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All About Red Light Therapy


Think back to your last visit to your local esthetician or facial spa. Was red light therapy offered as an additional service? What about your last stroll–whether online or in person–at your favorite beauty retailer. Have you seen an increase in tools that provide the benefits of red light therapy at home? It’s a treatment that continues to grow in popularity for its wide range of benefits for our skin. But what is it? 

What is red light therapy?

Red light therapy is a treatment that leverages a safe, low-wavelength red light to help improve several skin issues, in addition to other medical conditions. You may also hear red light therapy, a type of photobiomodulation referred to by several different names, including low-level laser light therapy, non-thermal LED light, soft laser therapy, and cold laser therapy. 

Initially, NASA began experimenting with red light therapy on plant growth in space to aid in healing astronauts’ wounds. Today, one method in which red light therapy is medically accepted is the way it is used in photodynamic therapy. The process is a two-stage treatment combining light energy with a photosensitizer (a drug) designed to destroy cancerous and precancerous cells. Before it is activated by a specific wavelength of light energy from a laser, the photosensitizer is nontoxic. However, once activated, it becomes toxic to whatever the targeted issue is.

In our bodies, red light therapy functions by acting on our body’s mitochondria, which generate most of the chemical energy needed to power our cell’s biochemical reactions. 

What are its benefits?

Some of the most common and well-known benefits of red light therapy include helping to improve our skin’s appearance by reducing wrinkles, fading scars, minimizing redness, and aiding in treating acne. In addition, it’s celebrated for its ability to repair skin, boost the growth of new cells, and help with skin rejuvenation. Additionally, when it comes to our skin health, red light therapy can help stimulate collagen production to provide our skin with more elasticity and strengthen, increase the production of fibroblast, which makes collagen, increase the circulation of blood to our tissue, as well as reduce inflammation in our cells.

Red light therapy may also be used as a treatment for several skin conditions, including reducing the appearance of stretch marks, aiding in the wound healing process, reducing age spots, helping to improve facial texture, aiding in hair growth for people with androgenic alopecia, as well as improve eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.

There are additional medical use cases for red light therapy that are being investigated, including to help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients, including oral mucositis, the swelling of tissue and irritation in our mouth, and relieve pain and inflammation that occurs with ankle tendonitis, arthritis, carpal tunnel, and osteoarthritis of the knee, as well as to prevent cold sores. Some studies have also shown a correlation between red light therapy and an improvement in the quality of sleep. At the same time, there are clinical trials to showcase red light therapy’s effectiveness in treating chronic pain.

Erica Reid, the founder of nécessité, is an avid fan and user of red light therapy.

“I started doing red light therapy over ten years ago to aid in healing various skin issues I faced,” Reid says. “Now I use my red light therapy to address not only skin concerns but other health issues at least three to four times a week, sometimes two times a day, even if only for two minutes at a time. I have witnessed first-hand and reaped some of the healing health benefits, that is why I am a strong believer in red light therapy.”

Where can you get red light therapy?

For individuals looking for red light therapy treatments outside of the home, several places–depending on your area, of course–may offer these practices or equipment on-site. These locations may include spas, wellness centers, a doctor’s office, or a dermatology office. 

At home red light therapy tools are also becoming more common. However, it’s always recommended to ensure that the device you are purchasing emits red light in an effective wavelength.

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