Today I’m gonna cover red light therapy for anti aging and photo rejuvenation. That’s gonna be your anti-aging goals of improving skin tightness, elasticity, firming up skin and improving wrinkles.
Light therapy with red lights is done with LEDs. LED stands for light emitting diode.
There are a variety of different LEDs that are used in skincare.
Evidence For Red Light Therapy For Anti Aging
For anti-aging purposes, we have quite a bit of evidence showing that red light therapy can exert some degree of skin tightening, improvement in skin firmness and the improvement of wrinkles.
The way that LEDs work in the treatment of skin diseases and exerting different changes in the skin that might be desirable is through something called photo bio modulation.
There are different things within our skin that can be excited by different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, whether that be visible light or ultraviolet radiation or even infrared radiation.
Just looking at red light alone, there’s one small study of 23 people and it looked at individuals getting red light therapy for 20 minutes three times a week. In that study, they actually showed some notable changes in wrinkles, fine lines, smoothness and skin texture.
There was another small study that combined both red light therapy as well as near-infrared therapy for the treatment of wrinkles around the eyes. In that study, they alternated red light treatment with near-infrared treatment and showed there was an improvement in wrinkles around the eyes, an improvement in the skin texture around that area and skin smoothness. This was demonstrated in 29 days.
There was a double-blinded placebo-controlled study that actually looked at either infrared therapy alone, red light therapy alone, combination infrared and red therapy or placebo. In that study, they were looking for photo rejuvenation and they showed an improvement in skin elasticity and in wrinkle severity.
They also took imprints of the skin and they showed an improvement in wrinkle depth with both infrared treatment and red light treatment in comparison to placebo treatment that showed zero improvement.
Interestingly, they also looked at collagen in the skin and they showed not only an improvement in collagen density and thickness but importantly the collagen was nicely structured and organized within the skin.
That’s important because you can have increased collagen and be it all abnormal and that is what underlies a lot of thick scars – an increase in abnormally oriented and shaped collagen. You don’t want that. But in this study, this was nice, tight, well structured and layered out collagen that you would want to see to yield a skin firming outcome.
They showed that with both infrared treatment and red light treatment. They didn’t show it at all in the placebo. The near-infrared treatment was superior to the red light treatment. But the combination of near-infrared and red light together showed the greatest outcomes and benefit in anti-aging.
It seems that a combination of near infrared and red LED treatment yields the best results as far as skin tightening and improving elasticity.
This is something that might be pursued, for example, if you have sagging in the neck. It’s nice and it’s non-invasive. You might not want to go through an invasive surgical procedure to lift the neck, in which case this is something that might help.
If you have prominent wrinkles around the eyes, red light and near-infrared therapy, particularly in combination, can help in rejuvenating that area, improving wrinkle depth and severity. This also could be used for wrinkles around the mouth.
Just in spot focused areas where you have more prominent sagging and photo aging, such as the cheeks and the jowl area, you definitely can see some modest benefit with using a combination of near-infrared and red light therapy.
LED treatment with red and near-infrared, in contrast to other modalities, doesn’t generate any heat in the skin. It has a lower risk of adverse side effects, like hyperpigmentation. It’s pretty safe.
Red light and near infrared light through LEDs can damage your eyes so it’s important that, if you are using an at-home device, that it be properly designed and equipped with eye protection.
So it can definitely damage your eyes but it’s very safe otherwise at home.
See the Best at Home Anti Aging Devices.
Who Should Avoid Red Light Therapy?
Who should not use LED based treatments, either at home or in an office setting?
People with photosensitive diseases like lupus or polymorphous light eruption. Also if you are taking a medication that makes you sensitive to light, you would not want to pursue this.
Always check with your treating healthcare provider as far as asking about your medications, if there’s any contraindication.
Comparison: At Home vs. In Office
How do light based treatments that you buy to use at home differ from those that you would receive in a dermatologist’s office.
The outputs are not as strong as what you would receive in a dermatologist’s office. However that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective.
The problem is that you really don’t have much of an objective way to know which devices sold for at-home use are better or worth it. There’s no oversight and regulation as far as that goes. For example, you can spend a lot of money on a device and it may not be effective or you can get one that you think is a better value and maybe the output is not very good.
The thing about red and infrared photo rejuvenation is that you definitely have to do it on an ongoing basis to maintain those beneficial outcomes. If you’re not super aggressive with your sun protection, you’re definitely going to be taking multiple steps back because all of that collagen is gonna be destroyed by the sun.
You really have to be very diligent with sun protection. It has to be something you do on an ongoing basis. If you stop using a device like this, your skin will likely resume to a baseline level. It’s not preventative, in other words, it does not halt the aging process. Your skin will continue to age thereafter.
It’s something that needs to be done on ongoing basis, but once you invest in it, maybe you’re more likely to do it on an ongoing basis and to be motivated by it.
While these at home devices don’t have super strong outputs to give you outcome that you might get in an in-office treatment, I do think that for people who don’t want to keep up with the office treatments, which can be really expensive, than maybe this is a logical investment for them.
If you’re someone who’s already using tretinoin, which is a medication that can exert improvement in some of the visible signs of photoaging, and if you’re really diligent with your sun protection and you just want more of a photo rejuvenation (you’re not looking for that face lift look, you just want a little improvement), I think it is reasonable to consider these devices.
They are not that expensive in the long run if it’s something that you are almost positive you’re gonna keep up with and do on a consistent basis.
Whether or not that’s gonna be right for you is a personal decision. If you think you’re gonna be able to keep up with it, use it.
Be prepared that the results are not going to be drastic, they’re gonna be modest. For some people though, that’s actually what they want. That’s some people’s desire. They don’t want a really heavily lifted look. They’re not trying to look the way they did when they were a teenager. They just want a more refreshed look.
I definitely think that in that case, these devices might be something that you derive benefit from.
It’s just very hard for me to predict which ones work, given that there’s no oversight in terms of showing a specific outcome in a regulated way.
But I do feel confident telling you that these things are safe and worth trying if you’re willing to invest the money in.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.