If you keep an eye on the latest trends in alternative health, you’ve probably heard of red light therapy – a natural treatment that offers significant potential in improving our health and well-being.
Also known as level laser therapy (LLLT), biostimulation (BIOS), or photonic stimulation, red light therapy is now a popular and widely accepted form of skin treatment amongst dermatologists and other skin care practitioners.
Red light therapy improves the appearance of skin (on the face and elsewhere) thanks to its ability to repair and restore cells and tissues.
This unique treatment has the ability to “energize” cells by using red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that diffuse wavelengths through the skin. It’s commonly used to treat rosacea and other skin conditions because it can increase the production of collagen, decrease inflammation, and aid in the formation of new capillaries – which are essential in repairing, restoring, and renewing skin.
What is rosacea?
Rosacea is defined as a chronic inflammatory disorder of the facial skin characterized by periods of exacerbation, remission, and possible progression. (1)
Affecting over 16 million people in the US alone, rosacea is more prevalent among fair-skinned or middle-aged people; yet, it can affect anyone during their life.
Rosacea generally appears in the center of the face – affecting the chin, cheeks, nose, and forehead. The condition causes small, red, inflamed blotches and bumps, and is often mistaken for acne or other skin conditions.
Symptoms are most often visible with the onset of ‘flushing’. This is when the skin goes red and visible blood vessels in the face become more pronounced.
As the condition develops, other symptoms such as burning, tightness, and stinging sensations may occur, along with pus-filled bumps. In some cases, it can even affect the eyelids, causing them to become red, dry, irritated, and swollen.
Although the exact cause of rosacea is unknown, many researchers believe it may be a result of both environmental and hereditary factors. Hence, the occurrence of rosacea can be attributed to both internal and external conditions.
Being a relapsing condition, flare-ups have the tendency to come and go in cycles – meaning that you can experience symptoms for a few days, weeks, or months at a time, and then see them die down until they reappear.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for rosacea but it can be controlled with treatment. (2)
How does red light therapy help rosacea?
Red light therapy has become increasingly popular because of its ability to control and help maintain the symptoms of rosacea.
During LLLT treatments, red light is applied to the facial area where it penetrates into the skin to a depth of about 8 to 10 mm.
Red light is emitted along wavelengths ranging from 620nm to 700nm. This light is absorbed by the mitochondria in our cells, creating energy to increase blood flow/circulation and bring more oxygen and nutrients to the skin tissue.
This type of light-based treatment also accelerates the cells’ ability to generate collagen – an important building block for the body, helping it create strong connective tissue.
Continual red light treatments can clear rosacea and help prevent flare-ups by either minimizing or completely eliminating symptoms, without causing irritation, sensitivity, or any other unwanted side effects. (3)
The benefits of using red light therapy for rosacea
Research studies show that LLLT is highly effective in treating rosacea. It can soothe, rejuvenate, and, in some cases, even reverse symptoms.
Treatments can be applied by a dermatologist, at a spa, or even at a tanning salon; with many rosacea sufferers feeling and seeing a difference within 24 hours of their first session.
There’s also a variety of red light therapy devices you can purchase for home use that will provide you with the same results. Some of the benefits include:
- Reduced redness, flushing, and broken capillaries
- Increased flow of blood and nutrients to the affected area
- Faster healing of red-inflamed blotches, pimples, and bumps
- Less inflammation, swelling, and tightness
- Relief from the burning and itching sensations frequently associated with rosacea flare-ups
- Accelerated healing for faster results
- Better protection against worsening symptoms
- Treatment with minimal side effects, that’s safe, non-invasive, and natural
- Therapy that’s simple and easy to administer at home
Is Red Light Therapy safe?
Medical evidence shows there have been no adverse side effects reported from the use of LLLT for rosacea. However, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor or dermatologist prior to administering home treatments yourself.
Some patients might see a temporary redness and swelling, or feel itching at the treated site, but it generally lasts only a few days. Goggles should always be worn as a precautionary measure to protect your eyes during the procedure.
When will I see results?
You may see a difference right away, or notice the benefits within a few weeks. Results for this treatment vary depending on the individual, and the severity of their condition.
Some patients feel immediate relief of pain, itching, redness, and inflammation, while others may have to wait a bit longer.
The average patient should see results in two weeks. However, treatment must be consistent – at least once a day, or every other day, for about 3-5 minutes per area.
Sessions can last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on whether you undergo treatment at a dermatologist’s office, spa, or tanning salon. If you’re relying on a DIY or at-home device, follow the manufacturer’s advice carefully.
Most patients report considerable improvement in their visible rosacea symptoms after 4 weeks of continuous sessions. Even if you see improvement, it’s important to schedule regular treatments. Consistency is key to getting the best results and prevent symptoms from reoccurring. (4)
Of course, results also depend on your personal skincare regimen, your diet, your levels of hydration, the amount of sleep you get, your stress, exposure to natural sunlight, along with the amount of physical exercise you exert in a day. These factors, along with a few others, can worsen or improve rosacea symptoms.
(1,2) Rosacea: Overview PubMed.gov 14 August 2014
(3) KIM, WS, and RG Calderhead. “Is Light-Emitting Diode Phototherapy (LED-LLLT) Really Effective?” PubMed.gov, 2011
(4) Your Guide to Light Therapy for Rosacea Treatment – Light Therapy Options L.L.C. 6 October 2017