Red Light Therapy for Acne

Acne, also known as acne vulgaris, is a skin disorder affecting more than 35% of adolescents and often can continue into adulthood. The condition is not dangerous and contagious but can affect the patient’s social and emotional aspects of life. Acne mainly occurs when dead skin cells and oil from the skin clog hair follicles. Typical features of acne include blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, oily skin, and possible scarring.

Red Light Therapy and AcneExisting research presented Red Light Therapy for acne vulgaris with relatively low-side effects.

The idea behind the treatment with red light is that absorption of light by Cutibacterium acnes may produce phototoxic agents that destroy them. The suggestion is that red light eliminates the sebaceous glands by photo thermal mechanism and reduces acne lesions. Probably red light exerts its action by releasing several cytokines from macrophages and other cells that reduce inflammation. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in the red to near-infrared spectral range (630–1000 nm) and nonthermal power (less than 200 mW) has been used in many clinical settings safely. It is showing promising results in the possible treatment of acne.

ARRC LED also believes that as research catches up, researchers will find that the addition of green light will act much like 420nm blue, and have an antibacterial and antiviral effect.

Mechanism of action of Red Light Therapy on an acne

Clinical observations and studies have shown that patients experience acne improvement after exposure to natural sunlight, but the specific mechanism is unclear. A more recent hypothesis is that light-based therapies may work to decrease Cutibacterium acnes level and reduce pilosebaceous unit size and function. Specifically, porphyrins produced naturally within sebaceous follicles by C. acnes absorb light wavelengths between 400 and 700 nm, with a 415 nm wavelength. Light absorption then leads to photo-excitation of porphyrins and subsequent release of singlet oxygen and reactive free radicals that exert bactericidal effects on C. acnes. Longer wavelengths, such as red light, activate porphyrins less effectively but penetrate deeper into the skin. It may directly target sebaceous glands and exert anti-inflammatory properties by influencing cytokine release from macrophages. Also, therapy with infrared lasers may directly cause phototoxic and photothermal damage to sebaceous glands, resulting in reduced gland size and sebum production.

Benefits of Red Light Therapy For Acne

According to existing studies, the main benefit of RLT for acne is that it can reduce inflammation and painful swelling and decrease spot size. Red Light Therapy also is considered to stimulate how cells make energy, giving them a higher metabolism. RLT, in theory, can help the cells function better, including making proteins like collagen more. Collagen keeps skin elastic and plump and gives an overall youthful appearance.

Red light can also improve circulation, which enhances the flow of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the cells enabling them to function better. This also includes enhanced lymphatic drainage, the method by which the body clears waste products away. By encouraging lymphatic drainage, the body can flush out impurities and toxins that can cause spots and pimples.


In one study, fifteen women suffering from moderate acne vulgaris of the face were exposed to 20 J/cmof broad-band red (lambda: 600-750 nm) light twice weekly for four weeks. As a result, a significant improvement in acne lesions and a significant decrease in skin sebum excretion and TEWL of the face were registered at the end of the therapy and the 3-month follow-up visit. The results could be related to reduced follicular colonization of Propionibacterium acnes in that photoactivated endogenous porphyrins lethally damaged it.

Source: Non-invasive diagnostic evaluation of phototherapeutic effects of red light phototherapy of acne vulgaris

All 28 patients (18 women and ten men) completed another study, and none were lost to follow-up or excluded for failure to meet the laser application protocol. All patients tolerated the laser treatment without any adverse effects or reactions. The mean age of the patients was 25.9±2.9 years (range 18–32 years). Fourteen patients had skin type III, and the remained patients had skin type IV.

The total number of lesions on both sides of the patients’ faces during baseline and each follow-up session showed no significant differences between the mean lesion counts on the sides treated by R-LLLT and sides treated by IR-LLLT (P=0.8). There was a gradual decline in both sides of treated faces during the follow-up, but this trend was more significant on the R-LLLT treated side. Ten weeks after the beginning of treatment, a dramatic decrease in the number of lesions was observed on the R-LLLT treated side.

Source: Comparison of Red and Infrared Low-level Laser Therapy in the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris

Side Effects

All the experts agree that the risk of side effects when using devices such as Red Light Therapy bed is minimal. While light therapy is safe for most skin types, a few light-sensitive conditions, such as melasma, which LED light can exacerbate, cautions Dr. Birnbaum. Dr. Nazarian adds that rare diseases can make your eyes sensitive to particular wavelengths and underscores the importance of proper eye protection during LED treatments. And if you’re trying an at-home LED device, run it—and your current topical skincare plan—by your dermatologist first, since some ingredients may make your skin too sensitive for these treatments, notes Dr. Nussbaum. You’ll also want to check with your doc before using these if you’re pregnant.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should I Do Red Light Therapy For Acne?

Generally, most Red Light Therapy treatments start with 3-5 sessions per week for 10-20 minutes per session. And depending on the skin condition, this can go on for around 1-4 months.

ARRC LED’s whole body chambers can present a full-body session in 12 minutes. The beauty of the red light therapy bed is that the side effects are positive. While one may target acne, they find that their pain is reduced, energy is increased and they sleep better.

Do I need special preparation for the treatment?

For two weeks before a light therapy session, you may need to avoid retinol and other skin care products that may thin your skin.

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