The Definitive Guide to Red Light Therapy: Understand the Biggest Trend in Anti-Aging
Red light therapy (RLT) hit the mainstream as a skin rejuvenation therapy used by estheticians and dermatologists around the world. RLT works below the skin’s surface, without the risks of traditional laser treatments. If you’re looking to erase wrinkles and spots and improve tone and color, RLT may be right for you.
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The Secret to Healthy, Beautiful Skin
Reducing skin inflammation and maintaining collagen and elastin levels are key to slowing the aging process.
“Anti-aging” is big business. Three in ten women between the ages of 30 and 44 have tried “injectables” like botox that aim to slow aging, but that have questionable effects on skin health.
But, more and more women are shifting away from “cosmeceuticals” that promise “healthy-looking skin”, and looking to natural skincare that promotes skin health and to the radiance that comes with it.
To maintain healthy, smooth, blemish-free, resilient skin, two things are really important.
1. Reduce wrinkle-causing inflammation
One of the most effective ways to reduce inflammation is by using topical antioxidants in combination with retinoids. For me, vitamin C -- the very best antioxidant for skin -- and retinol have been game-changers.
If you’re over 30, consider integrating vitamin C and retinol into your skincare routine.
Serums are the most effective form to integrate vitamin C and retinol into your routine. But, beware: many expensive serums contain a lot of ingredients that are mostly marketing. On the other hand, there are some really great, natural, and affordable serums to choose from.
My go-to retinol is The Ordinary 1%, which is also pure, affordable and, at 1% more gentle than most. When it comes to retinol, gentle is key!
2. Stop collagen and elastin loss
The vital proteins that our skin produces -- collagen and elastin -- are what keeps skin healthy and vibrant. As skin ages, collagen and elastin production slows, and wrinkles and spots form and skin tone changes.
Boosting your skin’s natural ability to produce collagen and elastin enhances your skin’s regenerative abilities, and can dramatically slow aging, erase wrinkles and spots and improve tone and color.
Red light therapy has been shown to promote the natural synthesis of collagen and elastin.
Turn Back the Clock with Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy has hit the mainstream as a skin rejuvenation therapy, and is now used by estheticians and dermatologists around the world.
What is Red Light Therapy?
RLT's benefits were discovered in the 80s but it really only started to take off in the last couple of years. Today, RLT is now recognized for its ability to reduce inflammation, erase wrinkles, heal scars, treat acne and other blemishes, and improve overall skin health and beauty.
Red light therapy is a form of therapy known as photobiomodulation. During RLT, infrared or near-infrared light is absorbed by cells in the skin that produce energy, and this sets off a cascade of natural events in the skin that promote healing and rejuvenation.
There is a ton of research that has demonstrated the anti-inflammatory, repair and rejuvenation and healing benefits of RLT.
RLT, Laser and other “Light” Therapies
RLT works on rejuvenation below the skin’s surface, without attacking the epidermis, and without the risks of complications or long recovery that come with traditional laser treatments.
Red light therapy is different from traditional laser treatments in an important way. Traditional laser treatments are “ablative”, which means they actually remove tissue. RLT works below the skin's surface and to promote rejuvenation.
Laser resurfacing removes blemishes and imperfections like acne scars by removing outer layers of the dermis. Laser resurfacing can result in long recovery times and has risks of side-effects like scarring.
RLT works on skin rejuvenation below the skin’s surface, without attacking the epidermis, and without the risks of complications and longer recovery times that come with tissue removal.
RLT is also often referred to as low-level laser light therapy (LLLT) or low-intensity laser therapy (LILT), infrared light therapy (ILT), near-infrared light therapy and LED therapy. In general, these are all the same thing, although the wavelength of the light being used can vary (more on this below).
Skin Health Benefits of RLT
RLT has been demonstrated to be effective for the following:
healing and skin regeneration
wrinkle reduction and improved moisture
improved skin tone
healing scarring including from acne
psoriasis and eczema
Other Benefits of RLT
Because RLT works at the cellular level, it’s application and benefits go well beyond skin health and include:
treating inflammation and pain
sleep quality and melatonin production
RLT Safety and Other Considerations
The emerging consensus from various studies and from the clinical community is that RLT is generally safe, with few or no identified side effects.
RLT and other light therapies can be conducted at different wavelengths. Some wavelengths appear to be best for different types of treatment. Infrared and near-infrared wavelengths are preferred for rejuvenation. But, the research continues into which wavelengths are optimal for different applications.
There is also ongoing research into the optimal frequency and duration of treatment.
RLT is not a one size fits all. Your age, previous procedures, general health status, type of skin, style of life and many other factors need to be considered.
Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment regime.
RLT in Clinics and at Home
RLT is offered by some dermatologists and in many anti-aging clinics, although the sessions can be costly.
A wave of red-light therapy devices for home use has hit the market. Prices of these devices can range from less than $100 for smaller devices to upwards of $2000 for large panels that are designed to treat the full body.
Buyer beware: not all devices are treated equally.
Things to consider when selecting a device include:
light color / frequency range
light energy output
size of device, considering body area to be treated
warranties and experience of the company
See our recommended home-devices here.
The Bottom Line
Slowing the natural aging process is possible by adopting a healthy, and natural skincare routine and RLT may just be the thing you need.