How can a technology originally developed for NASA tighten loose skin and promote anti-aging? The answer may surprise you and rethink botox with a plastic surgeon. [efn_note]J, Clin, et al. (2001) Effect of NASA light-emitting diode irradiation on wound healing Dec 19(6):305-14.[/efn_note]
We’re not talking about laser scalpels or harsh chemical peels. Instead, we’re talking about a highly effective, non-invasive treatment called Red Light Therapy.
The Power of Light
Most of us are aware that humans need light to thrive and be healthy.
We know that skin, when exposed to natural light, absorbs Vitamin D (a critical nutrient that prevents bone loss, heart disease and certain types of cancer, and can even help control weight gain). Natural light can even help ward off seasonal depression and insomnia.
However, as most of us also know, natural light also comes with significant health risks including skin cancer and skin damage.
This low-level light therapy, however, comes with no health risks, is FDA approved, and is a highly effective way to tighten loose skin and create a youthful glow for those that use it.
So what makes RLT different?
What is Red Light Therapy?
Briefly, Red Light Therapy exposes bodily tissues to red and near-infrared light between therapeutic wavelengths of 650 nm and 890 nm, with low-level lasers or red LED (light-emitting diode) lights.
Bioactive spectrum red light and NIR light are very different from daylight. Unlike sun rays that damage skin cell DNA, light emitted within the red and near infrared spectrum does not damage skin and is a perfectly safe way to gain a wealth of health benefits without any side effects or health risks whatsoever.
You may have heard of other terms used to refer to Red Light Therapy including:
- Low level laser therapy (LLLT)
- Low-power laser therapy (LPLT)
- Biostimulation (BIOS)
- Photobiomodulation (PBM)
- Soft laser therapy
- Cold laser therapy
- Photonic stimulation or light box therapy
No matter what you call it, research continues to link RLT to a huge number of health benefits like boosting fat loss, healing wounds, stimulating hair growth, increasing collagen production, diminishing acne scars, balancing skin tone, — and preventing signs of aging. [efn_note] K, Hee-Kyoung, et al. (2017) Effects of radiofrequency, electroacupuncture, and low-level laser therapy on the wrinkles and moisture content of the forehead, eyes, and cheek.Feb; 29(2): doi: 10.1589/jpts.29.290 [/efn_note]. I go into more detail on what exactly is red light therapy here.
In this article, we’ll focus on how Near-Infrared (NIR) and Red Light Therapy can effectively rejuvenate loose skin and produce a youthful glow. (One popular magazine article even claims RLT may “actually be the fountain of youth.”)
How Does Red Light Therapy Help in Skin Tightening?
The search for an effective anti-aging treatment to tighten loose skin has a long history.
Let’s take a look at two of the most common treatments still used today, and how they stack up against Red Light Therapy.
This process uses acids that interact with your skin’s natural proteins which in turn causes skin to exfoliate and peel.
Some of the less caustic acids can be used for superficial peels, while other, more abrasive acids are used for medium and deeper peels.
All patients require a recuperation period with this treatment, but for medium and deep chemical peels, patients can expect a longer period of recovery
Chemical peels carry significant risks, side effects and complications including scarring, infection, and potential contrast between treated and untreated areas of the skin.
Some of these side effects can even be permanent, and several studies suggest certain peels contain carcinogenic chemicals which have even been linked to genetic damage and long term health problems.
Laser Skin Resurfacing
With this process, a laser beam removes the epidermis while simultaneously heating the underlying skin or dermis to encourage the growth of new collagen fibers.
This procedure can take up to three weeks to heal following deeper, ablative laser treatments and during recovery, patients can expect skin to scab over and be extremely red, with some peeling and swelling.
As with most cosmetic procedures, laser skin resurfacing comes with risk factors. Some patients experience painful burning sensations, bumps and rashes, swelling, hyperpigmentation and scarring and some may even see infections develop.
Additionally, doctors caution that skin may be sun sensitive for up to one year following each treatment, so patients must be even more vigilant with sunscreen.
Red Light Therapy
Frankly, both the aforementioned treatments are just as harsh as they sound, and come with a number of risks.
Red Light Therapy is noninvasive and comes with no risk and no side effects.
How It Works
RLT radiates vitality-generating streams of red LED light deep into skin tissue. This non-invasive therapy activates production of collagen and elastin, which plumps and tightens the skin.
Additionally,Red Light Therapy removes bacteria that causes acne by closing dead pores on the skin, which also helps produce an attractive, youthful glow.
Researchers have found that red light affects biochemicals on the cellular level to strengthen the mitochondria responsible for generating energy. This energy is called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). [efn_note] P, Avci, et al. (2013) Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Mar;32(1):41-52.[/efn_note]
An increase in ATP production means a cell has more energy and can therefore more effectively function to repair damage, contributing to the healing and renewal of problematic areas.
Unlike other treatments like laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) or chemical peels, Red Light Therapy only penetrates approximately 5 millimeters into the skin, directly stimulating cell regeneration without causing damage to the outer layer of skin.
Research-based evidence also indicates that with Red Light and Near Infrared Light Therapy, skin cells become more tolerant to stress, and treatments can reduce the buildup of free radicals which damage a cell’s DNA and cause accelerated skin aging. RLT also produces something called fibroblasts, which reduce the fine lines, age spots, crows feet, and wrinkles associated with aging skin and sun damage.
Further, a number of clinical studies have shown that light-emitting diode (LED) therapy, a nonthermal noninvasive treatment, can trigger natural photorejuvenation that produces a significant increase in collagen and the improvement in the appearance of aged/photoaged skin. [efn_note]D, Barolet, et al. (2009) Regulation of Skin Collagen Metabolism In Vitro Using a Pulsed 660 nm LED Light Source: Clinical Correlation with a Single-Blinded Study. 2009 Dec. doi: 10.1038/jid.2009.186 [/efn_note]
RLT is also linked to something called hormesis which, according to the National Institute of Health, is (depending on dosage) a beneficial biphasic, adaptive response of cells and organisms to moderate (usually intermittent) stress.
Or more simply, hormesis is a process that stimulates adaptations that actually improve overall health.
It might be helpful to think about hormesis in the same way we think about exercise. A demanding workout actually stresses muscles, which triggers an adaptive, biochemical response which ultimately strengthens them.
In the same way, Red Light Therapy treatments produce transient increases in free radicals, activating a stress response in mitochondria that triggers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defense systems. It has also been proven to help in the treatment of skin sores.
All of these benefits come without risks, side effects, or recovery periods. With no downside, this light treatment is an increasingly popular way to tighten loose skin, treat wrinkles and fine lines, and prevent other signs of aging, all without harsh, invasive procedures. [efn_note] M, Mattson. (2009) Hormesis Defined. 2007 Dec 5. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2007.08.007 [/efn_note]
What to Expect
As with any therapeutic treatment, it’s advisable to talk with your doctor or dermatologist first to determine how Red Light Therapy can help you achieve optimum results for skin rejuvenation.
For best results, cleanse the area of treatment before any RLT session.
Normally, the exposure of light rays on the skin will be for a minimum of approximately 90 seconds up to a maximum of 20 minutes in one seating. However, timing of treatments will depend upon the method used.
For skin treatments, patients should be further away from the light itself for an overall lower dose. Most patients report seeing a “healthy glow” immediately following a session, and once RLT has promoted collagen regeneration, they report seeing improvements in skin texture and volume, and a reduction in sagging skin and wrinkles. And patients can still use skincare products and sunscreen even during treatments.
Even after sitting for the recommended number of sessions, patients will need maintenance treatments every few months (or as recommended by your doctor or dermatologist) to replace any collagen lost during the preceding months, and to prevent acne breakouts for patients who are prone to them.
How Can Red Light Therapy Help You?
With its seemingly never ending health benefits and safeness, it is no wonder that Dr. Michael Hamblin is also an advocate You can hear our full podcast interview here : The science on Red Light Therapy Benefits.“
From skin tightening to reduction in wrinkles and fine lines to producing a youthful, healthy glow, patients see huge benefits with these treatments with no downside, and can even use Red Light Therapy in the comfort of their own homes.
We’d love to hear from you so we can show you how you can benefit from this safe, highly effective treatment today!