Does Red Light Therapy Help With Scars?

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Most of us don’t have scars from big surgeries. Our scars usually come from everyday accidents, like tripping, falling off bikes, or scratching bug bites too much. If you’ve got stubborn scars that won’t go away, red light therapy could be the solution.

Red light therapy, also known as low-level light therapy or photobiomodulation, uses red and near-infrared light to make your skin look better. It can make wrinkles, fine lines, and redness disappear. It’s also great for various skin issues like scars, wounds, burns, acne, keloids, and surgical scars.

Today, we’ll discuss how using LED red lights can help fade scars and improve your skin.

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy is a treatment that uses a red light beam on your skin to boost energy production in your cells. This helps your skin make new cells and repair damaged ones.

Typically, you’ll have short sessions of about 10-15 minutes each day, and you’ll start noticing improvements after using it consistently for about 20-30 days.

If you look at before and after pictures of people using red light therapy for acne scars, you’ll see a big reduction in scar visibility after 30 treatments compared to how they looked before. And the best part is, the benefits of red light therapy last a long time.

How Red Light Therapy Can Help With Scars

Red light therapy, also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation, is a promising way to treat scars effectively. Instead of just hiding them, red light therapy penetrates deep into your skin, using specific light wavelengths ranging from 630 nanometers (nm) to 850 nm. This process boosts cellular healing, reduces inflammation, and improves blood flow, ultimately preventing and reducing scars.

1. Enhanced Cellular Energy and Reduced Inflammation

Red light therapy stimulates cellular energy production and reduces inflammation, as explained by Harvard researcher Michael Hamblin, a leading expert in photobiomodulation. This combination supports tissue repair and regeneration, crucial for minimizing scars. Chronic inflammation can slow down healing, but red and near-infrared light can help mitochondria produce more energy (ATP), enabling cells to repair themselves, including those in the circulatory system and nerves.

2. Increased Circulation

Red light therapy encourages the production of endothelial cells, which form blood and lymph capillaries near the skin’s surface. Research from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 2017 shows that red light also widens blood vessels (vasodilation), improving circulation. This enhanced blood flow brings oxygen and nutrients to wounds while removing waste, speeding up the healing process.

3. Intradermal Collagen Density Increase

Red light therapy is well-known for rejuvenating the skin, which can aid in scar reduction. Collagen is involved in scar formation, but it’s the organization of collagen that matters. Normal skin regeneration results in organized collagen and elastin, making the skin healthy and flexible.

After an injury, collagen forms unorganized bands, leading to inflexible scar tissue. Red light therapy helps by promoting normal collagen growth and organization, as seen in a 2019 study from SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.

4. Increased Elastin Production

Scars are often inflexible due to the way collagen is organized and the lack of elastin. A 2019 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that red light therapy effectively boosts elastin production. Supple and strong cells are essential for softening scars and ensuring normal joint movement.

5. Stem Cell Activation

Stem cells are crucial for healing, as they can become various specialized cells. In the presence of a skin wound, stem cells can develop into normal, healthy skin cells instead of forming scar tissue. Low-power light therapy, as mentioned in a 2013 article, activates stem cells, promoting tissue repair and healing.

Who Can Benefit From Red Light Therapy For Scars?

Red Light Therapy can help various people with scars:

  1. Fresh Scars: If you recently got a scar from surgery, injury, or any cause, Red Light Therapy can reduce inflammation, speed up skin healing, and potentially make the scar less noticeable.

  2. Older Scars: Even if you have older scars, Red Light Therapy can improve their appearance, texture, and elasticity by stimulating collagen production and cell activity.

  3. Acne Sufferers: Those with post-acne scars, especially indented ones, can benefit as Red Light Therapy promotes collagen production and enhances skin texture.

  4. Burn Victims: For scars from burns that cause skin tightening and limited movement, Red Light Therapy can increase scar elasticity.

  5. Hypertrophic or Keloid Scars: Red Light Therapy can help prevent hypertrophic scars and may be useful for those prone to keloid or hypertrophic scars.

  6. Children and Sensitive Individuals: It’s safe for all ages, including kids and those with sensitive skin who may not tolerate harsher scar treatments.

  7. Post-Surgical Patients: After surgeries that often result in scarring, early Red Light Therapy application can reduce scar appearance and postoperative pain, backed by scientific evidence.

Red Light Therapy for Surgical Scars

Using red light therapy can help improve the appearance of surgical scars. Surgical scars often look like thin white lines and can be frustrating to deal with. But red light therapy offers a solution.

Here’s how it works: Red light is used to target scar tissue and encourage the growth of healthy skin beneath it. Over time, this process gradually replaces the scar tissue, making the scar smoother and less noticeable.

In a study from 2013, researchers in Brazil looked at 90 patients who had surgery on their sternum (the breastbone). They wanted to see how red light therapy affected their recovery. The results were promising:

  1. Less Pain: Patients who got red light therapy reported less pain, which made their recovery more comfortable.

  2. Reduced Swelling: Red light therapy seemed to reduce swelling, which can sometimes slow down the healing process.

  3. Fewer Problems: People who got red light treatment had fewer complications during their recovery, which means it went more smoothly.

  4. Less Bleeding: Red light therapy also appeared to reduce bleeding around the incision site, which is important for healing.

  5. Fewer Wound Issues: Those who had red light therapy had fewer problems with their wounds reopening, which can make scars worse and slow down healing.

These findings suggest that red light therapy can help wounds heal faster and result in less noticeable scars for people recovering from surgery.

Red Light Therapy for Scars from Injuries

When you get injured, scars can form and cause discomfort, limiting your movement. Red light therapy can help reduce these scars.

A 2018 review of studies found that red light therapy promotes wound healing, making scars less likely to develop. It does this by helping wounds contract and become stronger.

Keloid Scars

Keloid scars are different because they keep growing even after the wound has healed, causing pain and itching. In 2015, a study found that red light can stop keloid growth, offering a potential treatment for keloids and similar skin issues.

Hypertrophic and Contracture Scars

Hypertrophic scars are thick and raised due to too much collagen, but they stay within the wound area. Some studies suggest that red light therapy can safely reduce the size and appearance of these scars.

Contracture scars, often caused by burns, can tighten and affect nerves and muscles. Red light therapy can help by regulating collagen production beneath the scar. In a 2015 study, applying red light during the healing process of burn scars showed the best results, speeding up tissue repair.

A 2018 animal trial showed that red light treatment had anti-inflammatory effects and promoted faster healing by stimulating fibroblast migration and proliferation.

In a 2004 study involving 19 patients with burn scars, after eight weeks of treatment with 670 nm red light twice a week, 17 out of 19 scars improved in appearance and healing.

Does Red Light Therapy Have Any Side Effects?

Compared to surgeries, steroids, and chemical peels often used for scars, red light therapy is very safe. However, everyone’s skin reacts differently, so it’s smart to consult your dermatologist before starting. They can also check your chosen red light device.

During light therapy, some may have mild side effects like headaches or eye irritation, but these usually go away fast. To reduce these, protect your eyes during the therapy.

One great thing about red light therapy is there’s no downtime. After your session, you can easily go back to yoga, swimming, work, or sleep.

If you want to try red light therapy at home, Cleopatra LED Mask is an affordable choice. If it’s not for you, there are other LED light therapy masks to choose.

Comparing Red Light Therapy and Low-Level Laser Therapy

When we talk about therapeutic light treatments, you might hear two similar-sounding terms: “low-level laser therapy” (LLLT) and “low-level light therapy.” Even though they share the same initials and are often used interchangeably, it’s important to know that they are different methods. Let’s break down the distinctions between them to make it clear.

Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)

Low-level lasers, also known as “cold” lasers, are often used in dermatology to improve skin texture, making them a good choice for dealing with issues like acne scars. In this procedure, highly focused light is used to gently remove the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis). The goal is to reduce skin roughness and promote the growth of new, healthy skin.

Usually, a dermatologist administers laser therapy because it requires precision, and lasers can potentially cause irritation and, in rare cases, burns. It’s an effective method for treating acne scars, but it’s important to note that multiple laser sessions are often needed, making it relatively expensive. The number and duration of treatments depend on factors like the size, thickness, and age of the scar.

Light-Emitting Diode Therapy (Red Light Therapy)

In contrast to laser therapy, low-level light therapy, also known as red light therapy, uses devices equipped with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. These devices emit safe, non-invasive, and non-irritating wavelengths of visible and invisible light onto the skin, stimulating the body’s natural healing processes.

It’s worth mentioning that not all light therapy devices available for consumers are the same. Some may lack sufficient power, and others may not offer the most beneficial wavelengths for improving skin health.

Looking for professional skincare advice? Schedule an online consultation with dermatologist Dr. Ava Patel to address your concerns.

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