Shining a light on Younger Skin - Red Light Therapy for Rejuvenation

Shining a light on Younger Skin - Red Light Therapy for Rejuvenation

Dr. Amita Joshi, PhD

Celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Jessica Alba, and Victoria Beckham have warmed to the glow of red lights for more youthful looking skin. Red light therapy is being touted as the key to the "fountain for eternal youth". Interesting, isn't it? Could the key to youthfulness really lie in a certain frequency of light? Let's delve into how red light therapy works and whether it really can work wonders on your skin.

How does it  work?

Red light therapy for skin works its magic by delivering safe, concentrated wavelengths of light into your skin (around five millimeters, to be exact), for skin regeneration and repair. Red light penetrates deeply into the skin tissues and stimulates production of collagen, elastin, and fibroblasts. Besides rejuvenating the skin, red light helps wound healing, and boosts circulation, bringing  more oxygen and nutrients to your skin cells and tissues. Exposing your skin to red light switches on regenerative processes, potentially leading to not only younger looking skin, but also enhanced muscle repair, and less  scarring.

Is all red light useful?

Red light of 660 nm and 850 nm on the light spectrum used for their therapeutic effects. Light with a wavelength of 660 nm is used for cosmetic purposes, such as anti-aging treatments, as it is absorbed quickly by the skin, whilst light at 850 nm penetrates deeper into skin tissues, and is more commonly used to promote muscle recovery and pain relief. Before using any red light therapy instrument, make sure that your device emits the correct wavelength of  light.

Benefits of red light therapy include:

  • Antiaging - Collagen is the cement or glue that holds the skin cells together, making skin firm and elastic. As we start to age, collagen breaks down and its production also starts to deteriorate resulting in thinning of the skin, generation of fine lines and wrinkles. A 2019 study from The Journal of The American Academy Of Dermatology found that red light therapy increases production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid in the skin. Increased levels of collagen and elastin improve the skin's texture, elasticity, and suppleness. One can observe the change in skin texture in 3-4 weeks of red light usage.
  • Improved skin texture
  • Recovery from UV damage
  • Reduced acne marks and scars - calms and decreases redness, minimizes oil production and bacteria on the skin. Red light appears to penetrate deeply into the skin, and balance the sebum production, while reducing inflammation and irritation in the area, resulting in less scarring.
  • Improved wound healing and tissue repair - reduces inflammation, boosts circulation and brings more oxygen to the injured area.
  • Hair growth - Hair loss is one of the most common effects of aging and Alopecia, a disorder where hair loss happens in clumps affects 75% of women over 65. Red light is proven to be very effective especially in the earlier stages of hair loss and less severe cases.
  • Pain relief - According to research, red light therapy effectively reduces both inflammation and pain in adults with different musculoskeletal disorders which means it can have a positive impact on those with chronic pain. It helps increase blood circulation and flush out toxins from muscle tissue, in turn improving oxygen supply and nutrients to muscles and tissues. 

    Red light therapy devices

    Red light therapy can be performed by a professional,  or with an at-home device. For full body use, there are LED beds, panels and floor stands available. Face masks are available for skin rejuvenation. They are hands free devices that are safe and to use, and are used for around 3-4 minutes a day to help minimise fine lines, wrinkles, acne spots, and sun damage. LED wands are useful for targeting specific areas of the body for repair and rejuvenation.

    How safe is red light therapy?

    Red light therapy is safe when used as instructed.  It is a non-thermal, ie. doesn’t cause burns, and is non-invasive. The light permeates through the skin layers without damaging the skin tissue, and prompts skin tissue repair. When shopping for a red light device, ensure that it is FDA-certified.

    Red light therapy is a quick, safe, gentle, and painless way to slow down the signs of skin aging, and can be used on all skin types, including sensitive skin. 

    The science to date is promising, and may be worth a try if you’re after that celebrity glow! 


    Dr. Amita Joshi

    Dr. Joshi is a Pharmaceutical formulation scientist with a keen interest in scientific communication. She has several peer-reviewed international publications, book chapters and patents to her credit and been a recipient of various research awards. Her areas of interest include lipid-based formulations, lymphatic delivery, medicated contact lenses and infectious diseases.



    • Ablon G. (2018). Phototherapy with Light Emitting Diodes: Treating a Broad Range of Medical and Aesthetic Conditions in Dermatology. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 11(2), 21–27.
    • Avci, P., Gupta, A., Sadasivam, M., Vecchio, D., Pam, Z., Pam, N., & Hamblin, M. R. (2013). Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Seminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery, 32(1), 41–52.
    • Rocha Mota, L., Motta, L. J., Duarte, I., Horliana, A., Silva, D., & Pavani, C. (2018). Efficacy of phototherapy to treat facial ageing when using a red versus an amber LED: a protocol for a randomised controlled trial. BMJ open, 8(5), e021419.
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    Stelian, J et al. “Improvement of pain and disability in elderly patients with degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee treated with narrow-band light therapy.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society vol. 40,1 (1992): 23-6.

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