From Solowave facial tool to Kourtney K’s Poosh face masks, Red Light Therapy is having its moment - albeit a little controversial. At least, it's having its moment in the skincare and wellness world. The reality is, the impacts of red light therapy and humans date back centuries. The scientist Finsen treated tuberculosis with red light therapy highlighting its antibacterial properties in the 1860s. In 1996, red light therapy had impressive results in healing wounds in hospitals across America and NASA astronauts were using red light therapy to heal wounds while in zero-gravity conditions. So, how does it work and is it worthwhile?
How does Red Light Therapy work?
Red light therapy uses a specific wavelength for its therapeutic benefits. The wavelength, measured in nanometres, is the colours that our eyes can and can not see. For example, due to the wave length, our eyes can not actually see infrared lights. Red light therapy combines light-emitting diodes (a fancy word for LEDs) that release infrared light and warmth. Red light therapy emits wavelengths of red light between mid-600-1000nanometres which has bio-active properties that can penetrate deeply into the bodily tissues, which can positively affect and improve cellular functions. It is important to note that anything past 800nanometres is actually invisible to the human eyes, which could be the reason some of the red light therapy you see is only “half there.” It is important to use red light of the correct wavelength for it to have the right benefits. Red light within 600-700 nanometre range is best suited for skincare and scar healing whereas anything above is more suited for joint health, muscle and joint health.
Red light therapy is considered completely natural. Red light therapy is not painful and does not burn the skin. It is not the same light used in tanning beds, nor UV rays. You will not get exposure to vitamin D using red light therapy. As it exposes only low levels of light, the light is not harmful and without risks of side effects. However, a practitioner with little experience or someone who exposes themselves to too much red light therapy could cause tissue and/or cell damage. Products for use at home may also lead to misuse, causing damage to the skin, burns, or damage to unprotected eyes.
There are many forms of red light therapy like lamps, devices and lasers. The red light partners with your body's mitochondria cells aptly nicknamed the body's “power generator,” which soaks up the red light and creates energy. The idea here is that with this additional energy, cells work better at repairing skin, boosting new cell growth and rejuvenating the skin. The idea of red light therapy is to help cells repair themselves and stimulate fibroblast production, creating collagen which is responsible for skin's strength and elasticity, increasing blood circulation, and reducing inflammation. With more collagen, the better the skin, in theory.
But does Red Light Therapy really work?
The medical jury is still out on how effective red light therapy actually is. Within the scientific community, there’s mixed consensus about the treatment’s benefits due to a lack of consistent research. Some research highlights it does work, but only to treat mild skin treatments such as mild acne and scar healing.
In addition to supposedly improving skin, red light therapy is believed to support wound healing and tissue repair, improve hair growth for people with alopecia, help with the short-term treatment of carpal tunnel, aid with short-term relief of pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis and help diminish scars.
Red light therapy has shown promising results, especially when using the correct and adequate wavelength, in treating at-home skin conditions - like mild acne or cellulite. When it comes to using red light therapy, it’s best to start slow and low with about 10 minutes every other day, only increasing if you don’t notice any side effects to around 15-20 daily. Noticeable improvement usually comes after 8-12 weeks of consistent use, but this will vary depending on what you are trying to treat.
The thing is, it's super easy to purchase red light therapy devices online these days, so it’s important to speak to a dermatologist or doctor before self-treating. Only some red light therapy devices are FDA approved.
Based on the available research, you may find that red light therapy is a good tool to add to your mild skincare regimen. It will be important to be mindful of the tool you choose emits the correct wavelength to impact the mitochondria beneath the skin to increase the chances of best use.
If interested in skincare for acne, we recommend the Solawave wand at 660nm from our Awake Collection. The wand features smart-touch activation so you can simply place the wand against your face to turn it on, and remove it to turn it off, and its tip rotates so that it's easier to maneuver hard-to-reach spots. Portable and rechargeable, it's perfect for travel.
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