Red Light Therapy Has Its Upsides

It’s a new trend that seems to be getting a lot of traction in the dermatological community: red light therapy. Red light therapy (also called LED light therapy or photofacials) is a modality used to reduce inflammation and has its effects primarily on the skin. Despite this, there are a number of skin-related benefits of using this treatment.

At first, it may seem counterintuitive that red light therapy would have a skin-related benefit, but it’s not uncommon for a treatment to have both beauty and health benefits, if you know what you’re looking for. Let’s take a closer look at red light therapy and what it can do for your skin.

Red Light Therapy and Oily Skin

When most of us think of red light therapy, we immediately think of it aiding in skin reduction. But you don’t have to be super oily or dry to reap the benefits of using this treatment.

Dr. Jill M. Pollak is a dermatologist and the founder of Pure Dermatology & Aesthetics, and she’s been using red light therapy to treat many skin conditions. “Red light therapy is an inexpensive and non-invasive alternative to chemical peels,” she tells SELF.

It’s not the only alternative to peels that Pollak recommends using with her patients, but she’s been using this treatment as a treatment to treat patients with rosacea, sunspots, and mature acne. The way that red light therapy works is that it enters the skin at specific wavelengths and creates a photo-oxidative stress response in the skin. It can help to inhibit the production of cortisol, a skin-regulating hormone, which can keep the skin oily and caused by micro-exfoliation.

Pollak also says that red light therapy helps improve skin quality. “Red light has been shown to have antimicrobial and antioxidant effects, which can help fight against microorganisms and infection,” she says. It’s been shown to reduce eczema, also known as dry skin, and may be a natural alternative to prescription acne medicine. Pollak adds that, “Red light may also be helpful in treating inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and rosacea.”

Pollak adds that while red light therapy works for skin conditions, it doesn’t work for rosacea or mature acne . For those, she recommends topical treatments that will help alleviate the inflammation and scarring that are the two main symptoms of rosacea. “Rosacea is typically treated with topical and oral medications, including birth control pills, botox , topical and oral steroids, and even UVB phototherapy,” Pollak says.

Red Light Therapy and Acne

Surprisingly, Pollak says that red light therapy can be an effective treatment for acne as well. The therapy may help treat acne by decreasing inflammation or bacteria on the skin, which can make the acne worse and cause pimples.

Pollak explains that the skin responds to red light therapy through an increase in melanocytes, which are the cells that produce melanin in the skin. Because melanin is known for its dark color, this helps to reduce the appearance of acne spots and uneven skin tones. “These effects may be similar to microdermabrasion,” Pollak says, which is a form of exfoliation used to reduce inflammation and blackhead-like oil on the skin.

When used with prescription or over-the-counter acne medicine, red light therapy can help treat acne by clearing out oil and debris and clearing up pores. If your skin is sensitive to red light, it’s recommended that you test it on a small area of skin on the inner forearm and wait for 15 minutes to see how your skin reacts. If there are no adverse side effects or irritation, then you can start treating your entire face and body with the therapy.

When you first start out with red light therapy, it’s a good idea to be on a full skin regimen to help prevent any adverse effects on the skin. These include using a cleanser that is free of comedogenic ingredients (like ingredients that will clog pores and block pores) and washing your face with warm water and moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out or getting sensitive.

If you experience red light therapy side effects, Pollak recommends that you discontinue use immediately and use another treatment to help with acne.

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