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All of the Lights: The Science Behind Red Light and Blue Light Therapy

All of the Lights: The Science Behind Red Light and Blue Light Therapy

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Tis’ the season for glowing holiday lights! This is the time of year when you can experience gorgeous, twinkling displays of holiday cheer almost anywhere in the world. Beyond your favorite seasonal decor, it is also a great time to dive into LED light therapy and what it can do for your skin. If you keep up with what's trending in skin care, odds are you've heard about red and blue light therapy. LED light therapy has become a celeb fave and a must-try treatment for the beauty-obsessed. Both types of LED light therapy have incredible benefits and are commonly used to treat several skin conditions. Red light therapy is a must-have anti-aging treatment when it comes to skincare for its ability to stimulate collagen production and improve elasticity. Blue light therapy is the holy grail for diminishing breakouts, controlling oil production, and reducing hyperpigmentation.

So, how exactly do these treatments work, you ask?

Let's get into the differences between red and blue light therapy and what makes these LED light treatments essential to incorporate into your beauty routine.


What it is:

Red light therapy is a type of phototherapy that uses red LED light to promote a cellular response in the body and increase cellular turnover. This treatment was once only available in-office and has been used for years to treat everything from acne to eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and wound healing. Red light therapy promotes collagen production, which is why this treatment has become widely popular as an anti-aging treatment to improve skin texture, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, fight age and sun spots, and reduce hyperpigmentation.

How it works: 

Red light penetrates the cell's mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell), where its energy is created—remember that science lecture you didn't pay attention to? As a result, the red light increases the mitochondria's function, increasing cellular energy, cell rejuvenation, and damage repair. This treatment ignites the body's natural healing process, essentially giving the cells the power they need to become healthier and, thus, leading to healthy, rejuvenated skin.


What it is:

Blue light therapy uses blue LED light (actually more of a purple hue) to treat acne, hyperpigmentation, oil production, and other common skin concerns. This therapy is said to be most effective when used with other skin treatments like clarifying facials, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion. Blue light is most sought-after for its ability to kill P. acnes, the acne-causing bacteria that live on the skin's surface.

How it works:

Blue light penetrates the sebaceous (oil) glands, neutralizing the harmful bacteria (P. acnes) on the skin's surface and inside the pores. This clarifying treatment also reduces inflammation, which calms the skin and promotes healing (buh-bye acne scars!), making blue light therapy ideal for those with blemish-prone skin.


What Makes Red Light and Blue Light Different?

Although red and blue light therapy are similar treatments, the effects of each light treatment are different. Red light penetrates the deeper layers of the skin, promoting healing and cell rejuvenation, making this treatment ideal for people more focused on skin aging repair and prevention. Blue light therapy targets the harmful bacteria on the skin's surface and penetrates the sebaceous glands, reducing acne, blackheads, and oil production, which is perfect for anyone struggling with hormonal changes. Both forms of LED light therapy have been said to help reduce hyperpigmentation and scarring and improve the complexion over time. Some treatments use a combination of both to accelerate results.

At-Home VS. In-Office Treatments

Thanks to the rise in popularity of at-home treatments, you have several ways you can incorporate LED light therapy into your beauty regime. At-home devices can be purchased anywhere, from Amazon to Sephora. However, at-home devices don’t always have the same power as professional-grade devices. When it comes to LED light therapy treatments, wavelengths matter; different wavelengths penetrate the skin at different levels. The longer the wavelength, the deeper the light penetrates the skin and, therefore, the more effective the treatment. For blue light, the ideal wavelength is 415 nanometers, and the ideal wavelength for red light therapy is around 660 nanometers.

Any Side Effects?

As treatment options for LED light therapy grow, questions have arisen about whether these treatments are safe. LED light therapy does not generate heat or UV rays, so most devices and treatments are generally safe and won't cause harmful side effects. If you are opting for an at-home device, do your research. You'll want to make sure you're choosing a device with the ideal wavelength, which is 415 nanometers for blue light and 660 nanometers for red light. When in doubt, talk to a dermatologist to get guidance you can trust.

Both red and blue light therapies have numerous benefits for your skin, but it's no quick fix. You'll likely need several treatments over time to see the final results. Red and blue light therapy both work best in conjunction with an effective skincare routine, and a combo of both forms of LED light therapy may be the sweet spot for you, depending on your skin concerns. Red light therapy is best for chronic skin conditions like signs of aging, scarring, and loss of elasticity. Blue light therapy is best for acute skin conditions like oil production, enlarged pores, hyperpigmentation, and breakouts. As always, do your research, seek out trusted medical advice, and, most importantly, listen to your skin. LED light therapy is not for everyone; not all results are created equal. These treatments take a little more patience but can definitely help you achieve your skin goals with a bit of time and dedication.

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