Beautiful skin starts with good skin care habits. In a world where consumer spending is increasing in the skincare industry every year, it is clear that having good skin is a priority to a lot of us. In fact, the global skin care industry is predicted to be worth USD 177.15 billion by 2024. Rising stress levels, an increasing level of pollution and diets fueled by fast foods have all combined to drive increasing demand for skincare solutions. If you, like millions of other people, are living with skin conditions or less than ideal skin, then chances are you have been browsing the skincare section in stores and publications in search of a fix as well.
At the end of the day, achieving great skin comes down to more than hydration and genetics; it is a conscious effort on your part. There has been many reviews and publications highlighting the use of light therapy in the treatment of medical conditions, sleep disorders and now, skin conditions including acne and psoriasis. By 2026, the global market for light therapy is predicted to surpass US$11615 million dollars. Take a look at this simple guide to incorporating light therapy into your skincare routine and skin concerns it can be used for.
The Science Behind Light Therapy in Skincare
The impact of photo-biomodulation – or light therapy – on the skin has been studied for over a decade with astonishing results. Between 2000 and 2006, eight different studies revealed formidable evidence and results that blue light therapy did, in fact, improve the skin of those participants with mild to moderate acne. Fast forward to 2014, and the employment of red-light therapy was shown to stimulate collagen production, while reducing sebum production and inflammation. There has also been some success with the use of photo-biomodulation in improving circulation, skin tone and complexion, making it a hot topic for those in the skincare industry.
The light is used as an energy source which kickstarts cell regeneration and rejuvenation. It can also stimulate the production of collagen which is responsible for skin firmness and elasticity. However, achieving the best results lies in getting your variables right; including the wavelength and amount of light. Good skincare encompasses much more than the use of infrared rays to solve skin care problems. It should be used in conjunction with other skincare habits and tools to achieve maximum results.
Get to Know Your Skincare Type
Before beginning light therapy, it is vital you ascertain your skincare type. Your skincare type will dictate the best way (and products) to maintain your skin every day. It will also determine how suitable light therapy is for you. A skincare routine is individual; it is personalized to each of us. The same ideology applies to those looking to introduce photo-biomodulation into their routine. If you have dry skin, dermatologists will recommend making moisture a key part of your routine. Itchy, flaky and dull skin are some common symptoms cited by people who deal with dry skin daily. Low levels of sebum production are typically responsible for this and need to be supplemented with a skincare routine that centers on hydration. On the other hand, there are people who produce too much oil (or sebum) from their glands. They may find themselves more prone to blackheads, acne, and blocked glands. A tight sensation, particularly after cleansing is also common amongst those with dry skin.
There are also some of us that deal with a bit of both, or combination skin, as it is called. Choosing home remedies or skincare products can become somewhat complicated in this case. You may find certain parts of your face or body becomes oily throughout the day such as your T zone or nose. Products for normal or dry skin may also fall short for some parts of your skin. Finally, acne and dry patches can go hand in hand; meaning they can occur simultaneously. Special mention should be made of those living with sensitive skin. Especially prone to inflammation and breakouts, nailing down a routine for this type of skin can be tricky. Patch testing is a great way to determine the suitability of products or a routine in this case, including light therapy. Careful examination of the ingredients and natural skin care are some key tips to successfully manage sensitive skin. If you find yourself still in doubt about your skin type, utilize the various online skincare quizzes or diagnostic tools to narrow it down. You can also try the common blotting paper trick. If there is little or no oil when viewed in the light, this indicates dry skin. Be sure to test different parts of your skin including the forehead to rule out combination skin.
Light Therapy’s Role in Calming Eczema
Over 35 million Americans find themselves dealing with eczema, including children. In fact, over 70 percent of eczema cases begin in children younger than 5 years old and the majority of them head into adulthood with the skin condition, according to studies by Neosporin. The symptoms, such as skin rashes and itchiness, that are associated with eczema can be both frustrating and limiting in lifestyle choices for many people. However, recent trials have shed some positive light on the success that ultraviolet light therapy has had on patients living with this chronic skin complaint.
One of the most common recommendations for eczema is to ensure your skin is getting enough moisture. However, for some people who do not see any results with topical treatments, ultraviolet light therapy has been shown to soothe the redness and irritation that is commonly seen. In treatment, the patient is exposed to a UVB light with a wavelength between 311 and 313 nanometers. The light then works to calm any inflammation in the skin and in some cases, the itching. Extended exposure to ultraviolet rays is discouraged due to the risks of cancer. Phototherapy is a multi-session approach, so it is not a quick cure. However, participants can see results in as little as 20 minutes after exposure.
Another option for eczema patients is the use of psoralen plus ultraviolet A light (PUVA). This is slightly more complicated since it involves the use of medication that would increase your skin’s sensitivity to light. The interaction of the medication with any others you may be taking at the time, along with your skin type and previous treatment history, are all important considerations when opting for this treatment.
Light Therapy Can Help Fight Acne
One of the most popular skincare products to hit the market over the past few years has been the acne mask operated with light therapy. In 2009, it was shown that the consistent application of blue light therapy significantly improved acne and the condition of the participants’ skin in the study. As an added benefit, it was reported that participants saw a noticeable reduction in acne lesions and scarring on the skin. Recently, more progress has been made on the use of light therapy in curing acne with blue-red light rays. Both colors have their role in the reduction of acne; blue light has been shown to reduce bacteria responsible for breakouts in the first place, while red light rays can help with the inflammation, another common symptom that comes with acne.
One such study was the Cochrane Review done in 2016. Researchers studied 4,211 participants to analyze the reaction of blackheads, whiteheads, and inflammation common with acne. In the end, photodynamic therapy was judged to have a similar effect on mild to moderate acne as cream, judging by the number of blackheads. These findings were supported by the American Academy of Dermatology who acknowledged the use of light therapy in the treatment of acne for some patients. Fast forward to 2019 and the technology continues to gain pace in popularity around the globe. Skincare giants such as Neutrogena and Dr. Jarts have launched their own version of at home devices aimed at tackling the signs of acne. This has made the technology much more accessible and affordable to consumers. However, the key to success using light therapy for acne remains consistent application.
Psoriasis Patients Find Relief
Another effective use of light therapy is in treating psoriasis. Ultraviolet B light rays can improve the inflammation associated with the condition if used over an extended course of time. Many studies have repeatedly linked the use of narrowband ultraviolet B light to the effective reduction of psoriasis breakouts and a faster healing process. This can be done easily at home with the help of a UVB unit and a regular schedule.
Sunlight can also help in the treatment of psoriasis since both UVA and UVB rays can be found here. When getting started, opt for short bursts of sunlight exposure and build up your skin’s tolerance from there. If you are using topical medication, be sure to check with your doctor whether it will promote sun damage if exposed to periods of sunlight. More recently, there has been some attention focused on the use of lasers including the excimer laser, for the treatment of chronic psoriasis. This is a more targeted approach and can be customized to only the areas affected. However, it may take up to 10 sessions to see any results, with a recommended schedule of 2 sessions weekly.
Incorporating Light Therapy into Your Routine
Before you introduce light therapy into your routine, it is important to identify exactly what result you are hoping to achieve. Although red and blue are the most common colors used, there are a range of other colors in the spectrum which are all used for different purposes. Blue light has been shown to reduce bacteria which is ideal for acne and breakouts. Red light can reduce inflammation and purple can promote skin repair, ideal for acne scars or wounds. If pigmentation presents a problem for you, there has been some evidence showing the improvements that the use of green light therapy can have on discoloration and dark circles. Finally, yellow light can stimulate skin rejuvenation and reduce wrinkles. Colors can also be combined into a personalized treatment skin routine; targeting different skin concerns.
When choosing a light, consider two factors: the intensity and its wavelength. Most studies suggest lights with wavelengths varying between 600nm-800nm can be extremely beneficial. However, there are devices on the market that can go up to 900nm. The highest result in cellular function has been noted to occur at 660-670 nm. In terms of intensity, research has shown that devices with a dosage of 4-6 joules/cm² are optimal. If you find yourself skeptical about starting off at home, many dermatologists and beauty salons now offer light therapy courses. Keep in mind that light therapy treatment requires a consistent commitment and therefore can be time and budget consuming.
The Future of Light Therapy
Light therapy devices are on many cosmetic shelves these days. From light emitting targeted pimple zappers to full face LED masks, it is quite apparent that the industry has identified light therapy to be a significant breakthrough in skin care. Much progress has been made in that consumers can now use light therapy in the comfort of their own homes. Although LED therapy is still largely a procedure performed in office by skin specialists, new innovations have allowed the technology to become more versatile, budget-friendly and adaptable.
Targeted treatments are also being explored. In the last year or so, beauty companies have launched LED devices aimed at targeting eye wrinkles and aging around the eyes.
At-home light treatments can offer a more cost friendly solution to in-office appointments. However, they can still cost a pretty penny and the wavelengths may not be as strong as you would find in a dermatologist’s office. This means treatment will require a longer and more consistent application. Most devices on the market have a price range of $30 to $600 USD. This does, however, give you full use of the device at your convenience for its entire lifetime which can prove cost-effective compared to a full course of treatment in the office.