Red Light Therapy: Relief From the Stigma of RosaceaLast Updated:
Rosacea can affect you emotionally as well as physically. If you suffer from rosacea, you have likely felt self-conscious, embarrassed, or worried that you were being stared at. Rosacea is a persistent condition and is resistant to traditional treatment options, which can be frustrating. 
Red light therapy is an exciting new alternative to standard treatments that are not consistently effective.
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What Is Rosacea?
Rosacea (also known as acne rosacea) is an inflammatory skin disorder that causes redness and visible blood vessels to appear on your face. It may also produce small, red, pus-filled bumps, raised red patches, nose enlargement, and eye irritation.
Rosacea is often mistaken for acne, but it differs in cause. Acne is caused by bacteria and oil, whereas rosacea is driven by inflammation.
“Flare-ups” of rosacea can last for weeks or months, then resolve on their own. Rosacea can seemingly come and go at will, without warning or apparent cause.
Anyone can suffer from rosacea, but it is most common in middle-aged women with fair skin complexions. There is no cure for rosacea, but its signs and symptoms can be treated and reduced.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work to Treat Rosacea?
Red light wavelengths penetrate your skin and are absorbed by the mitochondria (energy production centers) of your skin cells, stimulating the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the “currency” by which your body transmits cellular energy.
A greater level of ATP boosts cellular energy and triggers greater collagen and elastin production, elevating your body’s natural healing capabilities. Collagen and elastin are essential proteins responsible for keeping your skin supple and healthy; thus, elevated levels promote better skin health and quell the effects of rosacea.
In addition to generating greater cellular energy, red light therapy forms new capillaries that deliver nutrients to your skin. It also improves the functioning of your lymphatic system. Your skin is energized and your cells are able to more efficiently dispose of waste and toxins.
Because the flow of oxygen to your cells is increased, inflammation is reduced. Since rosacea is an inflammation-driven condition, red light therapy can provide relief and a reduction of rosacea symptoms.
Red light-emitting diode (LED) and near-infrared (NIR) light do not contain damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This means that they can provide anti-inflammatory therapy and improve cell function without damaging your skin.
What Are the Best Wavelengths for Treating Rosacea?
The generally recommended range of red light wavelengths for the treatment of rosacea is 610 to 700 nanometers (nm), falling in the range of short-wave red LED light. In more severe cases, NIR wavelengths of 830 to 855 nm can also be useful and effective. Frequently, a combination of a red LED and NIR wavelengths is the best recipe for success.
Your exact dosage will be based upon the severity of your symptoms and your individual response to treatment. What works for one person might not be the best option for another.
How Long Will It Take To See Results?
The reaction time to red light therapy is individualized, so there is no standard answer.
On average, profound effects are observed between eight to ten weeks from beginning therapy. Depending upon your 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.
What Other Steps Can You Take to Alleviate Rosacea?
In addition to red light therapy, there are many things you can (and should) do every day to minimize rosacea symptoms. Steps you can take include:
- Use sunscreen to protect your skin from damaging UV rays that can aggravate rosacea.
- Protect your skin from cold weather. Windburn and very cold air temperatures can dry and irritate your skin.
- Drink plenty of water and eat a diet rich in lean proteins, leafy green vegetables, vitamins, and antioxidants. Limit your intake of sugar and caffeine. Overall skin health is closely tied to proper hydration and a healthy diet.
- Avoid using harsh facial cleansers. Choose mild, natural products for face-washing and moisturizing.
- Avoid stress as much as possible. Stress can have many adverse physical impacts, including skin reactions.
- Oral or topical medications and antibiotics can help with pimples caused by rosacea. People seem to experience different levels of treatment success with these remedies, however, and they are not usually effective in the long-term. Red light therapy provides a more natural, longer-lasting treatment alternative because it utilizes your body’s own innate healing powers.
Practicing these healthy lifestyle choices every day will, in conjunction with red light therapy, put you on the road to success in relieving your rosacea symptoms.
What About Laser Resurfacing?
Laser resurfacing consists of short beams of pulsating laser light being directed at your skin, resulting in an improved skin texture and appearance. The laser light used is longer in wavelength than red light therapy, making it more intense. Laser resurfacing can be a painful process, so a local anesthetic or even intravenous sedation might be administered.
Because of the intensity of the treatment, laser resurfacing is considered a fairly invasive procedure and requires a post-treatment healing time of three to 10 days. The side effects of laser resurfacing during the healing period can include increased redness, soreness, and an itching or burning sensation. Your skin is actually damaged and needs to heal from the same process by which its appearance is improved later.
Laser resurfacing will produce results, but they are temporary. They are also expensive, ranging anywhere from $300 to $1,000 per treatment. Laser resurfacing needs to be repeated every few years (at a minimum).
Red light therapy, on the other hand, produces natural results, is painless and non-invasive, causes no adverse physical effects, and requires no post-treatment healing time. Best of all, there are no repeated medical appointments and no recurring expenses. You need to only purchase your red light therapy device once to begin enjoying its therapeutic benefits at home.
What Does Science Say?
Very little research has been performed to prove the efficacy of red light therapy on rosacea. It is, however, scientifically proven to reduce swelling related to sports injuries, joint disorders, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions.   
A decrease in swelling and inflammation will intrinsically relieve the appearance and symptoms of rosacea.
With a red light therapy device, you can safely and effectively relieve the embarrassing and sometimes painful symptoms of rosacea in the privacy of your own home.
-  nih.gov - Psychosocial Impact of Rosacea (opens in a new tab)
-  sciencedirect.com - LLLT for Chronic Joint Disorders (opens in a new tab)
-  nih.gov - Efficacy of RLT on pain in cervical osteoarthritis (opens in a new tab)
-  nih.gov - Effect of light therapy on exercise performance (opens in a new tab)
-  nih.gov - Anti-inflammatory effects of red light therapy (opens in a new tab)