Red Light Therapy For Acne at HomeLast Updated:
Red light technology was originally developed by NASA in the 1990s for plant growth experimentation on space shuttle missions. Numerous health benefits of red light have since been discovered in the form of therapy, including weight management, improved skin quality, physical performance enhancement, muscle recovery and the treatment of acne and scarring. Red light therapy is rapidly growing in popularity as an exciting new option for combating acne.
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How Does Red Light Therapy Work on Acne?
Skin is exposed to wavelengths of visible red light. These wavelengths penetrate the skin to a depth of 8-10 millimetres and are absorbed by skin cells, increasing cell energy and collagen production, killing bacteria, and promoting healing.
Red light reduces inflammation and improves oxygen flow to cells, allowing them to function better. Decreased swelling and inflammation reduces the size of acne pimples, and lower bacteria levels prevent new pimples from forming.
Red light is natural and does not contain UV radiation, so it kills acne-causing bacteria and improves cell function but will not damage the skin.
Which Types of Acne Can Red Light Therapy Treat?
All variations of acne can be reduced or eliminated via red light therapy. Prevalent treatable acne types include:
Hormonal Acne — the most common form of acne, caused by bacteria and clogging of hair follicles under the skin, frequently related to hormone level fluctuations (also known as Acne Vulgaris)
Cystic Acne — most common in people with oily skin, cystic acne is the most serious form, with large pus-filled cysts forming beneath the skin
Back Acne — closely related to hormonal acne, blackheads, whiteheads, red spots, pus-filled pimples, and scars are present on the back and sometimes chest or shoulders
Fungal Acne — caused by a fungus rather than bacteria, fungal acne resembles hormonal acne but the pimples are rash-like; uniform in appearance, and frequently itchy
Acne Rosacea — an inflammatory skin disorder causing a red rash to appear on the face, often mistaken for acne vulgaris but differs in that pimples are driven simply by inflammation, not bacteria or oil. Read more about red light therapy and rosacea.
Does Red Light Therapy Help Acne Scars?
Yes. Because of the collagen-enhancing properties of red light therapy, skin elasticity is improved and scarring (skin fibrosis) is prevented or alleviated. Existing scars can be minimized. Red light therapy can help to various degrees with all types of scarring.
Atrophic scars are small skin indentations and are the mildest type of acne scar. These are readily healed by red light therapy.
As opposed to atrophic scars, hypertrophic scars are raised rather than indented. The skin is thickened because it produced too many fibroblasts during the attempted healing process. Hypertrophic scars are more severe, but can still be healed or improved by the collagen and elastin effects of red light.
Keloid scars are similar to hypertrophic scars but are much thicker than the surrounding skin. They are usually darker and are often red and bumpy. Keloids are the most severe form of acne scar. Red light therapy provides the best available healing option today for keloid scars.
Prevention of Future Scarring
Fibrosis occurs after the chronic inflammation of acne. Through the use of red light therapy, bacteria and inflammation are reduced, collagen and elastin production is increased, and the likelihood of future acne breakouts is reduced. This, in turn, serves to prevent further scarring.
How Long Does It Take To Observe Results of Red Light Therapy?
The reaction time to red light therapy is individualized.
On average, profound effects are observed eight to ten weeks from beginning therapy. Depending upon the initial condition, some results might be observed as soon as four to six weeks from the beginning of treatment. The timing varies by person and severity of symptoms.
How Often Should I Do Red Light Therapy for Acne?
There is no standard dosage. Usage is dependent upon the initial presentation of symptoms and reason for treatment. Individual symptoms and their severity dictate the appropriate answer, and consultation with a doctor or other health expert is recommended.
Sessions can range from five to 30 minutes, one to five times per week up to 12 weeks, reducing the number of sessions gradually as deemed appropriate.
Do Light Therapy Masks Work as Acne Treatment?
Yes. LED (light-emitting diode) masks and other devices can be purchased for use in the comfort of your own home, eliminating the need for expensive spa or doctor visits.
In addition to masks, small light panels (primarily for facial use) and full body panels are also available.
What is the Right Red Light Wavelength for Acne Treatment?
For acne treatment, the typical range of red light wavelengths used is 610-700 nanometers. The exact dosage is based on the type and severity of acne.
Have Scientific Studies Proven That Red Light Therapy Works to Treat Acne?
Yes. Significant, conclusive research exists to prove the efficacy of red light therapy in the treatment of various forms of acne.
Pertinent clinical documented studies include:
- Light Therapy in the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris
- Topical aminolevulinic acid‐photodynamic therapy for the treatment of acne vulgaris
- Red light phototherapy alone is effective for acne vulgaris: randomized, single-blinded clinical trial
- 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
- High Fluence Light Emitting Diode-Generated Red Light Modulates Characteristics Associated with Skin Fibrosis
- Dermatology Exam: Acne vs. Rosacea | Stanford Medicine 25 | Stanford Medicine
Acne before and after red light therapy will vary by individual, but this exciting breakthrough in treatment gives new hope to all those suffering from it.
Red light therapy as an acne treatment is safe, natural, and FDA-approved. Whether used as a primary treatment or in conjunction with medications or other remedies, red light therapy is an effective and powerful tool against acne. Make sure you check the power density is high enough to be effective and that the EMFs are low enough not to be harmful.