The beauty world is an interesting one. There’s an unending zeal to combat the ugly powers of aging and reverse the hands of time, this has led to the discovery of better products and techniques generally accepted by beauty seekers. The good thing is that there’s an unending list of techniques and products that will help you reverse aging. Here in this article, we’ll be discussing a different approach to antiaging; light therapy.
Well, you might have heard of light therapy in a beauty salon, or seen it in an advert. Or perhaps, I guessed wrong; this is your first time of coming across such phrase. It doesn’t matter what the case is, as you’re going to have a comprehensive understanding if what light therapy is at the end of this article.
Understanding light therapy
To begin with, light therapy (also referred to as phototherapy) is the process of exposing the skin and parts of the body to certain sources of light energy within specific wavelength. The light is usually emitted from an artificial source such as fluorescent lamps, lasers, light-emitting diodes using a specific wavelength for a specific period of time and in special cases at a specific time of the day.
You need to know that light therapy is not a new invention, it has been in use for about three centuries ago. When Indians used sunlight for therapeutic purposes. Well, it might not be well discovered and studied as today, but it served specific purposes. Today, a lot of studies and discoveries have been made and better means of using light (both visible and non-visible) for various health benefits has been established.
Light therapy is now well administered using light therapy boxes (also phototherapy boxes) that emits the light energy similar to sunlight, with better control on the intensity and wavelength. This enables a more effective method of providing treatment to various types of disorder and skin issues ranging from wrinkles, scars, wounds to cancer. The light rays are being administered at different frequencies depending on the skin condition and skincare provided.
Now you that light therapy is basically the process of administering specific wavelength of light to a person’s skin. The light rays are similar to that of the sunlight with the exception of harmful rays and at a regulated wavelength and intensity. What a relief, right? Light therapy won’t give you sunburn or cause skin tanning unlike sunlight. So, you’re safe.
Light therapy is used for treating various conditions and disorders. It uses involve the treatment of skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, eczema and atopic dermatitis. Some other conditions such as depression, neonatal jaundice, jetlag and sleeping disorder can be treated with the right administration of light therapy. An amazing use of light therapy is that it can be used in treating certain forms of skin cancer. Also, the condition that needs to be treated determines what method is applied.
Types of light therapy
Now, let’s take a look at some specific types of light therapy that are used in treating various conditions. Here are 5 common types of light therapy and what specific benefit they offer.
- Ultraviolet (UV) light therapy. This is a type of phototherapy which involves the use of ultraviolet light similar to that of the sun but emitted by a fluorescent bulb at a specific frequency output. UVA light is used in treating skin disorder such as atopic skin disorder and even vitiligo, while UVB treats conditions such as psoriasis effectively. The use of the UV light therapy is so similar to the purpose of tanning using sunlight. With UV phototherapy indoor tanning can be carried out effectively by dermatologists, and self-treatments too can by carried out by clients.
Chronic skin conditions that requires UVB light therapy and involves continuous treatments may require frequent visits to the dermatologist’s clinic which may be inconvenient, but with home UVB systems, you can treat yourself effectively at home and minimize clinic visits. UV light therapy is regarded to be safe and with no serious adverse effects. But it will be necessary to reduce exposure to natural UV rays from sunlight during treatment to prevent sun burn. It is also necessary to protect the eyes from the UV rays (especially the UVB) to prevent cataracts. However, severe conditions such as the chances of developing skin cancer cannot be linked to UV light therapy.
- Blue light therapy. Another non-invasive and pain free procedure for treating some skin conditions is blue light therapy. It involves the use of light in the blue or violet wavelength range in treating skin conditions. Blue light therapy is very situatable for any part of your body and does not cause any form of scarring. Due to the fact that blue light penetration is limited, it can only treat the parts of the skin it can reach. Therefore, blue light is mainly used in treating the surface of the skin or the immediate underneath of the skin. Blue light can also be used in combination with light-sensitive drugs to increase effectiveness in treatments. This form of treatment is called photodynamic therapy.
Blue light therapy is used on treating various conditions involving skin treatments, SAD and skin cancer. In the case of acne treatment, blue light rays are used on destroying bacteria that may result to acne. Blue light is more effective in people with moderate cases of acne breakout. Blue light can be used to treat an existing condition of acne or prevent a breakout. It can help to reduce enlarged oil gland to prevent acne breakout, and also remove spots and scars caused by acne breakouts. Blue light is very effective in improving the texture of the skin.
Blue light treatment session can be short or long (about 15 to 90 minutes) depending on the condition bring treated. Areas of the body that are not to be treated needs to be protected such as the eyes. There are blue light therapy devices that can be used at home by yourself, especially for conditions that needs to be treated daily such as SAD.
Depression resulting from SAD can be treated indoors using blue light. Seasonal affective disorder mainly occurs due to changes in the season, probably darker days in the winter and most indoor time. But with blue light therapy at home you can feel alive again.
One last thing I’ll love to add to what blue light does, is its ability to treat cancer. Cancer can be prevented through blue light therapy. In cases where some parts of the skin are affected already, blue light can be used to remove the cancerous skin lesions to prevent it from spreading to the unaffected areas of the skin.
- Red light therapy. This is the term you must have heard of often used in light therapy. Red light therapy is widely used in solving most skin problem using low wavelength red light. Red light therapy is non-invasive means of treating skin conditions such as persistent wounds, scars and wrinkles. Aside a good skin, the benefits of red light therapy extends to health benefits also.
Here’s how red light works. Red light, when introduce to the skin delivers the specific wavelength of light energy to your skin which is being absorbed by your skin cells. When the light particles are being absorbed by the skin cells, the cells are triggered to produce more energy and increase their functions. With the increase in the energy of the cells, they are able to respond better to damage and replenish themselves. When the skin cells begin to rejuvenate, the result is increase in collagen and fibroblast production, improvement in the physical texture of the skin and reducing in fine line and wrinkles. Red light therapy also speeds up wound healing as it reduces inflammation in the cells and encourages formation of new blood vessels.
Red light therapy is also known to improve hair growth and aid bone recovery by reducing pain and inflammation. Red light therapy which is sometimes referred to as low level light therapy (LLLT) is relatively safe due to the fact that it exposes the skin to unharmful light energy in a natural form. Sensitive parts of the body might need to be protected to prevent damages.
- Infrared light therapy. The use of infrared light in light therapy is now being widely accepted. Infrared light energy that are emitted from heat lamps at specific wavelength are used in treating the damaged parts of the body.
Mainly, infrared light is used for managing chronic pain and promote healing of tissues deep down in the body. Due to the fact that infrared light rays can penetrate deep into the body compared to other form of radiation, it is used to provide a natural and painless means of treating and healing damaged tissues at greater depth under the skin without damaging the skin.
Inferred light therapy functions as the natural sunlight obtain from the sun and it uses the heat energy similar to the sunlight to reduce inflammation and pain in damaged tissues. Infrared light therapy allows us to have access to the benefits of the sunlight without being exposed to the harmful risks of UV radiations from the sun light that may damage the skin. When infrared light penetrates through the skin, it reaches the internal tissues such as the muscles, nerves and bones. It then begins a metabolic process resulting in improved function of the cells and repair of the damaged tissues.
Some of the conditions that can be treated by infrared light therapy is back pain, arthritis, muscle pain, neck pain, injuries, diabetic neuropathy and wounds. Infrared light therapy is a very safe, effective and has long-lasting solution to pain and healing of injured parts of the body.
- Full spectrum Light therapy. One way of replicating sunlight and exploring its various benefits indoors is through full spectrum light therapy. Full spectrum light therapy is used in treating physical and mental conditions relating to light.
SAD is a common condition that is treated effectively with this form of light therapy. Full spectrum light therapy will make up for the sunlight that is scarce during winter, hereby improving your mood and preventing depression.
Light boxes that provides full spectrum light are quite different from other light therapy lamps because they provide all the electromagnetic spectrum energy including visible and non-visible light. The intensity of the daylight energy is also provided to correct mood disorder.
Full light spectrum can be used to treat skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis, health conditions like neonatal jaundice and cancer. It can also be used in growing plants in places with low temperature or sunlight exposure. Spending about thirty minutes in front of your full spectrum light therapy every winter day will help get rid of sleep disorder, jet lag, and give you increased energy, better mood, and help you concentrate better at work.
How does light therapy work?
Light therapy is applied mainly to the retina of the eyes and directly to the skin, depending on what condition needs to be treated. Conditions such as sleep disorder, seasonal affective disorder and diabetes are treated by applying the light therapy directly to the retina.
Application of light therapy to the retina is used to correct mood and sleep related disorders. One of such disorder is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a kind of depression that occurs due to seasonal change. It you’re affected by SAD, you notice that you begin to experience the symptoms at specific period of the year, mostly around fall into the winter months. SAD symptoms include poor sleeping patterns, tiredness and change of mood. The cause of this disorder can be reduction of some of your body chemicals such as serotonin and melatonin. Due to change in season, for example when the sunlight reduces, the chemicals become secreted in smaller quantities which then the change in your mood. Your internal biological clock (also referred to as circadian rhythm) becomes affected too, leading to disrupted sleeping patterns and mood change. To address SAD, light therapy is introduced to the retina to compensate the unavailability of the required amount of sunlight by the body and help to regulate the body biological clock and keep it in balance. It helps to improve the mood too and address insomnia and fatigue. Study also shows that light therapy is easier and safer compared to antidepressant in treating SAD.
Another way light therapy applied to the retina is used is for treating neonatal jaundice; a liver condition that affects newborns. It causes yellow coloration in the skin and white areas of their eyes. This condition is mainly caused by an immature liver unable to remove bilirubin which is a yellow pigment produced during the breakdown of red blood cells in the body, resulting to very high bilirubin level. Excess bilirubin in the body can damages to the center nervous system. To treat his condition, the energy from light therapy is applied to the retina of the baby to transform bilirubin to compounds that can be easily removed from the body through urine and stools. Light therapy uses mainly blue wavelength in treating neonatal jaundice.
Aside the application of light therapy to the retina of the eyes to treat disorders, the light can also be applied to the skin to treat various skin conditions. Skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, skin cancer, acne, wounds and scars.
For psoriasis, ultraviolet rays through light therapy are applied to the affected areas of the skin. Light therapy slows down the excess growth of skin cells, preventing the condition from spreading to other parts of the skin, hereby reducing the size of the affected areas, reducing itchiness and other symptoms. The truth is; light therapy may not cure psoriasis, but it will help reduce the effects and prevents it from spreading to unaffected part of the skin.
The treatment for psoriasis may involve exposing the entire body or just some area of the body to light therapy, depending on the affected areas. The sensitive parts of the body such as the eyes and private parts will be shielded from the exposure. The light therapy session for psoriasis requires multiple sessions to see how the skin improves and for how the improvement lasts. Although, health professionals have put a limit to exposure to ultraviolet rays to about 150 sessions to lower the risk of skin cancer.
To treat eczema with phototherapy, a special type of light therapy is used. The most common type is the narrowband ultraviolet (UVB) rays. It is applied to the entire body or specific areas affected by the condition. Light therapy helps to reduce inflammation and itching caused by eczema and also increases the production of vitamin D in the body.
Your dermatologist needs to make regular observations during the light therapy sessions to determine if to increase the time length and frequency of each sessions. Sometimes, the light therapy session may be stopped to observe if the eczema condition is getting better. In cases when there’s improvement, the previous procedure is restarted and maintained to continue the improvement. Otherwise, there may be need to adjust the treatment procedures to bring about better output.
Atopic dermatitis is another skin condition that can be effectively treated by light therapy. If you have an atopic dermatitis condition that is persistent and unyielding to conventional treatments, phototherapy might be your next choice. To cure atopic dementias, Ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) rays or the combination of the two is used during light therapy session. One main benefit of using ultraviolet in treating atopic dementias with UV is that it helps to protect the skin of atopic dermatitis patients from bacterial infections. The combination of UVA and UVB rays work more effectively than just UVA or UVB alone.
Any form of atopic dermatitis, mild or severe can be treated using light therapy for adults, but in children case, only severe form of atopic dermatitis requires light therapy recommendation. The genital parts are to be protected during the session as they can be very sensitive to UV rays which may result to cancer. The eyes need to be protected too to avoid conditions such as cataracts.
Vitiligo is a condition that causes the skin to lose its color, and makes white patches to appear on the skin. It occurs when the cells that gives color to the skin are destroyed. The cause could be genetic conditions triggered by environmental factors. To treat this condition and restore the skin to its normal condition, narrowband ultraviolet B (NB-UVB) light is applied to the affected areas of the skin.
Phototherapy is the safest and most effective techniques for treating this condition. The light source from the light therapy uses specific wavelengths that help stimulates the cells that provide the skin color (known as melanocytes) and provides it with induced pigmentation.
Light therapy is a useful effective tool in managing acne. With the use of blue and red light, acne can be treated. Acne is mostly caused by bacteria and excess oil on the skin which leads to inflammation of the skin. Phototherapy is effective in treating acne lesions and controlling breakouts. Light therapy for acne makes use of visible light in fighting bacteria on the skin using both red light and blue light which are both considered to be safe with no side effects.
Although the benefit of blue light may differ from red light, they complement each other in making acne condition milder. Blue light therapy has a wavelength that is effective in fighting and killing bacteria in the skin pores that may result to acne breakouts. It also prevents the skin from inflammation and redness. Red light on the other hand doesn’t kill bacteria but it helps to heal, smoothen and repair the skin tissue. It also has an anti-inflammation benefit. Red light therapy will be your best choice for you if you have a chronic acne condition.
Light therapy is a suitable natural healing choice for injuries with better effectiveness and less pain. With the use of red light, burns, wounds and even incisions from surgery can heal faster and easier. Low-level light therapy (LLLT) is safe with no side effect or major health risk. Red light reduces oxidative stress and simulates the adenosine energy production of the cells. It then helps your body to responds naturally to wounds and heal faster. Red light works naturally in the healing of wounds.
Red light as a form of low-level light therapy is very effective for wound healing. Low level light therapy is also very effective in treating diabetic ulcer. People who have chronic wounds on their feet due to diabetic complication can benefit from the introduction of LLLT to their wounds to make them heal faster. LLLT help accelerate tissue repair, hence help repair the damage tissues in the feet of someone with a diabetic foot.
When skin injuries begin to heal up, another worry is about the ugly scars that’ll be left behind. Scars are long lasting blemish to your complexion. But the good news is that the appearance of scars can be reduced to insignificant forms using light therapy. Red light is safe and effective in reducing the look of raised scars (hypertrophic scars).
Light therapy provides a better appearance of scarred areas of the skin and make them blend to the healthy areas; it also stimulates collagen production to give scars a better appearance. Light therapy treatment option is fast and safe, it uses gentle light rays to treat scars without damaging the surrounding skin. Scars from burns or acne can be treated with light therapy to make it look good.
Light therapy can be applied in various ways to enhance our look and improve our health status and make us feel great and look good.
To use light therapy effectively in treating skin conditions and enhancing our look, it is necessary to do it the right way. Phototherapy requires certain light levels emitted at specific wavelengths from photo therapy boxes for a specific amount of time and sometimes, at a particular time of the day. Phototherapy are required to be put under adequate controls to maximize benefits and lower the chances of risks.
Light therapy and your skin
You should give light therapy a try if you want a radiant skin and a charming complexion. Light therapy has been shown to benefit the skin and our general look in different ways. Here are 10 benefits of effective light therapy to the skin.
- Destroys bacteria that may lead to acne breakouts.
- Reduces wrinkles and fine lines.
- Reduces stretch marks.
- Reverses skin aging.
- Prevents skin inflammation.
- Reverses sun burns.
- Speed up the healing of injuries.
- Reduces and clears scars.
- Promotes collagen production.
- Increases skin elasticity.
- Removes blemishes.
- Promotes skin cell rejuvenation.
Side effects of wrong usage
Light therapy is very beneficial to your skin, as most dermatologists recommend it. It is also relatively safe and easy to use. Light boxes are affordable and can be self-used at the comfort of your home. Even though they are safe and they don’t have any significant adverse effects, some mild consequences may occur due to poor habits and usage of light therapy. Few of these consequences are:
- Eye strain.
- Skin burns.
- Eye pain.
- Burning sensation.
Cases of negative effects of light therapy is caused by over use of the light therapy by inexperienced practitioners, home misuse, excessive exposure, exposure of unprotected sensitive parts of the body, or even staying too close to the light therapy boxes during the session.
How to get maximum benefits
To enjoy the maximum benefits of light therapy and to avoid its unnecessary sides effects, here are some useful tips.
- Consult only experienced and accredited specialists. To obtain maximum benefit of light therapy and to stay away from dangerous side effects, your first assignment is to find and consult a professional. This is because getting the best from light therapy requires supervision and advices from experienced personnel. The type of light therapy you’ll need depending on your condition and health factor can easily be decided together with the professional. Side effects can also be easily identified and avoided by a professional.
- Consider your health history. Another necessary condition to consider before you can sign up for a light therapy session is your health history. What conditions do you have that relates to exposure to light? One main condition is your risk developing skin cancer and systemic lupus erythematosus. If you fall into the category if people like this, you should avoid light therapy treatment or seek for an extensively protective means.
- Consider your skin sensitivity. One main underlying factor that determine if you are going to go for a light therapy session is your skin sensitivity. Due to the fact that your skin will be exposed to light energy, the way and rate at which your skin reacts to light needs to be put into consideration when choosing a light therapy plan.
- Monitor the changes in the condition you’re treating. It is necessary to see a practitioner once in a while if you are using a light therapy device at home. This is to observe and monitor changes and improvements in the condition you’re treating. It will help to determine if you need to adjust the method of treatment for better results or maintain the previous procedure. It will also help to determine for how long the treatment will require. In case there is any negative reaction, solutions can be easily provided.
- Be consistent. Just like most treatment methods, you need to give it time to observe changes. Although some changes may be observed after few sessions of light therapy, but to see convincing results, about 15 to 25 sessions may be required depending on the condition treated and what light energy is used. For light boxes that are safe to use at home, consistent usage will improve treatment.
- Maintain a regular schedule. Light therapy is a very effective treatment for your skin to keep it healthy and reduce inflammation. But it requires you to take part in a regular routine because it may require many treatments in regular interval to notice results on the skin. Get a suitable routine and stick to it.
- Maintain a healthy distance from your light box. Phototherapy boxes with bright light are considered to be more effective than dim light. Depending on the intensity of the light energy emitted by your light boxes, a healthy distance will be required to be maintained from the box to prevent skin burn. However, for weak light you may need to stay closer to the box than a brighter one.
- Avoid photosensitive drugs. Some medications are sensitive to light. Due to exposure to consistent light sources these medications may begin to react and cause problems the body. To avoid this, it is necessary to talk to your doctor before you start a light therapy session and also inform your dermatologist of the type of medications you use. Some medications that are sensitive to light include melatonin, contraceptives, antihistamines and lithium.
- Use protective equipment. This is the common precaution observed in light therapy. It is necessary to wear protective equipment such as googles to protect the eyes from the light. Except for cases where the they are affected and needs to be treated, sensitive parts of the body, most especially the eyes and genital organs need to be shielded from the light energy.
- Use diffuser for full spectrum bulbs. In cases where your light box emits the full spectrum light for specific treatments, you should use a diffuser to filter the ultraviolet rays which are dangerous for your skin. The benefits of the light energy from the full spectrum light boxes over sunlight is its ability to filter out ultraviolet rays.
- Moisturize your skin before each session. The purpose of keeping your skin moisturize just before each light therapy sessions to allow easy penetration of the light rays through the skin. Moisturizing your skin will also help to prevent a dry and itchy skin will may be one of the side effects of light therapy. You just need make sure you are careful enough not to use moisturizer that may cause reactions on the skin.
- Avoid the use of sunscreen products before a session. Some sunscreen and some other topical medications are photosensitive and may cause dangerous chemical reaction on the skin. They may prevent the light rays from penetrating enough into the skin to function effectively. It is therefore advisable to avoid sunscreen generally before going into a light therapy section.
Light therapy is safe, painless and affordable. To maintain a healthy skin and a radiant complexion, you should sign up for a therapy session at an accredited clinic. You can also get light therapy devices that can be used in the comfort of your home. Before you get one, make sure you talk to your dermatologist to guide you to get an effective one.
Light therapy is very interesting and effective, try it out!