The Top Ten Topical Skin Treatments To Use With Light Therapy

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Best serums and lotions to use with red light therapy

In a Nutshell - Some Common Questions Answered

1. What skincare steps or products should I use before and after red light therapy?

  • Answer: Clean the skin before therapy. You may apply hydrating or targeted serums after the session to nourish the skin. Some products that are typically applied before a red light therapy session are: Hyaluronic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Essential Oils, CBD Oil, Azelaic Acid. These can be applied before red light therapy to hydrate, exfoliate, and soothe the skin, enhancing light penetration and effectiveness while targeting specific skin concerns like acne, dryness, or inflammation.  

    Some that are usually applied after red light therapy are: Aloe Vera, Castor Oil, Coconut Oil, Collagen, Copper Peptide, Green Tea, Jojoba Oil, Lotion, Methylene Blue, Retinol, Rosehip Oil, Serum, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Witch Hazel, Peptides, Antioxidants, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Ceramides, Squalane, Zinc Oxide, Beta-Glucans. These are applied after red light therapy to hydrate, soothe, repair, and protect the skin, enhancing the therapeutic effects of the treatment and promoting recovery, rejuvenation, and protection against environmental stressors.

2. How and when should I use serums with red light therapy?

  • Answer: Apply serums that enhance light absorption, like those with hyaluronic acid, before therapy. Use nourishing serums after the session. A detailed list of serums, vitamins, oils and serums is given in this article towards the end. 

3. Do I really need a lotion or serum with red light therapy?

  • Answer: The short answer is no. If you clean your skin before your red light therapy sessions and follow that with whatever cream or conditioner you typically use, you should be good. Anything extra would depend on your specific circumstances and a qualified dermatologist's advise.

Science backed red light therapy devices for home

4. How effective is red light therapy for treating acne?

  • Answer: Red light therapy can reduce inflammation and bacteria in acne-prone skin, usually showing improvements after a few weeks of consistent use.

5. How effective is red light therapy for anti-aging and wrinkles?

  • Answer: Red light therapy can promote collagen production, aiding in skin tightening and reducing wrinkles, with visible results often within a few months of consistent use.

6. Is red light therapy safe, and are there any side effects?

  • Answer: Yes, it’s safe for most skin types. Side effects are rare but may include temporary redness or irritation.

7. How should I use red light therapy for different parts of the body?

8. Can red light therapy help manage pain and inflammation?

  • Answer: Yes, red light therapy may reduce pain and inflammation, often requiring regular sessions over several weeks for noticeable improvements.

9. How long and how often should I use red light therapy for optimal results?

  • Answer: Sessions often last between 5-20 minutes, with frequencies ranging from daily to several times a week, depending on the treatment goal.

The use of lotions, creams, or serums with light therapy is a hot topic. Many products are advertised as preparing your skin for light therapy or strengthening and accelerating its results. Are these claims true?

In this article, we will discuss the merits of topical skin treatments and identify the top ten products to use on your skin to supplement light therapy.


Do Topical Skin Treatments Affect the Results of Light Therapy?

Not necessarily. Skin creams, lotions, and serums can be effective in their own right; however, light therapy acts independently by penetrating your skin with light wavelengths to create a biological reaction. Some products, however can exfoliate or hydrate the skin before red light therapy, thereby increasing penetration.

Blue light penetrates your dermis (just below your skin’s surface). It kills acne-causing bacteria, reduces cellulite, decreases the appearance of spider veins, and heals superficial wounds and scars.

The longer wavelengths of red LED and near-infrared (NIR) light penetrate more deeply, reaching the mitochondria of your cells to increase cellular energy. This activates the production of collagen and elastin, proteins essential for keeping your skin firm and young-looking. Light therapy induces anti-aging and healing through your body’s natural processes.

Blue and red are the most common forms of light therapy, but others are also available. Each has its own set of uses and benefits based upon wavelength.

No matter what type of light therapy you use, it acts on its own. The results of light therapy are unrelated to other skin products used.

Most topical skin products claiming to be specially formulated for light therapy contain the same basic ingredients as other lotions but are more expensive. You can compare ingredient lists and see for yourself that “light therapy” skin serums have the same fundamental composition as other skin products.

Although topical skin products do not impact the results of light therapy, they can act as an effective supplement.


Should You Use a Topical Skin Treatment Before LED Light Therapy? During? After?

You typically don't need to use any type of skin lotion, cream, or serum before or during light therapy. This is true whether you are using an acne mask, wand, light panel, or any other device. Except, like mentioned above, in cases where you have been advised by a dermatologist.

Light therapy is most effective when there is nothing between your skin and the light being radiated upon it. Topical skin treatments can create a barrier. Some creams, makeup, and sunscreens may even contain ingredients that are light reflective and prevent your skin from absorbing light optimally.

Immediately before a light therapy session, you should cleanse your skin with a gentle product free of perfumes and dyes (or other drying agents). Gently pat your skin dry and do not apply any topical treatments. Clean, fresh skin during light therapy yields the best results.

After treatment, you can apply a gentle moisturizer. It is best to refrain from intense, targeted serums directly following treatment.


The Top Ten Topical Skin Treatments To Use Before or After A Light Therapy Session

Topical Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent cancer, promotes collagen production, treats scars, and provides anti-aging benefits [1]. It helps reverse the effects of sun damage [2], keeps your skin firm and smooth, and boosts the effectiveness of sunscreen.

  • Use: Commonly used post-therapy.
  • Note: Vitamin C can enhance the skin-rejuvenating and brightening effects of red light therapy by offering antioxidant benefits.

Suggested ReadingVitamin C and Red Light Therapy: Can They Work Together?

Topical Vitamin D

Vitamin D from the sun comes with harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Topical vitamin D provides the same benefits to your skin without any damage. Vitamin D is especially effective for treating skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis, and healing burns. [3] It increases the growth of skin cells and improves their metabolism.

Topical Vitamin E

Vitamin E signals your skin to fight free radicals, pollutants, and UV rays that damage your skin [2]. It is a great source of hydration and anti-aging [1]. Vitamin E deeply penetrates your skin to provide a broad defense against aging, and to minimize the appearance of existing fine lines and wrinkles. It is widely believed that Vitamin E is powerful for healing scars; however, there is not yet enough scientific evidence to validate this assertion.

  • Use: Generally applied post-therapy.
  • Note: Vitamin E may complement the skin-healing effects of red light therapy by providing additional antioxidant support.

Topical Vitamin K

Vitamin K is especially effective for healing scars and wounds [4], reducing swelling, and decreasing the incidence of bruising [5].

A note about vitamin creams: Topical vitamins provide your skin with 20 times the level of absorption of oral vitamins, making them highly effective. However, only your skin is reaping the benefits. Oral vitamin supplements are still recommended for overall health.


Because collagen has a large molecular structure, topical treatments have difficulty penetrating the skin. Topical collagen application does not necessarily elevate collagen levels within the skin; however, it contains vitamin A, vitamin C, and safflower oil, which all prevent the breakdown of existing collagen. Thus, collagen creams are a good means of collagen maintenance.

  • Use: Products are often applied post-therapy.
  • Note: Collagen products may enhance the skin-rejuvenating effects of red light therapy by supporting skin elasticity and health.


Retinol is derived from Vitamin A. It is well-known as an effective acne treatment and for reducing wrinkles and sun damage. [6] One downside is that some retinol products can be harsh on the skin.

  • Use: Generally used post-therapy.
  • Note: Retinol can complement the anti-aging effects of red light therapy but should be used cautiously to prevent potential irritation.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent rich in antioxidants. It is a non-irritating acne treatment, has skin cancer prevention capabilities, and can also relieve the painful itch of eczema and other skin conditions. [7]

Omega Fatty Acids

Omega fatty acids cannot be produced by your body. They are found in fish, flaxseed, and plant and nut oils. When applied topically, omega fatty acids can help maintain smooth skin, increase hydration, and strengthen skin against environmental damage.

Aloe Vera

Natural aloe vera gel from the aloe cactus plant contains vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids. Aloe relieves burns (including sunburn), treats cold sores, reduces inflammation, and soothes the effects of eczema and rashes. [8]

  • Use: Often applied post-therapy.
  • Note: Known for its soothing and healing properties, aloe vera can help calm the skin after red light therapy, aiding in recovery and hydration.


Never underestimate the importance of sunscreen. Protecting yourself from harmful UV rays is the ultimate proactive, preventative anti-aging method.


Castor Oil

  • Use: Can be used post-therapy.
  • Note: Castor oil, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, might enhance the skin-soothing effects of red light therapy.

Coconut Oil

  • Use: Generally used post-therapy.
  • Note: Coconut oil can act as a moisturizer, potentially aiding in soothing and hydrating the skin after red light therapy.

Copper Peptide

  • Use: Typically used post-therapy.
  • Note: Copper peptides may complement red light therapy by supporting skin healing and collagen production.

Essential Oils

  • Use: Depending on the oil and purpose, it can be used pre- or post-therapy.
  • Note: Certain essential oils may offer additional skin benefits when used with red light therapy but should be used cautiously due to potential photosensitivity.

Glycolic Acid

  • Use: Often used pre-therapy.
  • Note: Glycolic acid can enhance the effects of red light therapy by exfoliating the skin and improving light penetration.

Green Tea

  • Use: Generally used post-therapy.
  • Note: Green tea possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which may soothe the skin following red light therapy.

Hyaluronic Acid

  • Use: Commonly applied post-therapy.
  • Note: Hyaluronic acid can enhance the hydrating effects post-red light therapy, supporting skin moisture and plumpness.

Jojoba Oil

  • Use: Typically used post-therapy.
  • Note: Jojoba oil might support skin hydration and repair when used after red light therapy.


  • Use: Applied pre- and/or post-therapy.
  • Note: Lotions, depending on their active ingredients, can provide additional hydration and benefits when used with red light therapy.

Methylene Blue

  • Use: Specific use-case is research-dependent.
  • Note: Some research suggests methylene blue, used with red light therapy, might enhance cellular activity and anti-aging effects, though more research is needed.

Rosehip Oil

  • Use: Often applied post-therapy.
  • Note: Rosehip oil, known for its regenerative properties, may support skin healing and rejuvenation post-red light therapy.

Salicylic Acid

  • Use: Typically used pre-therapy.
  • Note: Salicylic acid may enhance light penetration during red light therapy by exfoliating the skin, potentially improving acne-related outcomes.


  • Use: Can be applied pre- or post-therapy.
  • Note: Serums, depending on their ingredients, can offer various benefits, such as added hydration or nutrition to the skin, when used with red light therapy.

Witch Hazel

  • Use: Can be used pre- or post-therapy.
  • Note: Witch hazel may support skin-soothing and pore-tightening when used with red light therapy.


In addition to these targeted treatments, mild moisturizers and non-comedogenic oils are a great way to give your skin a break while still keeping it supple and healthy. Many simple and inexpensive products are just as effective in everyday skincare as “fancier”, more complex, costlier options. 

Because everyone is unique, your experience with skincare products will be personal. Some people may experience skin irritation or an allergic reaction. It is a good idea to test any new product on a small area of skin prior to broader application. It is also advisable to consult with a dermatologist or another health professional before beginning a new skincare regime.

By combining topical treatments with light therapy, you can customize your own optimal, personal at-home skincare regime.



[1] Anti-aging effects of a topical treatment containing vitamin C, vitamin E, and raspberry leaf extract (opens in a new tab)

[2] A topical antioxidant solution containing vitamins C and E stabilized by ferulic acid provides protection for human skin against damage caused by ultraviolet irradiation (opens in a new tab)

[3] Topical vitamin D3: A randomized controlled trial (opens in a new tab)

[4] Wound healing effects of topical Vitamin K: A randomized controlled trial (opens in a new tab)

[5] The effects of topical vitamin K on bruising after laser treatment (opens in a new tab)

[6] Topical Retinoids: Therapeutic Mechanisms in the Treatment of Photodamaged Skin (opens in a new tab)

[7] A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology (opens in a new tab)

[8] ALOE VERA: A SHORT REVIEW (opens in a new tab)

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I am also confused do you put serums or Oils or not creams but I believe in pure oils like aloe olive oil retina stuff like that before red like therapy and after and since I haven’t gotten an answer from you I’m alternating so can you tell me please what did you mean cuz that article is really confusing it first tells you to use it and then it tells you not to thank you Suzanne

Dear Suzanne, using light, non-reflective oils or serums before the therapy is okay. After the therapy, you can apply products like aloe or olive oil to soothe and hydrate the skin. There's emphasis on the "non reflective" because you don't want light to reflect off your skin, you want it to penetrate. I hope this makes more sense now.
RLT Home Admin November 01, 2023

I am confused by the article. It says don’t use any creams or products but then states the products to use with the therapy. Please explain! Do you mean afterwards?

Correct Gracie, that's what it means. You want to have clean skin before the therapy to allow maximum light penetration during your red light therapy session, and after you can apply creams, oils or serums.
RLT Home Admin September 21, 2023

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