By now, most people are aware that light therapy exists in the world of dermatology. But do you really understand what it is, and most importantly, if it is right for you?
Light therapy is a versatile treatment method that uses light in various forms (light box, lamp, hand-held device, face mask) to treat various conditions like psoriasis, eczema, vitiligo, dermatitis, skin lesions, and even acne.
Believe it or not, light emitted at a specific wavelength causes a molecular reaction when it is exposed to the skin. It is these reactions that lead to desired results, like reduced eczema and psoriasis symptoms, reduced wrinkles, pigmentation correction, and much more.
All visible light is categorized by where it falls on the electromagnetic spectrum and is measured in nanometers. Here are some different types of light therapies available.
A mixture of violet and blue light is most often used to treat sun damage, acne, and is even used for skin cancer prevention. For sun damage and the treatment of precancerous lesions and skin cancer prevention, dermatologists use photodynamic therapy. This therapy relies on violet and blue light called ultraviolet, or UV light, with the aid of a photosynthesizing drug. When used together, the drug and the UV light reacts to the oxygen in the skin to kill cancer cells and improve the effects of sun damage.
Blue light by itself can also be used for acne treatment by reducing the size of enlarged oil glands and killing the bacteria causing outbreaks.
Green light therapy has been used to speed up the healing process, treat depression, and treat conditions related to blood vessels like migraines, spider veins, and varicose veins.
When exposed to the skin, green light creates a cellular reaction that has many outcomes like the increase of cell growth that leads to repairing and healing of the skin. Green light exposure is also known to increase the levels of serotonin. Serotonin is considered the “happy hormone”. This hormone regulates our mood and general happiness. The happier we are, the higher the serotonin levels. So when we are exposed to green light, our serotonin levels rise and we become less sad and depressed.
When directed at a target area, green light can also reduce the size of capillaries (tiny blood vessels). With enough exposure, the capillaries will collapse and eventually fade, allowing the blood to flow more freely thus alleviating migraines or reducing the size of larger blood vessels present in spider or varicose veins.
Orange and yellow light is often combined to create amber light therapy. It has been effectively used to reduce redness and reduce inflammation that causes wrinkles. This can treat conditions like rosacea and even sun damage.
Red light therapy is the most versatile among them. With a much higher level of electromagnetic radiation, red light can penetrate much deeper into the skin than any other form of light therapy. Because of this, it is capable of treating a wider range of issues like psoriasis, alopecia, ulcers, arthritis, cold sores, wrinkles, scars, and even certain side effects of cancer. When red light penetrates the skin it reaches down to the dermis (the second layer of skin) and ruptures the unhealthy cells while promoting the growth of new healthy ones and alleviating inflammation.
Regardless of the type of light, light therapies are relatively painless with limited side effects (with the exception of photodynamic therapy). Thanks to these factors, light therapy is suitable for almost everyone. However, those with sensitive skin or those who are taking medications that increase photosensitivity should avoid light therapy as a treatment method.
Nonetheless, the only way to be sure if light therapy is right for you, speak with a licensed dermatologist. If you’re in Cincinnati, Ohio, our experts at The Dermatology Group can help you weigh your options, give you advice, and additional resources. Give us a call today!