TikTokkers zapping their skin with red light; dermatologists say they’re onto something

Red-light therapy shows promise as a safe way treating many skin issues, says one Chicago dermatologist.

SHARE TikTokkers zapping their skin with red light; dermatologists say they’re onto something
A woman getting red-light therapy.


Is the secret to glowing, youthful skin zapping your face with red light? Quite a few TikTokers think so. Videos tagged #redlighttherapy have gotten more than 96 million views on the app.

In the videos, users expose their skin to red light to treat a range of cosmetic issues, including acne, signs of aging and hair loss.

The TikTokers might be onto something. Red light has been on dermatologists’ radar for a while.

“Red light is something dermatologists have been using for quite some time now,” says Dr. Anthony Rossi, a New York dermatologist. “I’m a big proponent of red-light therapy because I use it in a clinical setting.”

What is red-light therapy?

Skincare enthusiasts might recoil at the idea of intentionally exposing one’s skin to a form of radiation. After all, ultraviolent rays from the sun cause problems including accelerating signs of aging and, at worst, skin cancer.

But red light — a spectrum of visible light around 600 nanometers in wavelength — shows promise as a safe way of treating many skin issues, says Dr. Danilo Del Campo, a Chicago dermatologist.

Del Campo says red light stimulates the production of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, an energy compound he describes as “the gasoline of our body.” By boosting ATP, red-light therapy can heal wounds and stimulate hair growth, he says.

Though the largest and most robust studies have shown red-light therapy’s effectiveness in these two areas, Del Campo says smaller studies have shown potential for red light in regulating the skin’s oil production, thereby reducing acne, as well as boosting the skin’s collagen production, thus reducing signs of aging.

“It’s still an exciting field that hasn’t been explored in large trials yet,” he says, also pointing out that scientists began researching the effects of red light on the body in the 1960s and found it helpful in healing wounds.

Dermatologists say clinical evidence indicates that red-light therapy is safe to try, and it’s offered at many dermatologists’ offices.

What to know

Consult your dermatologist first. It’s important to first meet with a board-certified dermatologist and discuss your interest in red-light therapy. Most dermatologists can administer this treatment in their offices, which Rossi recommends over at-home devices.

“Seeing a board certified dermatologist who does red-light therapy ... is probably your best bet because the tools that they’re using are medical grade, they’re standardized, they know how to use them, they know how to properly place them,” he says.

Not all at-home red-light therapy devices are created equal. If you do seek out an at-home red-light therapy device, such as a mask, Del Campo advises buying one from a reputable company and seeking out your dermatologist’s recommendation. He also says to follow all directions that come with the device or are given by your dermatologist, especially regarding frequency and duration of exposure, to avoid burning your skin.

Protect your eyes. Keep in mind that what’s good for your skin might not be good for your eyes.

“I do like to tell my patients that, if they’re going to use a red-light panel at home, they should wear proper eye protection,” Rossi says. “They shouldn’t look directly at the light because you don’t want to cause any eye issues.”

Don’t throw out the rest of your skincare routine. Red-light therapy is a supportive, not primary therapy. So don’t use it in place of your skincare regimen, medication or regular sunscreen application, Del Campo says.

Most of all, remember red-light therapy is something that can enhance your skincare, but it’s not a necessity for healthy skin. And it’s certainly no magic cure for every skin problem.

“There are things that you think you may be treating with red light that you probably would better be better off treating with topical prescriptions,” Rossi says. “Red light alone may not cure it, whereas using red light in conjunction with prescription-strength medicines is really helpful.”

Read more at usatoday.com.

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