Scarring (skin fibrosis) can affect you both physically and emotionally. Scars can make you feel self-conscious or embarrassed and can also be painful.
Red light therapy can help reduce the appearance of existing scars, relieve scar pain, and help prevent new scarring.
Table of Contents
Types of Scars and Effect of Red Light Therapy on Them
A scar is an area of fibrous tissue that replaces healthy skin after an injury or trauma. Scarring is part of your body’s natural healing process. Scars can occur anywhere on the body as the body ages. Scars on the face can be cause for low self esteem and therefore need to be treated.
Scars are caused by injuries, burns, cuts, lesions, or skin conditions such as acne or eczema. The texture and appearance of scars vary based on cause. Let's look at each one in detail and analyse if red light therapy helps heal them.
The main scar categories are:
Surgical Scars — Usually result from surgical incisions, appearing as fine lines initially, and may widen over time.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: Red light therapy (RLT) can help accelerate the healing process post-surgery, reducing the appearance and width of surgical scars. It's good for promoting tissue regeneration and collagen production, crucial factors in scar reduction. Using a quality at-home RLT device, individuals can undergo treatment to fade surgical scars. Various scientific studies showcase the benefits and effectiveness of the treatment.
Indented Scars — Similar to atrophic scars, caused by loss of skin tissue, creating an indentation.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT can be particularly beneficial in reducing the indentation of indented scars by promoting collagen production, making the skin surface appear smoother. Consistent at-home treatment can significantly help in improving the appearance of indented scars.
White Scars — Mature scars that have faded over time, appearing lighter than the surrounding skin.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT can aid in fading white scars further and improving the texture of the surrounding skin. The treatment can be comfortably done at home with a good RLT device.
Ice Pick Scars — Deep, narrow, pitted scars typically resulting from severe acne, resembling small puncture holes.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT can help in reducing the appearance of ice pick scars by promoting tissue healing and collagen production. Consistent treatment can lead to visible improvements over time.
Fine Line — Fine line scars usually result from a surgical incision or another cut. They appear as thin white lines.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT can help fade fine line scars, promoting a smoother skin texture. This at-home treatment can be a part of a holistic scar reduction regimen.
Widespread — Also known as “stretched scars”, widespread scars result from the gradual stretching of fine line scars. Stretch marks that develop after rapid weight gain or pregnancy are another variation of widespread scars.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT can help reduce the appearance of widespread scars and stretch marks by promoting skin elasticity and collagen production. With regular treatment, individuals may notice a significant reduction in the visibility of widespread scars.
Atrophic — Also known as “pitted scars”, atrophic scars are small skin indentations. Common causes are skin conditions like acne or chickenpox.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: Similar to indented scars, RLT can help in reducing the indentation of atrophic scars. The treatment can be done at home, aiding in the process of scar removal.
Hypertrophic — Hypertrophic scars are raised rather than indented. Skin is thickened due to overactive fibroblast (connective tissue) production.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT can help reduce the raised appearance of hypertrophic scars by promoting balanced collagen production. It's a beneficial treatment for those looking to manage hypertrophic scars better.
Internal Scar Tissue — Forms after internal injuries or surgery, potentially leading to complications like adhesions, where tissues stick together.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT can penetrate into the skin to promote internal tissue healing, which may be beneficial in reducing internal scar tissue. Recommended wavelengths: 780-855 nm. It’s a non-invasive treatment option for internal scar tissue issues.
C-section Scars — Result from cesarean section deliveries, typically appearing as horizontal scars above the pubic bone. They may become less noticeable over time but can cause discomfort or self-consciousness.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT helps in fading C-section scars and enhancing the healing process post-delivery. With consistent at-home treatment, individuals can see a reduction in scar visibility and discomfort.
Contracture — Contractures are scars that usually result from burns. A layer of collagen that is tougher and tighter than healthy skin forms as a burn heals, causing pain and visible scarring.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT can aid in the healing of contracture scars by enhancing collagen production and promoting flexible tissue regeneration. It’s a beneficial treatment for burn victims aiming to reduce the appearance of contracture scars.
Keloid — Keloid scars resemble hypertrophic scars but are much thicker than the surrounding skin. Keloids are an extreme form of scarring and are often red and bumpy.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT can help in reducing the thickness and redness associated with keloid scars. Regular treatment can help manage and reduce the appearance of keloid scars significantly.
Scar Pain — While “scar pain” is not actually a type of scar, it is another aspect of scarring that can be relieved through red light therapy. Scar pain occurs when a wound heals and the resulting scar tissue forms as stiffer, tighter, less flexible skin.
- Red Light Therapy Benefits: RLT can alleviate scar pain by promoting more flexible tissue regeneration and reducing stiffness. It's a soothing treatment for individuals experiencing discomfort due to scar pain.
How and Why Scars Form: The Basics of Skin Regeneration
Scarring is your body’s natural response to an emergent situation. When tissue is damaged, your body acts instinctively to treat the injury and return your skin to its original state.
Skin regeneration  is an ongoing process. Your body is constantly creating new skin cells which rise to the epidermis (the outermost layer of your skin). Fibroblasts produce a uniform framework of collagen to produce normal, healthy skin. Skin regenerates about once a month, and even more quickly in younger people.
When your body is in “healing mode”, however, it strives to correct the problem as quickly as possible. Collagen production is kicked into high gear and cell generation becomes rapid and irregular. The result is scar tissue; a disorganized framework of new skin cells that differs from healthy skin in texture and appearance.
How Red Light Therapy Can Help Prevent Scarring and Treat Existing Scars
Red light penetrates the skin and reaches your cells’ mitochondria (energy production centers), increases adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, thus stimulating collagen and elastin production. Why would you want to increase collagen production if it is the cause of scarring? Because red light stimulates normal and organized skin cell growth, not the disorderly kind that produces scars. Normal, organized collagen production helps to replace scar tissue with healthy skin tissue.     
Red light also triggers stem cell production. Stem cells are your body’s most basic building blocks.  “Unspecialized” in nature, stem cells can divide and produce new and differentiated cells with specific functions on an “as-needed” basis; healthy skin cells rather than scar tissue. This is significant because cells that are within close proximity communicate with one another. Damaged cells at an injury site can send harmful signals to neighboring cells, causing them to develop into scar tissue as well. Healthy stem cells, however, send the right message to neighboring cells, signaling them to adapt to the properties of normal, healthy skin cells.
Because it enhances your body’s natural healing processes at the cellular level, red light therapy can do more to treat scars than any topical treatment.
Which Wavelengths Are Best for Scar Treatment?
The best treatment for overall skin health including regeneration and scar healing is an integrated formula utilizing red light-emitting diode (LED) light and near-infrared (NIR) light conjunctively. The specific wavelengths known to assist with faster wound healing and scar reduction are 605 nm, 630 nm, 633 nm, 640 nm, 650 nm, 660 nm, 670 nm, 720 nm, 780 nm, 810 nm, 830 nm, and 855 nanometers (nm).
Devices offering various wavelengths and combinations of wavelengths are available for at-home use.
900 and 980 nm wavelengths have also been shown to help wounds heal more quickly. These wavelengths, however, are considerably more intense and are not typically offered in at-home red light therapy devices.
900 nm represents the virtual border between NIR light and infrared light, and 980 nm is well within the infrared range. Infrared light is invisible to the human eye and is thermal (heat-generating). It is capable of burning your skin and causing eye or other bodily tissue damage. For this reason, infrared light is usually used only in more extreme circumstances and not for routine therapy.
How Long Will It Take To See Results?
Everyone is unique in their response to treatment, so there is no standard answer for exactly how long it will take to see results. The timing of treatment can range from just a few weeks to several months, depending upon the severity and age of the scarring. Superficial scars can disappear completely, and more serious scars can decrease greatly in appearance.
In addition to red light therapy, scar healing can be enhanced through proper hydration and diet. To supplement your red light therapy, drink plenty of water, eat lots of lean proteins, leafy green vegetables, and antioxidants. Minimize your consumption of sugar and caffeine. 
Through red light therapy, you can begin to alleviate scars and scar pain immediately in the comfort of your own home. Red light therapy is safe for all ages and skin types and causes no adverse side effects.
-  medicalnewstoday.com – Scar Tissue Pain: What It Feels Like, Why It Happens, and Treatment (opens in a new tab)
-  harvard.edu – Skin Regeneration and Rejuvenation (opens in a new tab)
-  nih.gov – Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring (opens in a new tab)
-  nih.gov – High Fluence Light Emitting Diode-Generated Red Light Modulates Characteristics Associated with Skin Fibrosis (opens in a new tab)
-  nih.gov – The impact of wavelengths of LED light-therapy on endothelial cells (opens in a new tab)
-  nih.gov – Effect of red light and near-infrared laser on the generation of reactive oxygen species in primary dermal fibroblasts (opens in a new tab)
-  biomedcentral.com – A dose-ranging, parallel group, split-face, single-blind phase II study of light-emitting diode-red light (LED-RL) for skin scarring prevention: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial (opens in a new tab)
-  nih.gov – Effects of Low-Level Red-Light Irradiation on the Proliferation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells Derived From Rat Bone Marrow (opens in a new tab)
-  nih.gov – Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics (opens in a new tab)
- nih.gov – Meta-analysis of animal wound models following low-level laser therapy (opens in a new tab)
- Read more about red light therapy for animals