makes red light therapy extremely safe for use.
Machine safety– As with any device, practitioners must ensure that the device is safe for use. Inspecting the device before using it on the clients can prevent shocks and other side effects. As always, keep away all electric cords out of reach of young children.
Patients with following medical conditions must not undergo red light therapy until they have been given the permission by their doctor:
- Those on cancer medications
- Patients taking corticosteroid or other drugs
The FDA has given red light therapy at 633 nm a non-significant risk status. It is even completely safe for use on the eyes since it only penetrates up to a depth of 8-10 mm to deliver energy and stimulate response of healing. There are very few reports of patients having pain following red light treatment; in fact-most are known to come away rejuvenated, pain free and completely refreshed following the session.
How many sessions are needed to see results?
In order to achieve optimal results, it is recommended that you receive the therapy 3-5 times a week for first 3-4 weeks. Later, after about 2 months of treatment, the duration can be decreased to 2-3 times a week for 3 months. Patients can even undergo monthly maintenance after 3-4 months at the rate of 1-2 sessions per week. In general-the longer the use it, the better will be the results.
Products to use to enhance treatment
Red light skin rejuvenation works best when used in combination with certain serums and products.
- Cleansers– Clean your face with salicylic acid of glycolic acid based face washes to remove makeup. The therapy works best on clean skin.
- Peptides– Use peptides like penta peptide and copper peptide after cleansing.
- Moisturizers– look for moisturizing serums containing Aloe Vera, green tea, vitamin C, retinol, hyaluronic acid etc. Apply these as directed. These can reduce sun damage and enhance the effects of the treatment.
- Sun block/sunscreen– Use products containing zinc oxide, titanium oxide etc diligently after each treatment, indoors and outdoors. Make sure the chosen product has SPF of at least 30++.
Red light therapy is a promising non-invasive technique that can be used to fight crow’s feet, enlarged pores, blemishes, scars and wrinkles without any side effects. It helps pull collagen to the surface to fill in the sagging areas to instantly uplift and firm-up aging skin. The initial effects include brighter, tighter skin with several other long term effects. Red light therapy really works!