Red Light Therapy

What Is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy is a skin care treatment being offered as an alternative to physician-administered laser therapy. Most studies involving red light therapy revolve around the treatment of acne, rosacea, and of its ability to get rid of wrinkles. While research is not yet conclusive on the benefits of red light therapy, studies suggest that concentrated red light is absorbed by the mitochondria in the cells and stimulates the generation of more collagen: the building block of skin structure.

Light therapy was first discovered by NASA astronauts as a way to grow plants in space. It has since been used for the treatment of certain psychiatric condititions and sleep disorders. Red light therapy in dermatology was investigated as doctors noticed an increasing amount of patients who were immune to the normal antibiotic treatments used to get rid of acne. The studies recently expanded to observe whether red light therapy can also be used to get rid of wrinkles.

But before learning about how this treatment can help improve skin health, it is important to understand that there are two kinds of red light therapy. The first type of light therapy is called light box therapy. It is a more generalized treatment that does not target specific areas of the body. Targeted phototherapy is designed to send rays to specific areas of the skin through the use of an excimer laser.

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How Is Red Light Therapy Administered?

Red light therapy treatments can be administered as both: professional skin care procedures in doctors’ offices and as at-home treatments. Some salons and spas have tanning beds that have been equipped with red lights for light therapy. Most at-home and salon treatments offer generalized, light box therapy. The treatment of specific areas is usually reserved for doctors’ and skin care specialists’ offices.

Red light therapy is a derivative of color light therapy, which involves shining red, blue, or violet light directly on a patient. Some treatments also involve the use of lights flashing at high frequency.

Red light therapy can sometimes be used in photodynamic therapy to get rid of acne. In this procedure, two different chemicals are applied topically to the face, and the red light is administered to improve the effect of the chemicals. For best results, photodynamic light therapy does require three to four treatments, so improvements will not be noticeable overnight. The procedure is considered cosmetic, and is not normally covered under health insurance.

Are At-Home Light Therapy Devices Effective?

Devices that offer red light therapy at home can be purchased over-the-counter, but physicians warn patients that the devices may contain a small emitter that can only treat small areas of skin at any given time. Also, an at-home treatment requires that the patient sit still for long periods of time in order to achieve best results, making any large scale treatment a difficult, time consuming venture.

What Are the Risks of Red Light Therapy?

The FDA has indicated that there are not many side effects associated with the use of red light therapy, although blue light therapy may be linked to a higher disposition for macular degeneration. Physicians recommend that people who have photosensitivity use caution when undergoing red light therapy.

Before beginning red light treatment, make sure to talk with your doctor and disclose all prescription and over-the-counter medication you are taking. Many anti-aging creams and medications are known to cause photosensitivity, which can significantly damage your skin. Even if you are using something as simple as herbs, definitely mention them to your doctor, as a precaution. For example, supplements containing St. John’s Wort, can cause the body to be sensitive to light, which would be a problem during red light therapy.

We recommend the Advanced Dermatology Skin Care regimen.

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